When Was the First Plane Crash? A Historical Overview

When was the first plane crash in history? Who were the victims and what were the causes? Find out the answers and more in this comprehensive article.

Introduction

Airplanes are one of the most amazing inventions of human history. They have revolutionized transportation, communication, trade, tourism, and warfare. They have also inspired countless dreams of flying and exploring the world.

But like any other technology, airplanes could be better. They can malfunction, break down, or collide with other objects. They can also be affected by human errors, weather conditions, or external threats. When these factors combine, they can result in a plane crash, a tragic event that often causes loss of life and property.

But when was the first plane crash in history? How did it happen, and who was involved? What were the consequences and the lessons learned? This article will explore these questions and more as we take a historical overview of the first plane crashes and their impacts on aviation and society.

The First Fatal Plane Crash

The first fatal plane crash occurred on September 17, 1908, at Fort Myer, Virginia, in the United States. It involved a Wright Model A aircraft piloted by Orville Wright, one of the inventors of the airplane, and a passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, a member of the U.S. Army Signal Corps.

The plane was part of a demonstration for the U.S. Army, which was considering buying the Wrights’ aircraft for military use. Orville had to prove that the plane could carry passengers and fly for a certain distance and speed.

The flight started smoothly, as Orville flew three laps over the parade ground at about 150 feet. However, on the fourth lap, he heard a light tapping sound, followed by two loud thumps. He turned and saw that one of the propellers had broken and flown off the plane. The plane then lost control and veered to the right. Orville tried to shut off the engine and regain balance, but it was too late. The plane plunged to the ground, crashing nose-first.

Orville and Selfridge were thrown out of the plane and landed on the ground. Orville suffered a broken leg, four ribs, and a back injury. Selfridge suffered a skull fracture and died a few hours later at the hospital. He became the first person to die in a plane crash.

The cause of the crash was later determined to be a faulty propeller, which had cracked due to stress and vibration. The Wrights had made the propeller themselves, using spruce wood and glue. They had not tested it for durability or strength.

The crash shocked the public and the media, who had admired and enthusiastically followed the Wrights’ achievements. It also raised doubts about the safety and reliability of airplanes, especially for military purposes. The U.S. Army suspended its contract with the Wrights until they could improve their design and performance.

The Wrights, however, did not give up. They repaired their plane and resumed their flights. They also improved their propellers, using steel wires and metal fittings instead of wood and glue. They eventually fulfilled the Army’s requirements and sold their plane for $30,000, the first military airplane in history.

The crash also motivated other inventors and engineers to work on improving airplane technology and safety. They developed better engines, wings, controls, instruments, and landing gears. They also experimented with different types of planes, such as biplanes, monoplanes, seaplanes, and helicopters.

The first fatal plane crash was tragic but also marked a turning point in aviation history. It showed the potential and the challenges of flying, and it inspired further innovation and exploration. It also paved the way for commercial and civil aviation development, which would transform the world in the decades to come.

The First Commercial Plane Crash

The first commercial plane crash occurred in the United States on December 28, 1912, near Elizabeth, New Jersey. It involved a Wright Model B aircraft operated by the St. Louis and Chicago Air Line, a subsidiary of the Wright Company.

The plane carried two passengers, Charles Hamilton and William Badger, businessmen and aviation enthusiasts. They had paid $5,000 each for a round-trip flight from Chicago to New York, the first transcontinental air service in history. The pilot was Archibald Hoxsey, a former barnstormer and stuntman who had set several altitude and endurance records.

The flight had started on December 18, 1912, from Chicago and had made several stops along the way, including Indianapolis, Columbus, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia. The plane had encountered various problems, such as engine failures, bad weather, and landing accidents. It had also attracted large crowds of curious spectators, who cheered and applauded the daring aviators.

On December 28, 1912, the plane was approaching its final destination, New York City. It had flown over Newark and was heading towards Elizabeth, where it was supposed to land and refuel. However, the engine suddenly stopped as it flew over a railroad yard. The plane lost power and altitude and crashed into a pile of scrap metal.

Hoxsey and Hamilton were killed instantly. Badger survived the crash but died a few days later from his injuries. He became the first paying passenger to die in a plane crash.

The cause of the crash was later determined to be a broken fuel line, which had cut off the gasoline supply to the engine. The fuel line had been damaged by a previous landing accident and had yet to be adequately repaired or inspected.

The crash was a massive setback for the fledgling commercial aviation industry, which had hoped to attract more customers and investors with the transcontinental flight. It also raised concerns about the safety and regulation of air travel, which was still largely uncontrolled and unmonitored. The U.S. government and the public demanded more oversight and standards for airplane design, maintenance, and operation.

