Teaching the World to Fly
Emory C. Malick was born in Seven Points, Pennsylvania on December 29, 1881. He was the third child of thirteen in his family. A skilled carpenter and master tile-layer by trade, Emory took an interest in flying around 1910, first experimenting with gliders. He was a member of the Aero Club of Pennsylvania despite not yet earning his pilot’s license. He started with building his own aircraft, much like Curtiss. While living in Philadelphia, he joined the Curtiss School of Aviation Class of 1912 and attended the winter camp in San Diego, California. He graduated and earned his license in March. Malick became the first African-American pilot to earn his license as well as actively fly in the United States. Through the teens and twenties, Malick flew in exhibitions and sold rides. He later flew for various companies in the Philadelphia area including Aero Service Corp., Dallen Aerial Surveys, and the Flying Dutchman Air Svc. as a flight instructor, aerial photographer, and giving passenger flights. Early in 1924, Emory Malick set out on his own again and obtained a WACO Curtiss OX-5 powered aircraft. When not working as a skilled laborer, he traveled around the northeast selling rides and flying demonstrations. 1928 was the last year Emory took to the air. After having a near fatal crash at the Camden, New Jersey Air Show, he quit flying for good. While he never flew again, even as a passenger, Emory appeared at air shows displaying his early 1914 Curtiss OX2 engine, giving support to other pilots. When asked why he would not fly again he said, “I had my fun, and now I’m done.” Emory’s love of flying paved the way for other African-Americans to join the Curtiss Schools. Despite written records no longer existing of these other students, photos reveals that Curtiss schools were open to all regardless of race, gender, or national background. Emory Malick passed away in December of 1958 at the age of 77.
Blanche Stuart Scott and Curtiss
For Glenn H. Curtiss, building and selling airplanes was not enough. He wanted people to understand the idea and beauty of flying his aircraft. Starting with the first sale of an airplane to the Aeronautical Society of New York in 1909, he agreed to teach two of its members, Charles Willard and Alexander Williams, how to fly. These men were his first students. It was clear to Curtiss that teaching people to fly had the ability to open new doors to sales and lead to new improvements as well as a better understanding of science and flight. 1910 set a landmark in the opening of the Curtiss School of Aviation in Hammondsport, New York and San Diego, California. Rarely was anyone turned away. By 1916, people from all walks of life were attending one of ten locations across the country. The Curtiss School first trained U.S. Navy pilots, helping to create a strong Air Wing of the military. With newspapers taking notice of its vast diversity, the schools were no longer viewed as a curiosity, but instead recognized and declared a “ wonder of the century“. With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, many of the schools and instructors would become extensions of the military. These flying schools trained some of the finest aviators the world had ever seen. Afterwards, the Curtiss Flying Schools merged into the Curtiss Flying Service, continuing well up to the beginning of World War II.
Students of the Air
Malick preparing to soar the skies
Tom Gunn: First Chinese Aviator
Malick at the wheel
Born in San Francisco, California in late 1893 to Chinese parents, Tom Gunn became quickly interested in flight when he attended an air meet in January of 1910. He soon applied to the Curtiss Aviation School, which had opened in San Francisco that winter. He soon transferred to Hammondsport, NY to attend the flying school there. He was a part of the first graduating class of 1911, becoming China’s first pilot. Not satisfied with flying alone, Gunn began to invest money in building his own flying machines. By November of 1911, he had successfully completed a design of his own. His first flying meet was on January 20, 1912 in Los Angeles, California. Three weeks later, on February 13, Tom qualified for his pilot’s license. After a couple of exhibitions and a crash, Gunn returned to Hammondsport in May and received instruction at the Curtiss School in the new Flying Boats program. By August, he was back on the West Coast flying in exhibitions. After offering his services to the Chinese government, Tom Gunn received a commission as a captain in the Chinese Army. By the end of the year, he held the responsibilities as Chief Aviator of the Republic. Shortly after Tom’s success, other Chinese nationals would learn how to fly at the Curtiss schools. These students included: Chan Nam (1912), Wee Gee (1912), Arthur Fook Yuen Lym (1913), Lan Do On (1914), and Wong Tsu (1916). Tom Gunn set sail for China on June 4 of 1913 from San Francisco with a flying boat and two aircrafts of his own design. He arrived six days later in Honolulu, Hawaii, where he planned to stay and fly exhibitions. In 1914, China established a new government with a new leader who felt Gunn would be a threat to the country if he returned. In order to protect himself, Gunn relocated to Manila, opening up his own flight school. In 1915, Gunn was finally allowed to fly back to his mainland China , where he participated in flying exhibitions in Hong Kong and the Philippines. While in China, he raised money for flood relief and local charities. Gunn later had a roll in the Chinese Army. In late October 1919, Gunn arrived in the United States, charged by the Chinese Government to purchase modern aircrafts for the country. This was a result of the Japanese entering Northern China. Tom worked tirelessly for the rest of his life to build a modern Air Force for China. Sadly, Tom Gunn would pass away in 1925 as a result of a vehicle accident.
Blanche Stuart Scott: First Female Pilot
Ruth Nichols: First Female Flying Boat Pilot
Frederick L. de Reimsdyke: First Dutch Pilot
Mohan Singh: First Indian Pilot
Motohisa Kondo: First Japanese Pilot
Raphael Marti: First Puerto Rican Pilot
In late April, he along with two other students, transferred from the California flying school to Hammondsport, New York, where they continued their lessons. At the end of the month, Marti flew his solo flight in a Curtiss Model D in order to earn his license. He earned the title of Puerto Rico’s first pilot. However, he did not pursue a pilot’s license as they were not mandatory at that time. During his training Marti became friends with fellow student Agustin Parla (who would become the first Cuban pilot). The two lived together while training in Hammondsport. Rafael completed additional training for an extra month so as to become an exhibition pilot. Due to his incredible flying skills, he was one of the few students to be featured in the June and July 1912 issue of Aeronautics Magazine. Upon returning to Puerto Rico, Marti’s dream was to raise enough money to purchase his own airplane. He wanted to open a flying school of his own, exactly like his teacher, Glenn Curtiss had. Sadly, Marti never achieved these goals. There is no record of him ever flying in native Puerto Rico.
Raphael Marti near his plane