14 May 1908: Charles William Furnas, a mechanic for the Wright Company, was the first passenger to fly aboard an airplane.
At the Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Furnas rode aboard the Wright Flyer III with Wilbur Wright as pilot. The flight covered approximately 600 meters (656 yards) and lasted for 29 seconds. Later the same day, Orville Wright flew the airplane, again with Charley Furnas aboard, this time covering 2.125 miles (3.42 kilometers) in 4 minutes, 2 seconds.
Charles William Furnas was born at Butler Township, Montgomery County, Ohio, 20 December 1880. He was the second of three sons of Franklin Reeder Furnas, a farmer, and Elizabeth J. Rutledge Furnas.
Furnas enlisted in the United States Navy at Dayton, Ohio, 15 November 1902, and was discharged at New York City, 14 November 1906.
Furnas, a machinist, married Miss Lottie Martha Washington, 3 June 1913.
Mrs. Furnas died 1 January 1931. On 30 January 1931, Charles Furnas was admitted to a Veterans Administration Facility in Jefferson Township, Montgomery County, Ohio, where he would remain for the rest of his life.
Charles Furnas died at the Veterans Administration Hospital, Dayton, Ohio, at 9:00 a.m., 15 October 1941. His remains were interred at the Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum, Dayton.
17 December 1903, 10:35 a.m.: Orville and Wilbur Wright, two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, had been working on the development of a machine capable of flight since 1899. They started with kites and gliders before moving on to powered aircraft. At the Kill Devil Hills near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they made the first successful flight of a powered, controllable airplane. Orville was at the controls of the Flyer while Wilbur ran along side, steadying the right wing. The airplane flew 120 feet (36.6 meters) in 12 seconds.
Three more flights were made that day, with the brothers alternating as pilot. Wilbur made the last flight, covering 852 feet (263.7 meters) in 59 seconds. The Flyer was slightly damaged on landing but before it could be repaired for an intended flight four miles back to Kitty Hawk, a gust of wind overturned the airplane and caused more extensive damage. It never flew again.
The Wright 1903 Flyer is a canard biplane, with elevators to the front and rudders at the rear. The flight controls twisted, or “warped,” the wings to cause a change in direction. The pilot lay prone in the middle of the lower wing, on a sliding “cradle.” He slid left and right to shift the center of gravity. Wires attached to the cradle acted to warp the wings and move the rudders. The airplane is built of spruce and ash and covered with muslin fabric. It is 21 feet (6.401 meters) long with a wingspan of 40 feet, 4 inches (12.293 meters) and overall height of 9 feet, 3 inches (2.819 meters).
Power is supplied by a 201.06-cubic-inch-displacement (3.295 liter) water-cooled inline 4-cylinder gasoline engine producing 12 horsepower at 1,090 r.p.m. The engine was built by the Wright’s mechanic, Charlie Taylor. It uses cast iron cylinders and an aluminum crankcase. Two 8-foot diameter (2.4 meter) two-bladed wooden propellers, in pusher configuration, are turned in opposite directions at 350 r.p.m. by a chain-and-sprocket drive from the engine. The Flyer weighs 605 pounds (274.4 kilograms).
In 1928, the Wright Flyer was shipped to England where it was displayed at the Science Museum on Exhibition Road, London. It returned to the United States in 1948 and was placed in the collection of the Smithsonian Institution.
Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever in 1912. Orville continued to fly until 1918. He served as a member of the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics (NACA, predecessor of NASA) for 28 years. He died in 1948.
2 August 1939: The Boeing Model 294, designated by the U.S. Army Air Corps as the XB-15, serial number 35-277, flown by a crew led by Major Caleb Vance Haynes, set a Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) World Record for Speed Over a Closed Circuit of 5000 Kilometers With 2000 Kilogram Payload, when they flew the experimental long range heavy bomber a distance of 3,109 miles at an average speed of 267.67 kilometers per hour (166.32 miles per hour) while carrying a payload of 2,000 kilograms (4,409.25 pounds).¹ The other members of the crew were Captain William D. Old, Walter G. Bryte, Jr., A.C. Brandt, Master Sergeant Adolph Cattarius, Staff Sergeant William J. Heldt, Technical Sergeant Daniel L. Spicer and Staff Sergeant James E. Sands.
The Boeing Model 294, designated XB-15 by the Air Corps, was an experimental airplane designed to determine if a bomber with a 5,000 mile range was possible. It was designed at the same time as the Model 299 (XB-17), which had the advantage of lessons learned by the XB-15 design team. The XB-15 was larger and more complex than the XB-17 and took longer to complete. It first flew more than two years after the prototype B-17.
Designers had planned to use an experimental 3,421.19-cubic-inch-displacement (56.063 liter) liquid-cooled, supercharged and turbosupercharged Allison V-3420 twenty-four cylinder, four-bank “double V” engine which produced a maximum of 2,885 horsepower at 3,000 r.p.m. The engine was not available in time, however, and four air-cooled Pratt & Whitney R-1830 (Twin Wasp) engines were used instead. With one-third the horsepower, this substitution left the experimental bomber hopelessly underpowered as a combat aircraft.
The XB-15 was a very large four-engine mid-wing monoplane with retractable landing gear. It was of aluminum monocoque construction with fabric-covered flight control surfaces. The XB-15 had a ten-man crew which worked in shifts on long duration flights.
The prototype bomber was 87 feet, 7 inches (26.695 meters) long with a wingspan of 149 feet (45.415 meters) and overall height of 18 feet, 1 inch (5.512 meters). The airplane had an empty weight of 37,709 pounds (17,105 kilograms) and maximum takeoff weight of 70,706 pounds (32,072 kilograms)—later increased to 92,000 pounds (41,730 kilograms).
As built, the XB-15 was powered by four air-cooled, supercharged, 1,829.39-cubic-inch-displacement (29.978 liter) Pratt & Whitney R-1830-11 (Twin Wasp S1B3-G) two-row 14-cylinder radial engines, rated at 850 horsepower at 2,450 r.p.m. and 5,000 feet ( meters), and 1,000 horsepower at 2,600 r.p.m. for take off., each. They turned three-bladed controllable-pitch propellers through a 3:2 gear reduction. The R-1830-11 was 4 feet, 8.66 inches (1.439 meters) long with a diameter of 4 feet, 0.00 inches (1.219 meters), and weighed 1,320 pounds (599 kilograms).
These gave the experimental airplane a maximum speed of 197 miles per hour (317 kilometers per hour) at 5,000 feet (1,524 meters) and a cruise speed of 152 miles per hour (245 kilometers per hour) at 6,000 feet (1,829 meters). The service ceiling was 18,900 feet (5,761 meters) and maximum range was 5,130 miles (8,256 kilometers).
The bomber could carry a maximum of 12,000 pounds (5,443 kilograms) of bombs in its internal bomb bay, and was armed with three .30-caliber and three .50-caliber machine guns for defense .
Only one XB-15 was built. During World War II it was converted to a transport and redesignated XC-105. In 1945 it was stripped and abandoned at Albrook Field, Territory of the Canal Zone, Panama.