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San Bruno in San Mateo County, California — The American West (Pacific Coastal)
First Shipboard Landing
 
First Shipboard Landing Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, April 24, 2009
1. First Shipboard Landing Marker
 
Inscription. On 18 January 1911, EUGENE ELY flew a Curtis Pusher biplane from this location, Tanforan Park, and landed on a wooden platform constructed aboard the Navy Cruiser USS Pennsylvania anchored in the San Francisco Bay. The first shipboard landing, an event of international impact, contributed significantly to the development of Naval aviation.
 
Erected 1976 by Western Division Naval Facilities Engineering Command, San Bruno, 15 May 1976.
 
Location. 37° 38.175′ N, 122° 25.151′ W. Marker is in San Bruno, California, in San Mateo County. Marker can be reached from El Camino Real. Click for map. Marker is at or near this postal address: 1150 El Camino Real, San Bruno CA 94066, United States of America.
 
Other nearby markers. At least 8 other markers are within 4 miles of this marker, measured as the crow flies. Tanforan Racetrack Japanese Assembly Center (here, next to this marker); Seabiscuit (about 300 feet away, measured in a direct line); Tanforan Assembly Center Commemorative Garden (about 300 feet away); Molloy’s Springs (approx. 2.9 miles away); Joe Cavalli – Historical Site (approx. 2.9 miles away); First Camp After Discovery of San Francisco Bay (approx. 3.3 miles away); Colma City Hall (approx. 3.5 miles away); Old Colma Railroad Station (approx. 3.8 miles away). Click for a list of all markers in San Bruno.
 
First Shipboard Landing Marker Photo, Click for full size
By Syd Whittle, April 24, 2009
2. First Shipboard Landing Marker
 

 
More about this marker. Marker is located at the entrance to the Tanforan Shopping Center.
 
Also see . . .
1. Eugene Ely's Flight to the USS Pennsylvania. Shortly before 11 AM on the morning of 18 January 1911, after the usual weather-driven delays, Ely took off from Tanforan racetrack. Pennsylvania was anchored off the San Francisco waterfront, in full view of thousands of spectators ashore, on ships at the city piers, and in a flock of small craft gathered around the cruiser. The little Curtiss pusher biplane came into view, flew around ship to check arrangements and set up the landing course, and then came in toward Pennsylvania's stern. Ely was prepared to handle the existing tailwind, but apparently did not expect the updraft that struck his lightly-loaded plane just as it reached the platform. Fortunately, he responded quickly, dove and snagged the arresting gear about halfway up its length. The Curtiss pulled ropes and sandbags to a smooth stop before reaching any of the safety barriers. (Submitted on April 28, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.) 

2. California National Guard's First (Naval) Aviator Eugene Burton Ely, by Mark J. Denger. "In February 1910, shortly following America's First International Air Meet in Los Angeles, E. Henry Wemme purchased one of Curtiss' first 4-cylinder Biplanes and took the agency for them in the Northwest. However, having never flown, nor having any actual knowledge of aircraft, Wemme found himself unable to fly it. Eugene Ely offered to try to fly the little 4-cylinder plane, but only wound up crashing instead. Feeling so badly about the mishap, Ely bought the wreck from Wemme. With a plane of his own, he soon made the necessary repairs, then very cautiously proceeded to teach himself to fly. He acquired the feel in the air quickly and by April, 1910, was making short straightaway hops. For the next two months he continued to practice with the new contraption and soon mastered the little flying machine." (Submitted on April 28, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.) 

3. The First Flight Society. On January 18, 1911, Ely successfully executed the first airplane landing on a ship, again in a Curtiss airplane. He departed Tanforan Field near San Francisco wearing a padded football helmet and a bicycle tube as a survival vest. Haze obscured his view of the cruiser USS Pennsylvania, anchored in San Francisco Bay. He landed on a specially designed tilted platform at a speed of 40 miles per hour and was slowed to a gentle stop by grappling hooks fitted underneath the aircraft that caught arresting wires attached to sandbags. After a leisurely lunch on board ship, Ely made the world's second nautical takeoff and returned to shore. (Submitted on April 28, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.) 
 
Credits. This page originally submitted on April 28, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California. This page has been viewed 1,032 times since then. Photos:   1, 2. submitted on April 28, 2009, by Syd Whittle of El Dorado Hills, California.
 
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