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First in Flight

Readers, imagine my great surprise to find this item in my comb-through of the 1915 Pensacola Journal today:

This was the equivalent of a tag-along in space flight today!

This would be the equivalent of a tag-along on a NASA flight today!

Naval aviation had only just been established at Pensacola as an attempt to re-open the base (which was closed during President Taft’s administration); hell, human aviation had only just been established a few years earlier!

Also, an airplane ride was not really something accessible to everyone, unless, of course, you were a congressman, or other high ranking personage back in the day.

Emmett's ride was most likely in the Curtiss JN-4, also known as a Jenny. These were standard for flight training. Curtiss also had water-landing craft.

Emmett’s ride was most likely in the Curtiss JN-4, also known as a Jenny. These were standard flight training vehicles for both the Army and the Navy.

A ride in a plane must have been overwhelmingly exciting, thrilling, frightening, and breathtaking all at once for Emmett.

I wonder if the experience stunned him into silence, as he gazed at the beauty of Pensacola Bay from a perspective he heretofore could only have imagined.

But part me thinks he was yelling something like: ohmygod! ohmygod! ohmygod! ohmygod! (to himself, if not out loud!) during the entire 15 minute trip!

Emmett rode in the back seat, probably wearing the standard goggles and leather helmet. I can see him waving at his friends below, who watched the plane cruise at about 40 miles per hour over the bay.

I wish I knew what he felt and thought about this experience. A while ago I mentioned that he had a set of scrapbooks that he’d willed to family friend. I feel like he recorded something about this flight there. I mean, this was a man who did not even own a car; if he drove, it wasn’t often.

And think about it: Only a few year earlier the main transportation was by horse and buggy. Emmett lived in a time where he got to experience a lot of firsts that we take for granted: Automobiles, telephones, and aeronautics, just to name a few.

Meanwhile, knowing Emmett actually took a plane ride makes me feel a little closer to him; I’d never have figured he’d have done something that is so everyday in our 21st century existence.

Now, if I could only locate those elusive scrapbooks of his…I would love to hear about this experience in his own words!


Categories: Congressman Florida History Research Status

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Communication, Arts, and the Humanities
The University of Maryland Global Campus

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