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  THE FIRST HISTORIC FLIGHTS — The 1911 Flying Exhibition

 This Wright Model B plane made the first flight over Miami. July 20, 1911. HistoryMiami, gift of Dean Miller. 1976-051-7.

It began with a big idea ... conceived by businessman E. S. Peets in 1910. Why not host a flying exhibition here in Miami? Most Miamians had never seen an "aeroplane," much less witnessed one fly! Air meets were being staged elsewhere, including nearby Tampa and Havana. So Peets sold the idea to Miami's Board of Trade, who contacted the Curtiss Exhibition Company. Both tried, but failed, to find the right spot for flying and charging admission. Months later, the idea took off again when Everest G. Sewell, President of the Merchants’ Association and future mayor of Miami, convinced local businessmen to finance the event. Soon a contract was signed with the Wright Brothers to send an aviator and an "aeroplane" in time for Miami’s fifteenth anniversary celebrations from July 20-22, 1911.

5,000 people turned out.

The crowd
On the day of Miami’s first flight, local militia kept spectators off the landing field. July 20, 1911.
Photo by B. Frank Davis. HistoryMiami, gift of Don Carson. 1973-002-17.

The event was free, but you could buy a bleacher seat for 25 cents. And if you had the dough and the nerve, you could book a 15-minute ride for yourself for $100. During the exhibition, aviator Howard Gill climbed into his “aeroplane” -- a cloth-winged biplane with a 35 horse power engine -- and flew up over the Miami Golf Links two times. Best part of the day? Gill taking Sewell for a ride 1,000 feet high. Some weren’t sure Sewell would make it back in one piece -- but he did -- and the flying bug had bitten him. As far as he was concerned, Aviation had a FUTURE in Miami.

A century later, there are millions of people and dozens of air sites past and present in Miami to attest to it.

> The 1912 Flying Exhibition

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