The Aero Club of America was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Jasper Glidden and Augustus Post, among others, to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. It thrived until 1923, when it transformed into the National Aeronautic Association, which still exists today. It issued the first pilot's licenses in the United States, and successful completion of its licensing process was required by the United States Army for its pilots until 1914. It sponsored numerous air shows and contests. Cortlandt Field Bishop was president in 1910. Starting in 1911, new president Robert J. Collier began presenting the Collier Trophy.
Although conventional wisdom states that the Aero Club began in 1905, there are photos of high society and adventurers printed in 1902 with the stamp, "Aero Club". In the summer of 1905 several members of the Automobile Club of America including Charles Glidden, Homer Hedge, Dave Morris, John F. O'Rourke, and Augustus Post founded the Aero Club of America. They were avid balloonists but found little support in America for the sport of aviation. They determined to establish a new club with an organization similar to the Automobile Club but whose purpose was to promote aviation, much like the Aero Club of France. Homer Hedge became the first President and Augustus Post the first secretary.
In 1910, three different conventions were held in New York among aeronautical clubs and societies. The National Council of Affiliated Clubs of the Aero Club of America, was formed. Thirty-nine delegates, representing constituencies from Pasadena, California, to Boston, met at the Aero Club and formed the parent organization of various state chapters.
At the Belmont Air Show in October 1910, a considerable controversy arose between the Englishman Claude Graham-White and the American J. B. Moisant. In one race around the Statue of Liberty, Graham-White won by several minutes, but due to a technicality, the race and considerable prize money was awarded to Moisant. John Armstrong Drexel made public statements accusing the organization of favoritism toward its own members, and Drexel held a competing dinner banquet at the same time as the awards banquet of the organization. The schism among the membership threatened the integrity of the organization, but was ultimately resolved with Drexel's resignation.
In 1911, the Aero Club of New York put on the First Industrial Airplane Show that was held in conjunction with the 11th U.S. International Auto Show at Manhattan’s Grand Central Palace, in New York City. It was a spectacular event with prominent speakers, and an enthusiastic large crowd that would gaze upon a full-size airplane for the first time. It started December 31, 1910, until mid-January 1911.
In 1919, the secretary of the club, Augustus Post organized and drew up the rules for a transatlantic flight competition between New York and Paris. He worked with wealthy hotel owner Raymond Orteig in securing the $25,000 for the Orteig Prize. The $25,000 prize was to be awarded "to the first aviator of any Allied Country crossing the Atlantic in one flight, from Paris to New York or New York to Paris". After five years of failing to attract competitors, the award was then put under the control of a seven-member Bryant Bank board of trustees, which awarded it to Charles Lindbergh for his successful 1927 flight in the Spirit of St. Louis.
Some of the later licenses issued by the Aero Club of America bore the printed signature of Orville Wright. Wright served for a time as Chairman of the Aero Club of America's Contest Committee. Contrary to popular myth, the Wright brothers were not issued licenses number 4 and 5 for malicious reasons. They were simply among the five pilots who had, in America, demonstrated their ability to fly airplanes before the Aero Club of America's licensing program began. Those first five licenses were issued in alphabetical order –-- a practice followed by other national organizations belonging to the FAI.
Pilot's licenses were not required by law (except by some states) until well after World War I. Aero Club of America licenses were required for participation in sporting events and demonstrations sanctioned by the ACA and FAI, and they gave credibility to pilots seeking to perform demonstration flights for hire, but many American pilots never applied for a license, which required a demonstration of flight proficiency. The ACA was also notorious for the inflexibility of its licensing process, which prescribed, among other items, a letter of application, a photograph of a candidate, appointment of an ACA examiner, and his report of examination, all of which had to be submitted in the correct form and sequence for a license to be issued, whether the candidate passed the flight test or not.
Some notable early pilots issued licenses by the Aero Club of America are listed below.
On July 19, 1912, Lt. Peck landed on the racetrack at Coney Island, an amusement park in Cincinnati, Ohio, named after the famed park in New York. Progressive reformers had been closing race tracks around the country and the venues were sore need of rvenue so the Coney Island racetrack was used as a runway. Peck carried a sack of mail filled with postcards sold at Coney Island and stamped “U.S. Official Aerial Mail”.
See who's who of ballooning.
Note: "Dirigible" simply meant that the airship could be made to go in any direction.
For many years prior to the organization of the Aero Club of America the science of aerial navigation had ...
In 1912, Ralph Clayton Diggins made a successful flight and became the 26th person in the United States to receive a pilot's license. It was issued by the Aero Club of America in New York City, before the days of federal regulation.
Adolph G. Sutro, who is a grandson of former Mayor of San Franclsco, and who holds the first hydro-aeroplane license issued in this country by the Aero Club of ...
... held pilot license number 6 ...
Ralph Albion Drury Preston, an early worker in the development and racing of ...