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October in Aviation History

On October 2, 1918, the Kettering Bug, an experimental unmanned “Flying Bomb”, made it’s first flight at McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio. The prototype was completed and delivered to the Aviation Section of the U.S. Army Signal Corps in 1918, near the end of World War I. The first flight was a failure, but subsequent flights were successful, and the aircraft was demonstrated to Army personnel at Dayton.

The air craft was designed by inventor Charles F. Kettering of Dayton and built by the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company with Orville Wright acting as a consultant on the project. Elmer Sperry designed the control and guidance system. It was powered by a 40 horsepower engine and was built with wood laminates and papier-mâché, with cardboard wings. Take off was acheived with a dolly and track system such as used by the Wright Brothers in their first powered flights. The Bug used a system of gyroscopic, pneumatic/vaccum and an aneroid barometer/altimeter to guide it. The distance of the target was factored with wind along the path, and the number of engine revolutions were calculated to switch off the engine, drop the wings, and enter a ballistic trajectory to the target. Forty-five Bugs were produced but the war ended before they were put into combat. The aircraft and its technology remained a secret until World War II.

A full-size reproduction of a Bug is on permanent display at the National Museum of the United States Air Force in Dayton, Ohio (see museum photo above).


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