This historic flight, more than any other, launched the United States into the age of modern flight, clearing the path for the development of airmail and modern air travel, as well as the terrible prospect of air power in war.
Even at this early hour, nearly a hundred spectators had assembled at the edge of the field. With virtually no fanfare, Curtiss climbed into the pilot’s seat of the aeroplane he had designed and built. A fabric-covered biplane “pusher”, it had a large wooden propeller mounted behind a dual set of wings. Because Curtiss would make the entire flight over the Hudson River, he mounted airtight metal pontoons beneath each wing and, from cloth used for hot-air balloons, he fashioned a large elongated bag, filled with champagne corks and attached it to the undercarriage. The plane could not take off from water, but as he and his friend and assistant Henry Kleckler proved in earlier tests, it could easily survive a water landing.