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Louis Paulhan, Lt. Benjamin Foulois, and the first airplane flights in Texas history

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On Feb. 18, 1910 a Frenchman named Louis Paulhan made the first recorded airplane flight in Texas.  Louis did it in a Farman III biplane. After the Wright brothers' controlled airplane flights in 1903, aeronautical progress generally was slow until 1909-10, when European aviation made rapid strides and the United States government acquired its first aircraft. Aerial demonstrations proliferated at sites across America, including Houston, where Paulhan made his flight.

It was evidently a time of explosive fermentation in aviation because two weeks after Paulhan made his maiden Texas flight, Lt. Benjamin Foulois, a colorful pioneer pilot, arrived at Fort Sam Houston and took to the air on March 2, 1910 --- the first military flight in Texas history.  One year later, on March 3, 1911, Foulois and a man named Phillip O. Parmalee made made the first official military reconnaissance flight (without crossing the border), looking for Army troops between Laredo and Eagle Pass, with a ground exercise in progress. Two days later, returning from a cross-country flight, they accidentally shut off the engine, and in trying to restart it, crashed into the Rio Grande. Neither was injured and the airplane was eventually repaired.    Amazingly, given the fact that flying was so dangerous in the early days (it seems like nearly every one of those early "daring young men in their flying machines" died in some sort of accident), both Paulhan and Foulois lived long lives, Paulhan dying in 1963 and Foulois in 1967.  I wonder what they thought as they watched planes evolve from the rudimentary aircraft that they flew into supersonic marvels capable of reaching 1670 mph.

Shown here: Benjamin Foulois and Phillip O. Parmalee at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, March, 1910.  Parmalee was killed in an airplane crash two years later. Photo taken by Oscar Goldbeck.



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