The fine folks at Telstar Logistics (still the only logistics company worth following on twitter) are celebrating the one hundredth birthday of the aircraft carrier today. The first landing of an airplane on seagoing vessel occurred exactly 100 years ago in the San Francisco Bay.
A leather-helmeted barnstormer named Eugene B. Ely took off in a slightly modified biplane from San Bruno, flying past Yerba Buena (formerly Goat Island) to land on a 133-foot makeshift wooden runway installed on the deck of the USS Pennsylvania. The key innovation: a devilishly simple tailhook that snagged weighted sandbags to keep the thing from overrunning the landing strip. Per Ely's biography:
Everything had gone exactly as planned. [Captain] Pond called it "the most important landing of a bird since the dove flew back to Noah's ark." Pond would later report, "Nothing damaged, and not a bolt or brace startled, and Ely the coolest man on board."
After sticking the landing, Ely enjoyed a leisurely lunch with his wife and the Pennsylvania's Captain before the plane was turned around and he flew right back to San Bruno. Well done, Eugene. The whole story is delightful and highly recommended.