History of California

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1910 Dec 23

California Aerospace History

California, USA

After Wilbur and Orville Wright demonstrated the feasibility of controlled manned flight, Glenn Curtiss entered the field, focusing on aircraft manufacturing and pilot training. On December 23, 1910, Lieut. T. Gordon "Spuds" Ellyson was ordered to report to the Glenn Curtiss Aviation Camp at North Island in San Diego. He completed his training April 12, 1911, and became Naval Aviator No. 1. The original site of this winter encampment is now part of Naval Air Station North Island in San Diego and is referred to by the Navy as "The Birthplace of Naval Aviation". On January 18, 1911, at 11:01 a.m., Eugene Ely, flying a Curtiss pusher, landed on a specially built platform aboard the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania at anchor in San Francisco Bay. At 11:58 a.m., he took off and returned to Selfridge Field, San Francisco.

Caltech in Pasadena provided an ideal situation for the development and manufacture of aircraft. In 1925, aircraft builder Donald Douglas and Los Angeles Times publisher Harry Chandler worked together with Caltech president Robert Millikan to bring a state-of-the-art aeronautical research laboratory to the Pasadena college. Douglas recruited some of Caltech's best and brightest students for his company. Douglas utilized the lab's wind tunnel and research staff while designing his DC-1, 2, and 3. In this way, the DC-3, undoubtedly one of the most successful aircraft designs ever built, represented more than just a single designer's project.

The Caltech Jet Propulsion Laboratory (JPL) traces its beginnings to 1936 in the Guggenheim Aeronautical Laboratory at the California Institute of Technology (GALCIT), when the first set of rocket experiments were carried out in the Arroyo Seco. JPL was transferred to NASA in December 1958, becoming the agency's primary planetary spacecraft center. In 1940, 65% of aircraft manufacturers were located along or near the East or West Coasts of the United States. California alone had 44 percent of all aircraft manufacturing.