The Langley may have been the U.S. Navy's first official aircraft carrier, but it wasn't the first ship with a flight deck installed. In fact, the very first flight of an aircraft from aboard a warship occurred more than a decade before the Langley was commissioned. That honor went to the USS Birmingham, a scout cruiser, on November 14, 1910, when daredevil pilot Eugene Ely took off in a Curtiss pusher aircraft. The experiment aboard the Birmingham came together quickly, in less than two weeks, according to the Naval Historical Center: "Designed by Naval Constructor William McEntree and paid for with a few hundred dollars of [wealthy aviation enthusiast John Barry] Ryan's money, this structure sloped down five degrees from the cruiser's bridge to her bow to provide a gravity-assisted 57-foot takeoff run."
March 21, 2012 12:54 PM PDT
Photo by: Naval History & Heritage Command Photographic Department