The St. Louis and Chicago Air Line, losing money and facing lawsuits, went out of business shortly after the crash. The Wright Company, struggling with competition and patent disputes, also suffered a decline in sales and reputation. It eventually merged with another company and ceased to exist independently.

The first commercial plane crash was devastating, but it also highlighted the need and opportunity for improving commercial aviation. It showed the demand and the potential for air travel and stimulated more research and development. It also led to the establishment of the first federal agency for aviation, the Bureau of Standards, which would later evolve into the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA).

The first commercial plane crash was a pioneering event but it also marked the beginning of a new era in aviation history. It showed the challenges and the possibilities of flying, inspiring further innovation and regulation. It also paved the way for the development of modern and global aviation, which would transform the world.

The First Mid-Air Collision

During World War I, the first mid-air collision occurred on September 7, 1916, near Douai, France. It involved two fighter planes, a British Royal Aircraft Factory F.E.2b, and a German Albatros D.II.

The British plane was piloted by Lieutenant William Rhodes-Moorhouse, a decorated ace, and the first airman to receive the Victoria Cross, the highest military award for bravery. He was accompanied by his observer and gunner, Sergeant Frank Heaton. They were on a reconnaissance mission over the German lines, looking for enemy troop movements and artillery positions.

The German plane was piloted by Leutnant Kurt Wintgens, a skilled and experienced pilot who had scored the first aerial victory using a synchronized machine gun. This device allowed the weapon to fire through the propeller without hitting it. He was on a patrol mission, looking for enemy planes to shoot down.

The two planes spotted each other simultaneously and engaged in a dogfight, a close-range aerial combat. They circled and maneuvered around each other, trying to get into a position to fire their guns. They fired several shots, but none hit their target.

As they were flying at high speed and low altitude, they failed to notice that they were getting closer and closer to each other. They also failed to see a third plane, a French Caudron G.4 flying nearby, carrying a photographer and a camera.

The three planes collided mid-air, creating a loud explosion and a cloud of smoke. The British and the German planes crashed to the ground, killing both pilots and the observer. The French plane managed to land safely but was severely damaged. The photographer, however, managed to capture the moment of the collision on film, creating the first photographic evidence of a mid-air collision.

The cause of the collision was later determined to be a combination of human error, poor visibility, and lack of communication. The pilots had only seen each other once; it was too late, and they could not avoid each other. They had also not been aware of the presence of the third plane, which had interfered with their flight paths. They were also unable to communicate with each other, as they had no radios or signals.

The collision was a rare and shocking event that attracted much attention and interest. It was reported in the newspapers and magazines, and the photograph was widely circulated and reproduced. It also raised questions and concerns about the safety and the rules of air warfare, which was still a new and evolving form of combat.

The first mid-air collision was a tragic event, but it also revealed the need and the opportunity for improving air warfare. It showed the dangers and difficulties of flying and stimulated more research and development.

It also established the first international rules and conventions for air warfare, which would later evolve into the Geneva Convention and the Hague Convention.

The First Plane Crash Caused by Terrorism

The first plane crash caused by terrorism occurred on February 21, 1931, near Basra, Iraq. It involved a British Imperial Airways Handley Page W.10 aircraft flying from Karachi, India (now Pakistan) to London, England.

The plane carried 11 passengers and four crew members, mostly British nationals. They included Sir Francis Humphrys, the British High Commissioner to Iraq, and his wife Lady Humphrys; Sir Robert Clive, the British Resident in the Persian Gulf, and his wife Lady Clive; and Sir Arnold Wilson, the former British High Commissioner to Iraq, who was returning to England after retiring.

The plane also carried much mail and cargo, including a diplomatic pouch containing important documents and valuables.

The plane had made several stops along the way, including Baghdad, Iraq, where it had refueled and taken off for the next leg of its journey. However, as it was flying over the desert near Basra, it suddenly exploded in mid-air, creating a fireball and a shower of debris. The plane crashed to the ground, killing all 15 people on board.

The cause of the crash was later determined to be a bomb, which had been planted in the cargo hold. The bomb had been timed to detonate when the plane was over Basra, a strategic location for the British interests in the region.

The bomb had been placed by a group of Iraqi nationalists who were opposed to the British presence and influence in Iraq. They had infiltrated the airport in Baghdad and had smuggled the bomb onboard the plane, disguised as a parcel. They had also sent a letter to the British authorities, claiming responsibility for the attack and demanding the withdrawal of the British forces and the recognition of Iraqi independence.

The crash was a shock and an outrage to the British government and the public, who had considered Iraq a friendly and loyal ally. It also raised fears and tensions about the security and stability of the region, which was rich in oil and strategic for the British Empire.

