The First Airplane To Take Off From An Aircraft Carrier Was Launched From The USS Birmingham in 1910

(Eugene Burton Ely flies his Curtiss pusher biplane from USS Birmingham (Scout Cruiser No. 2), in Hampton Roads, Virginia, during the afternoon of 14 November 1910, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons)


In 1910, a major milestone in aviation history was set. On that day, a biplane took to the skies from the deck of the USS Birmingham. It was the first time in history that a plane took off from an aircraft carrier, but that particular flight was just a test, and was not carried out in a war environment. The first country to formally launch airplanes from aircraft carriers in warfare was Britain during World War I. In December, 1914, they carried out a seaborne raid against the German base of Cuxhaven. The attack did little damage, but set a precedent for future warfare.

For most of WWI, there was a major problem with aircraft carriers—the ships had no landing strips. The planes could not come back and land on the carriers. Landing zones had to be established elsewhere.  Only in the last year of WWI (1918) did the British improve the carrier with the addition of a landing strip, though landing on aircraft carriers remained a highly dangerous process, even during WWII. Nevertheless, the modern aircraft carrier was born, and would play a leading role in the Pacific War of WWII.


  • Warfare in the Western World: Military Operations Since 1871, by Robert A. Doughty and Ira D. Gruber et al. Massachusetts: D. C. Heath and Company, 1996.

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