As the summer comes to an end, it’s time for many to go back to school. Most students have mixed feelings of excitement and trepidation at the thought of returning. Imagine how the students at the earliest aviation schools felt!
Wright Flying School
One of the earliest flying schools was established in 1910 by Orville and Wilbur Wright in Alabama, at the current site of Maxwell Air Force Base. They quickly moved operations to their hometown of Dayton, Ohio, at Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Notable students included: Henry H. "Hap" Arnold; Thomas DeWitt Milling; John Rodgers; and his cousin, Calbraith Perry Rodgers.
Curtiss Flying School
Ever competing against the Wright brothers, Glenn H. Curtiss established the Curtiss Flying School in San Diego, California, in 1910. He expanded to Miami and then his hometown of Hammondsport, New York.
Moisant Aviation School
The Moisant Family—John, Alfred and Matilde—helped spark America's early interest in aviation. John trained at the Bleriot School in France. Alfred opened the Moisant Aviation School in 1911 and Matilde was an active participant, becoming the second woman in the United States to earn her pilot’s license.
Sloane School of Aviation
John E. Sloane (who just happened to be Thomas Edison’s son-in-law) developed his own aircraft and then opened his own school of aviation at Dominguez Field, Los Angeles, and Mineola, Long Island, where students trained on his own designs. John Guy Gilpatric, one of the youngest early aviators, actually began his career with Sloane and then moved on to Curtiss.
Flying Schools for African Americans
Early American flying schools were not open to African Americans. Bessie Coleman had to travel to France’s École d'Aviation des Frères Caudron to learn to fly.
In 1931, Cornelius Coffey graduated as part of the first all-black class at the Curtiss-Wright Aeronautical School. He and John C. Robinson returned to Chicago to create the Challenger Pilots Association, opening the first airport built for African Americans in Robbins, Illinois. With his wife Willa Brown, he then opened the Coffey School of Aeronautics to train African American pilots, both men and women.
The Advanced Flying School at Tuskegee, Alabama, was the first military school of aviation to train African Americans. The first class of Tuskegee Airmen graduated on March 7, 1942. Benjamin O. Davis, the first commander of the Tuskegee Airmen, became the first African American general in the United States Air Force.
Regardless of their feelings about school, most students will complete the first few weeks and be glad they don’t look like these fellows (though they may feel like it)!