1901 Master Index 1903

1902 Chronology of Aviation History
Major Aviation Events


  • 1902 (Kitty Hawk, North Carolina) — The Wright brothers fly their No. 3 Glider, with assisted takeoff, over 700 flights, results lead directly to the construction of the flyer. [3]

  • 1902 (England) — The British Admiralty rejects a proposal to use captive balloons for submarine detection. [3]

January 1902

  • 17 January 1902 — Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf (1874-1927) was an aviation pioneer who immigrated from Germany to the U.S., where he designed and built early flying machines and engines to power them.

    Whitehead claimed two spectacular flights on January 17, 1902 in his improved N° 22, with a 40-hp motor instead of the 20-hp used in the N° 21, and aluminum instead of bamboo for structural components. In two published letters he wrote to American Inventor magazine, Whitehead said the flights took place over Long Island Sound. He said the distance of the first flight was about two miles (3 kilometers) and the second was seven miles (11 km) in a circle at heights up to 200 ft (61 m). He said the airplane, which had a boat-like fuselage, landed safely in the water near the shore. For steering, Whitehead said he varied the speed of the two propellers and also used the aircraft rudder. He said the techniques worked well on his second flight and enabled him to fly a big circle Back to the shore where his helpers waited. He expressed pride in the accomplishment:

    “… as I successfully returned to my starting place with a machine hitherto untried and heavier than air, I consider the trip quite a success. To my knowledge it is the first of its kind. This matter has so far never been published.”
    In his first letter to American Inventor, Whitehead said, “This coming Spring I will have photographs made of Machine No. 22 in the air.” He said snapshots, apparently taken during his claimed flights of January 17, 1902 “did not come out right” because of cloudy and rainy weather. The magazine editor replied that he and readers would “await with interest the promised photographs of the machine in the air,” but there were no further letters nor any photographs from Whitehead. [3,4]

February 1902

  • 4 February 1902 (Antarctica) — During the “Discovery Expedition” the first balloon flight in Antarctica takes place when Robert Falcon Scott and Ernest Shackleton ascend to 800 feet (240 m) in a tethered hydrogen balloon to take the first Antarctic aerial photographs. The National Antarctic Expedition, known as the “Discovery Expedition” after the ship Discovery, was the brainchild of Sir Clements Markham, president of the Royal Geographical Society, and had been many years in preparation. It was led by Robert Falcon Scott, a Royal Navy torpedo lieutenant lately promoted Commander, and had objectives that included scientific and geographical discovery. Discovery departed London on 31 July 1901, arriving at the Antarctic coast, via Cape Town and New Zealand, on 8 January 1902. After landing, Scott and Shackleton took part in the experimental balloon flight on 4 February. [1,3,5]

  • 4 February 1902 (Detroit, Michigan) — Future pilot Charles Lindbergh is born. Charles Augustus Lindbergh (February 4, 1902 - August 26, 1974) (nicknamed Slim, Lucky Lindy and The Lone Eagle) was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.

    Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S. Air Mail pilot, emerged from virtual obscurity to almost instantaneous world fame as the result of his Orteig Prize-winning solo non-stop flight on May 20-21, 1927, from Roosevelt Field located in Garden City on New York's Long Island to Le Bourget Field in Paris, France, a distance of nearly 3,600 statute miles (5,800 km), in the single-seat, single-engine monoplane “Spirit of St. Louis.” Lindbergh, a U.S. Army reserve officer, was also awarded the nation's highest military decoration, the Medal of Honor, for his historic exploit.

    In the late 1920s and early 1930s, Lindbergh relentlessly used his fame to help promote the rapid development of U.S. commercial aviation. In March 1932, however, his infant son, Charles, Jr., was kidnapped and murdered in what was soon dubbed the “Crime of the Century” which eventually led to the Lindbergh family fleeing the United States in December 1935 to live in Europe where they remained until the surprise attack on Pearl Harbor by the Imperial Japanese Navy. Before the United States formally entered World War II by declaring war on Japan on December 8, 1941, Lindbergh had been an outspoken advocate of keeping the U.S. out of the world conflict, as was his Congressman father, Charles August Lindbergh (R-MN), during World War I, and became a leader of the anti-war America First movement. Nonetheless, he supported the war effort after Pearl Harbor and flew many combat missions in the Pacific Theater of World War II as a civilian consultant, even though President Franklin D. Roosevelt had refused to reinstate his Army Air Corps Colonel's commission that he had resigned in April 1941.

    In his later years, Lindbergh became a prolific prize-winning author, international explorer, inventor, and environmentalist. [6]

March 1902

  • 29 March 1902 (Antarctica)— Professor Erich von Drygalski became the first man to fly in Antarctica when he made the first ascent in a hydrogen-filled reconnaissance balloon on 29 March 1902, to a height of 490 m (1600 feet). The balloon was used later the same day by Ruser and Phillipi and the results of their observations of pack to the north used to plan for the future. The balloon was packed away after the second flight and not used again.

