Lafayette, Ind., 1859. Credit: Bass Photo Company Collection, Indiana Historical Society
Indiana’s Contributions to Aviation
John Wise’s 1859 air-mail flight was only the first chapter in the story of Indiana’s contributions to aviation. Below is a timeline of some of the important dates in Indiana’s history of aviation.
Indiana aviation timeline
|Indiana and the history of aviation
||John Wise completes first airmail delivery via balloon from Lafayette, Ind.
||Wilbur Wright is born in a farm home near Millville, Ind.
||Indianapolis Motor Speedway hosts a balloon race prior to the opening of the venue for racecars .
||World’s first public airplane flight by a woman; Blanche Stuart Scott appears as a wing walker in Fort Wayne, Ind.
||U.S. air mail service begins between Washington, D.C., and New York City. Bob Shank, a Hoosier, is one of the first pilots on this route.
||Indiana creates the first National Guard air unit.
||First U.S. airline stewardess is Ellen Church Marshall of Terre Haute, Ind.
||Weir Cook Municipal Airport opens in Indianapolis.
||Amelia Earhart brings her twin-engine airplane to Purdue University to be prepped for her flight around the world.
||Willa B. Brown co-founds the National Airmen’s Association of America to promote African-American aviation. With Cornelius R. Coffey, she starts the Coffey School of Aeronautics to train pilots, some of whom become part of the 99th Pursuit Squadron at Tuskegee Institute, also known as the “Tuskegee Airmen.”
||World’s first radar-equipped control tower for civilian flying is installed at Weir Cook Municipal Airport in Indianapolis.
||Purdue graduate Neil Armstrong and Frank Borman of Gary, Ind., are named to nine-member group to be first men on the moon.
||On January 27, Virgil I. Grissom, a Purdue graduate, and two other astronauts are killed in Apollo 1 capsule.
||David A. Wolf, an Indianapolis native, starts his 119 days aboard Russian space station Mir.
For more information about Indiana’s aviation history, visit:
- Lafayette, Ind., and Purdue University played an important role in the history of aviation. The School of Aeronautics and Astronautics has a good overview of some of the people, events and initiatives associated with Purdue and Lafayette.
- The Indiana Historian, a magazine published by the Indiana Historical Bureau, had a 1998 issue dedicated to the history of Indiana’s role in aviation. It includes a timeline and images.