Thomas E. Selfridge life and biography

Thomas E. Selfridge picture, image, poster

Thomas E. Selfridge biography

Date of birth : 1882-02-08
Date of death : 1908-09-17
Birthplace : San Francisco, California, U.S.
Nationality : American
Category : Arhitecture and Engineering
Last modified : 2011-06-16
Credited as : U.S. army pilot, first air crash fatality,

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Thomas Etholen Selfridge was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and the first person to die in a crash of a powered airplane. He was a passenger while Orville Wright was piloting the aircraft.

First Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge of the United States Army was a pioneer in the development of air travel and the first air crash fatality. A graduate of the West Point military academy, Selfridge was appointed by President Teddy Roosevelt to observe the flight experiments of Alexander Graham Bell. In 1907 and 1908 Selfridge worked with Bell's team on aeronautics designs and piloted Bell's "June Bug" and "White Wing" aircrafts, the first U.S. soldier to fly an airplane. On 17 September 1908 Lt. Selfridge took a ride with aviation pioneer Orville Wright over Fort Meyer, Virginia. After about five minutes in the air, the plane crashed, falling from a height of at least 60 feet. Wright broke a leg and 2 or 3 ribs, but Selfridge suffered a skull fracture and died three hours later. The plane crashed a few hundred feet from Arlington National Cemetery, where Selfridge was buried with full honors.

Selfridge graduated from West Point in 1903, the same year as Douglas MacArthur.


Selfridge Air National Guard Base, located in Mt. Clemens, about 30 miles north of Detroit, Michigan, is named after him.

Selfridge is buried in Arlington, but he has a large monument (gravestone) in the cemetery at West Point (USMA).

The damaged propeller itself can be viewed at the National Museum of the United States Air Force, Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, Ohio.

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