    The voyage of the Gauss, led by Erich von Drygalski, was the German response to the call of the Sixth International Geographical Congress to the International scientific community to explore Antarctica. Erich von Drygalski, a Professor of geography and geophysics at the University of Berlin was chosen to lead the expedition as he had previous polar experience on an expedition to Greenland. He had a good track record of being able to carry out serious scientific studies in polar conditions. The expedition was fully funded by the German government, including the building of a new ship for the purpose, the Gauss, named after the great German scientist Karl Friedrich Gauss.

    The Gauss left Kiel on 11 August 1901 for Antarctica. She was to research the sector between 60° and 90° East as that was close to where the south magnetic pole was and little was known of the area. The Gauss reached Îles Kerguelen (a set of sub Antarctic Islands) on 2 January 1902. On 31 January 1902, the Gauss left Kerguelen for Antarctica and seven days later they sighted their first iceberg.

    Land was sighted on the 21 February 1902, being edged with ice cliffs 40-50 meters (130-165 feet) high where it met the sea and rising in the distance to over 300 meters. This was named Kaiser Wilhelm II Land (now called the Wilhelm II Coast). The Gauss tried to sail on further, but became trapped by forming sea-ice. The crew tried to blast a way out using explosives, but without success and by 2 March 1902 it was clear that the Gauss became trapped for the winter, 74 kilometers (46 miles) from the coast.

    Drygalski was primarily a scientist, not a glory seeker or self-publicist. His intention was to discover as much as he possibly could about the sector of Antarctica he was in, records of latitude had no interest to him and he and the scientific members of the crew gladly set about doing what they could with the time they had while trapped in the ice. Huts were set up for observations of magnetic, meteorological and astronomical phenomena. Holes were drilled through the ice to dredge the sea-floor and rocks collected from nearby icebergs. [3,7]

April 1902

  • 30 April 1902 (St. Louis, Missouri) — The “St. Louis Aeronautical Exposition” opens. A highlight is Octave Chanute launching a replica of his 1896 glider. [3]

May 1902

  • May 1902 (Levallois-Perret, Paris, France) — Captain Ferber commissions the Buchet works at Levallois-Perret to build an engine capable of delivering 5 to 6-hp and weighing no more than 88 pounds. [1]

  • 14 May 1902 (Paris, France) — Brazilian Augusto Severo and French engineer Georges Saché fly the semi-rigid airship Pax, which Severo designed, over Paris for its maiden flight. When they began to lose control the airship, it catches fire and explodes 1,200 feet (366 m) above Montparnasse Cemetery, killing both men instantly. [1,3]

June 1902
  • No data

July 1902
  • No data

August 1902

  • 28 August 1902 (Paris, France) — Engineer Léon Levavasseur takes out patent number 339068 for a “motor with eight paired cylinders set in two rows at right angles”. Two weeks ago, on August 15, he entered an agreement with industrialist Jules Gastambide to make an airplane fitted with a light engine. [1]

September 1902

  • 15 September 1902 (Manhattan Beach, New York) — A. Leo Stevens sails his airship Pegasus over Manhattan Beach in a race with Edward C. Boyce in the latter's Santos-Dumont airship. [2]

  • 22 September 1902 (Manhattan Beach, New York) — First flight of an airship over London. This afternoon, countless Londoners were thrilled to see a navigable balloon in the sky. The strange device was piloted by well-known aeronaut Stanley Spencer, who has spent the past three months making trial flights from the Crystal Palace. In this, the first flight by a powered aircraft in Britain, Spencer took off from the palace grounds in south-east London at 4:15 p.m., passing over Tulse Hill and then setting course north-west to Clapham and Chelsea. He finally came to earth at Eastcole, west of Harrow, having covered 30 miles in three hours. Spencer's airship is 75-feet long and is driven by a 30-hp Simms gasoline engine, turning a propeller made of pine wood. [1]

October 1902

  • 13 October 1902 (Paris, France) — Over Paris, Hungarian-born French diplomat Herlad de Bradsky and electrical engineer Paul Morin fly an airship of their own design on its first test flight. At an altitude of about 600 feet (183 m), the gondola separates from rest of the airship and the two men fall to their deaths. [1,3]

  • 17 October 1902 (Washington, DC) — Samuel P. Langley writes to Octave Chanute asking for details of the experiments which have been carried out at Kitty Hawk by the Wright Brothers. [1]

  • 28 October 1902 (Kitty Hawk, North Carolina) — Engineer urges the brothers to try to fit engine to glider. As Orville and Wilbur Wright come to the end of another season of flying experiments and prepare to leave for home, they are considering the next logical step of adding an engine to their flying machine. Their friend, engineer Octave Chanute, urged the brothers to fit an engine when he visited their camp near Kitty Hawk earlier this month.

    But adding a motor is not so easy as it sounds. The main problem is to find one that is powerful enough to drive the machine while remaining light enough to be carried by it. The Wrights need around 9-hp from an engine weighing no more than 180-lbs. They intend to approach car manufacturers, but if that fails to produce a light enough engine Wilbur says that they will build their own.