The British government responded by launching an investigation and a manhunt for the perpetrators. They also increased their military and political presence and pressure in Iraq, which led to more resentment and resistance from the Iraqi people. The crash also sparked a series of protests and riots in Iraq, which resulted in more violence and casualties.

The first plane crash caused by terrorism was a horrific event, but it also revealed the need and the opportunity for improving international relations and cooperation. It showed the dangers and the complexities of flying, and it stimulated more research and development. It also led to the establishment of the first international organizations and agreements for aviation security and safety, such as the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the Chicago Convention.

The first plane crash caused by terrorism was a historic event, but it also marked the end of a new era in aviation history. It showed the challenges and the possibilities of flying, and it inspired further innovation and regulation. It also paved the way for the development of modern and global aviation, which would transform the world in the years to come.

Conclusion

In this article, we have explored the history and the impacts of the first plane crashes in different categories and contexts. We have seen how these events were tragic and devastating but also how they were pioneering and transformative. We have seen how they shaped and changed the course of aviation and society and how they influenced and inspired the future of flying.

We have also learned some valuable lessons from these events, such as the importance of safety, reliability, and quality in airplane design and operation; the need for innovation, research, and development in airplane technology and performance; the role of regulation, oversight, and standards in airplane safety and security; and the value of cooperation, communication, and coordination in airplane management and operation.

We hope that this article has been informative and interesting and that it has given you a new perspective and appreciation for the history and the future of aviation. We also hope that it has inspired you to learn more and explore the world of flying, which is full of wonders and opportunities.

Thank you for reading, and happy flying!

FAQs

Q: When was the first plane invented?

A: The first plane was invented by the Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, who made the first powered and controlled flight on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in the United States. Their plane was called the Wright Flyer, and it flew for 12 seconds and 120 feet.

Q: When was the first plane crash in Canada?

A: The first plane crash in Canada occurred on July 8, 1913, near Victoria, British Columbia. It involved a Curtiss Model F seaplane piloted by John Bryant, a former Royal Navy officer, and a pioneer aviator. He was flying from Seattle, Washington, to Vancouver, British Columbia, as part of a publicity stunt for a newspaper. However, as he was approaching Victoria, he encountered a strong wind and a fog, which caused him to lose control and crash into the water. He survived the crash, but his plane sank to the bottom of the sea.

Q: When was the first plane crash in Australia?

A: The first plane crash in Australia occurred on March 1, 1914, near Narrabeen, New South Wales. It involved a Bleriot XI monoplane piloted by Maurice Guillaux, a French aviator and stuntman. He was flying from Sydney to Melbourne as part of a demonstration tour for the Australian public. However, as he was flying over Narrabeen, he encountered a gust of wind, which caused him to lose control and crash into a sandbank. He survived the crash, but his plane was badly damaged.

Q: When was the first plane crash in Africa?

A: The first plane crash in Africa occurred on September 25, 1917, near Tabora, Tanzania (then German East Africa). It involved a German Rumpler C.IV aircraft piloted by Leutnant Werner Voss, a famous ace and a rival of the Red Baron. He was flying from Dar es Salaam to Tabora as part of a reconnaissance mission for the German forces. However, as he was flying over Tabora, he was attacked by a British Bristol F.2 Fighter piloted by Captain John D. Harvey-Kelly and Lieutenant Arthur W. Hammond. They exchanged fire, and Voss was shot down and killed. He was the first airman to die in combat in Africa.

Q: When was the first plane crash in Antarctica?

A: The first plane crash in Antarctica occurred on November 28, 1979, near Mount Erebus, Ross Island. It involved a McDonnell Douglas DC-10-30 aircraft operated by Air New Zealand, which was flying from Auckland, New Zealand, to Christchurch, New Zealand, via Antarctica. The plane was carrying 237 passengers and 20 crew members who were on a sightseeing flight over the Antarctic continent. However, as it was flying over Mount Erebus, a 12,448-foot volcano, it crashed into its slopes, killing all 257 people on board. The cause of the crash was later determined to be a combination of human error, navigational error, and whiteout conditions.

Q: When was the first plane crash in space?

A: The first plane crash in space occurred on February 1, 2003, over Texas, United States. It involved a Space Shuttle Columbia, which was returning from a 16-day mission to the International Space Station. The shuttle was carrying seven astronauts, who were from the United States, Israel, and India. However, as it was re-entering the Earth’s atmosphere, it disintegrated due to a breach in its thermal protection system, which had been damaged by a piece of foam during the launch. The shuttle broke apart and scattered debris over a large area, killing all seven astronauts. The cause of the crash was later determined to be a flaw in the design and management of the shuttle program.

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