excerpt reprinted from Navy History page Naval Aviation History
Glenn H. Curtiss, a young entrepreneur from Hammondsport, N.Y., was someone who craved speed. Racing bicycles in the local area led to a passion to go faster and, eventually, he produced lightweight, powerful engines that garnered the attention of "Captain" Thomas Baldwin. Baldwin, a former trapeze artist turned aviator, created the "California Arrow"a dirigible that became the first aircraft to complete a circuitous flight in 1904. Between 1908 and 1910, Curtiss helped build a number of aircraft and set several early aviation records, including the first long-distance public flight from Albany to Governors Island in New York using the Curtiss "Hudson Flyer" May 29, 1910 - distance of 134 miles.
As the Navy's interest in aviation heated up in the fall of 1910, Capt. Washington Irving Chambers, Officer in Charge of Aviation Matters for the Navy, arranged for a demonstration of flying an aircraft from the deck of a ship. November 14, 1910, Curtiss’ demonstration pilot, Eugene Ely flew the "Hudson Flyer" from a temporarily erected flight deck on the fo’c’sle of USS Birmingham while at anchor in Chesapeake Bay. Just two months later, Ely demonstrated the ability to land on a ship as well, this time on a temporary deck erected on the fantail of Armored Cruiser USS Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay.
At nearly the same time these experiments were taking place and hoping to secure an order, Curtiss offered to train Army and Navy Officers for free. The Army and Navy both took up the offer and detailed officers to join Curtiss at his newly-obtained winter flying school on North Island in San Diego Bay. Lt. Theodore Ellyson would arrive just after New Years 1911.
An event pivotal to Naval Aviation, February 17, 1911, Curtiss flew his "hydroaeroplane" in San Diego Bay, landing next to USS Pennsylvania. The ship’s crew hoisted the aircraft aboard, lowered it back to the water, meeting the requirements set by the Secretary of the Navy, convincing him to appropriate money for aviation. May 8, 1911, Chambers placed the requisitions for the Navy's first aircraft the A-1 Triad delivered to Hammondsport July, 1, 1911. This day would later be adopted as the official birth of Naval Aviation.
CAPT Rich Dann, Centennial Director of History