A ceremony at Ft. Sam Houston today marked the 107th anniversary of a major event in San Antonio and U.S. military history, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
It was on March 2, 1910 that Army Signal Corps Lt. Benjamin Foulois became the first American soldier to fly in a military-owned aircraft. The flight, which were actually four flights over Arthur MacArthur Field that day, is viewed as the birth of military aviation.
Retired USAF Col. and veteran test pilot James Humphries says in that moment, everything from fighters to bombers to supersonic and space flight, became possible.
"He began to twist it and bend it into a military weapon as strong and as powerful as the things we know today, he could see in his future," he said.
In addition to creating the concept of military aviation, Foulois invented something during those early flights that all of us use today. He took a piece of leather from a cavalry saddle and fashioned it into the world's first seat belt.
Brig. Gen. Heather Pringle, the Commander of Joint Base San Antonio, says that day was also the dawn of San Antonio as a center for military aviation, and the first step in the formation of Brooks and Kelly Air Basedsin the city later that decade. She says the first attempts at military aviation took place in Maryland.
"The Army had the foresight to figure out that Ft. Sam Houston here in San Antonio was the place where he needed to be," she said. "A little better weather, a little more sunshine, and a little less wind."
And she says when he was given the order to experiment with a new biplane just acquired by the Army, he had one major disadvantage.
"There was one problem with the plan," she said. "Lt. Foulois didn't know how to fly. So he exchanged letters back and forth with the Wright Brothers, and, through that correspondence, he learned how to fly."
Lt. Foulois went on to become head of the Army Air Corps in the 1930s and rose to the rank of Major General. He lived to see the promise of military aviation come true, dying in 1967.
PHOTO COURTESY: JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO