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PFM Membership Meeting

Saturday, April 5, 2003

Richard DesChenes

PFM's second membership meeting of the year was held on Saturday, April 5th. Our guest speaker was Richard DesChenes of San Antonio, who gave a slide show and presentation about early Army aviation. He started with some early balloons and moved on into the purchase of the first Army airplane from the Wright brothers.

After acceptance trials at Fort Myers, VA, the Army purchased a Wright Model A as Army Airplane No. 1, despite the death of Lt. Selfridge in a crash caused by a broken propeller. The presentation followed this airplane to Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, TX, where Lt. Benjamin Foulois taught himself to fly it through trial and error, with telegraphed instructions from the Wrights in Ohio.

Early Army Aviation badges & insignia

Deschenes finished the presentation with a talk about early military aviation badges and insignia, and showed some of his extensive collection. In addition to describing the history of the Army's earliest aviation insignia, he showed how the aviators of the day commissioned custom-made badges from local jewelers, since they didn't like the official insignia.

After the presentation, a question and answer period followed along with the chance to get a close-up look at the badges. Refreshments were available and greatly appreciated.