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EAA Young Eagles - Ask the Expert

Question :
Who was the first American to receive an official pilot's license or certificate?
Answer :
That honor would fall to Glenn Curtiss in 1911. The Aero Club of America issued the first pilot's licenses in the US. It was founded in 1905, and had many sister organizations. The organization gave out the Collier Trophy. Cortlandt Field Bishop was President of the Aero Club of America in 1910.
Some of the later licenses issued by the Aero Club of America bore the printed signature of Orville Wright. Orville Wright served for a time as Chairman of the Aero Club of America's Contest Committee. -- Contrary to popular myth, the Wright Brothers were not issued licenses number 4 and 5 for malicious reasons. They were simply among the five pilots who had, in America, demonstrated their ability to fly airplanes before the Aero Club of America's licensing program began. Those first five licenses were issued in alphabetical order--a practice followed by other national organizations belonging to the FAI. -- Pilot's licenses were not required by law (except by some states) until well after WWI. Aero Club of America licenses were required for participation in sporting events and demonstrations sanctioned by the ACA and FAI, and they gave credibility to pilots seeking to perform demonstration flights for hire, but many American pilots never applied for a license, which required a demonstration of flight proficiency. -- A complete and accurate list of the earliest pilots issued licenses by the Aero Club of America can be found in the appendix material of a book called, "For the Greatest Achievement" (Bill Robie, Smithsonian Institution Press, Washington, DC and London, 1993)
Airplane Pilot:
01 Glenn Curtiss
02 Frank P. Lahm
03 Louis Paulhan
04 Orville Wright
05 Wilbur Wright
06 Clifford B. Harmon
07 Thomas Scott Baldwin
08 J. Armstrong Drexel
09 Todd Schriver
10 Charles Foster Willard
37 Harriet Quimby, first woman
44 Matilde Moisant, second woman

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