The first heavier-than-air aircraft bought by the Aeronautical Division came from none other than the Wright brothers. But even those pioneers, not long removed from their monumental 1903 flight, had to prove their machine could meet the War Department’s requirements: It had to be able to stay in the air for more than an hour, carry a passenger for at least 125 miles at a speed of 40 miles per hour, be steerable in all directions at all times and land without damage.
Here, Orville Wright makes a pass over Fort Myer, Virginia, on July 1, 1909. On Aug. 2 of that year, the US government formally accepted the Wright Flyer at a price of $30,000 and designated it Signal Corps Airplane No. 1.