    The Wright's first contact with French born Chanute was in 1900. Currently based in Chicago, he has written a book, Progress in Flying Machines. Wilbur wrote to him, expressing the dearly held belief that “flight is possible to man” and asking for technical information. Since then they have kept enthusiastically in touch. Chanute and his associates have visited the camp several times both this year and last to watch the brothers' flights and to discuss their progress. [1]

  • 31 October 1902 (Dayton, Ohio) — Wrights near success at Kitty Hawk. The Wright brothers have arrived home at Dayton after their third successive fall spent among the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They have returned elated, sure that they are close to a break through in their pursuit of manned flight. Success comes after nearly a year of intensive scientific research in Dayton, where they used a bicycle and a wind tunnel to test their aerodynamic theories.

    The season began badly in early September, when the brothers suffered an alarming series of crashes. The fault lay in the wing-warping system, by which the pilot pulls wires attached to the wings to bank the glider to the right and right it again when the wind upsets its equilibrium. Unfortunately this increased the drag on the lower wing, slowing it down and making it drop still further, putting the glider into a spin. The problem was aggravated by the fixed fins which the brothers had added to their previous designs. These acted as a lever, moving the wings around the vertical axis. The breakthrough finally came when the brothers converted the fins into a movable rudder linked to the warping cradle.

    They made nearly 1,000 flights, in the last few hundred were the climax of their experiments so far. The longest flight, on October 23, was 622.5-feet and lasted 26 seconds. [1,8]

November 1902

  • November 1902 (Nice, France) — Ferdinand Ferber is given permission to build an aérodrome in the area beyond the Promenade des Anglais. This is a new term for a place where aircraft take off and land. [1]

  • 12 November 1902 (Moisson, France) — The Lebaudy semi-rigid airship, commissioned by brothers Paul and Pierre Lebaudy, reaches a speed of about 27-mph on his first flight. The 190-foot ship is powered by a 35-hp Daimler engine which drives two propellers. [1]

  • 15 November 1902 (London/Herriard, England) — Frank Hedges Butler, his daughter Vera and Charles Rolls fly the balloon Graphic from the Crystal Palace in London to Herriard in Hampshire in a balloon-versus-cars race organized by the Aero Club. None of the 14 participating cars is able to catch up with the balloon. [1]

December 1902

  • December 1902 (Suffolk, England) — Samuel Cody's ‘War Kites’ set new record. Samuel F. Cody, the wild west cowboy, has come close to death in a daring demonstration of his famous “war kites”. He was testing a new system in front of a crowd of 500 people at Bury St. Edmunds.

    The first part of the operation went according to plan, with several tiers of “lifter kites” helping to support the heavy cable that in turn supports the main kite. But, shortly after Cody left the ground, the wind changed. The lifter kites swooped sideways and down, to treetop height. Cody could do nothing as they pulled him down in a great arc towards the ground. Then, just as it seemed that he must crash, he was blown into the branches of an oak tree. Scratched and bruised, but safely Back on the ground, Cody told the anxious crowd: “Well, that's enough for today.” Cody's kites are a similar sight wherever he takes his popular wild west show, The Klondike Nugget. In August this year one of his unmanned kites reached an altitude of 14,000-feet to conduct meteorological experiments, earning him a fellowship of the Royal Meteorological Society. [1]

  • 15 December 1902 (Nice, France) — Riviera trials underway for new glider. The French ambitions to lead Europe in the development of heavier-than-air flying have taken a step forward through the continuing efforts of Captain Ferdinand Ferber. The captain is soon to begin tethered powered airplane trials using his glider N° 6 with an engine.

    Work on N° 6 began after flying with glider N° 5 came to an abrupt end in September, due to a bad landing through poor control. Both gliders have benefited from Captain Ferber's correspondence with engineer Octave Chanute, who brought the work of the Wright brothers to his attention.

    N° 5 has been an improvement stepping-stone in Ferber's research program. Its design was influenced by the Wright gliders of 1900/01, details of which were passed on by Chanute. But it lacked the sophistication of the Wright craft in design, construction, and control. The airframe was built of bamboo, and the fabric was attached in separate pieces, forming a non-rigid covering. Wing-warping as a means of latter control, as used by the Wrights, was absent. Triangular fabric rudders were later added.

    Testing of N° 5 began in June this year in the Alps Maritimes area of Beuil before moving to the beaches of La Californie, near Nice. The distances flown can only be described as disappointing, the longest being just 150-feet.

    N° 6 as it currently appears, has a basically similar layout but lacks an elevator. Trials at La Californie continue. [1]

Works Cited
  1. Gunston, Bill, et al. Chronicle of Aviation. Liberty, Missouri: JL Publishing Inc., 1992. 14-17
  2. Parrish, Wayne W. (Publisher). "United States Chronology". 1962 Aerospace Yearbook, Forty-Third Annual Edition. Washington, DC: American Aviation Publications, Inc., 1962, 446-469.
  3. Wikipedia, 1902 in aviation
  4. Wikipedia, Gustave Whitehead
  5. Wikipedia, Robert Falcon Scott
  6. Wikipedia, Charles Lindbergh
  7. Wikipedia, Erich von Drygalski
  8. Shupek, John (photos and card images), The Skytamer Archive., Whittier, CA

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