Teaching the World to Fly

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.