Hometown Marks Centennial of Naval Aviation Pioneer
The year 2011 marks the 100th anniversary of US naval aviation,
and in addition to a few big celebrations we've heard about are
many smaller ones honoring local pioneers. One such is coming on
Sunday, October 23, when a fly-by is being coordinated over the
grave site of Eugene Ely, the native Iowan who became the first
person to take off and land an airplane on a ship.
Ely was a car mechanic and race driver who repaired a Curtiss
airplane, taught himself to fly it, and went on to perform
exhibition flights, with his wife, Mabel, serving as his manager
and publicist. In late 1910, as a civilian aviator, Ely took off
from a temporary platform erected over the bow of the scout cruiser
Birmingham, successfully landing on the beach. He was reportedly
made a lieutenant in the California National Guard to qualify his
operations off ships for a $500 prize being offered at the
Two months later, in January 1911, while performing at San
Francisco, California, he landed his plane on the armored cruiser
Pennsylvania, and after a brief visit on board, flew back to shore.
Ely died two days short of his 25th birthday when he was late
pulling out of a dive at an exhibition in Macon, Georgia, 100 years
ago this month, on October 19, 1911. He was posthumously awarded
the Distinguished Flying Cross.
Ely is buried in the East York Cemetery, seven miles east of
Williamsburg, Iowa. (The GPS coordinates are 41.39.45.02N,
184.108.40.206W.) Organizers say this is a very small private
cemetery, located at end of a narrow gravel lane, in a farm field,
about ¼ mile from a county road. Due to limited parking and
the remote location, attendance at the ceremony on the ground will
be open to access by the media, but by invitation-only to
At 1230 local time there will be a short memorial service with
speakers including Captain Fritz Kies, USN, Anna Durr, an Ely
relative, and Allen Haworth, who has led an effort to honor Ely's
legacy the flyover is tentatively scheduled for 1250, approaching
the cemetery from the east and flying west over the grave site
Pilots who would like to participate in the fly-by are invited to
contact Anton Vanicek (FMI below).
Following the grave site ceremony, a second commemoration will
be held at the Williamsburg Recreation Center, where Haworth will
conduct a program. The public is cordially invited.
FMI: Contact Anton Vanicek - Mobile: (563) 571-5711. Home:
(563) 264-2497. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org