110-years ago, off San Francisco, Eugene Ely invented naval aviation.
In the very hierarchy of these modern marvels, the ability to recover and launch aircraft from the deck of a moving ship stands out as one of our most signature accomplishments. Which just goes to show you: Some tricks never grow old.
It happened in San Francisco Bay, aboard the cruiser USS Pennsylvania, which had a temporary 133-foot wooden landing strip built just above her afterdeck and gun turret as part of the experiment. Innovation was afoot.
Ely's Curtis Pusher had been fitted with a clever new invention called a tailhook. The idea was to quickly halt the aircraft after landing by using the tailhook to catch one or two of 22 rope lines -- each propped up a foot above the deck and weighted by the 50-pound sandbags tied to each end – strung three-feet apart along the Pennsylvania's temporary flight deck.