men that arrived at nearby Fort Rosecrans for duty at North Island. Lieutenant Geiger was accompanied by Lieutenants Lewis E. Goodier, Jr., Samuel H. McLeary, Lewis H.
Brereton, and Joseph D. Park, all of whom had recently been at the Curtiss plant in Hammondsport for instruction. After the personnel for the school had arrived, the three Curtiss
airplanes were sent from College Park. In addition to the three Signal Corps airplanes sent from College Park, a flying boat from the Curtiss school was to be used. Following the
arrival of the "Curtiss Contingent," the school officially opened on December 8, 1912, marking a prominent milestone with the inception of what was to become the Army's first
permanent aviation school.
Lacking any permanent barracks on the field at North Island, the enlisted men were housed at Fort Rosecrans across the narrow entrance to the bay and the five flying officers lived in San Diego. All personnel traveled back and forth to North Island in an old and not very dependable motor boat, or by a ferry which operated at the other end of the island, one mile from the camp. After some trouble at Fort Rosecrans, the enlisted men were moved to the island where conical tents were set up and arrangements were made with a lunchroom in San Diego to feed them.
The first Army airplane to have the distinction of making the first flight at North Island was S.C. No. 6 when it left the ground on December 15, 1912. Later in 1913 the school would formally be designated the "Signal Corps Aviation School." It eventually was named "Rockwell Field" and was turned over to the U. S. Navy on September 26, 1935.
The Army's first seaplane, or flying boat, was shipped to San Diego in late December 1912. It was a two-seater, dual-control Curtiss Model F, S.C. No. 15, which had the advantage of placing the instructor beside the student, as was the custom in Wright airplanes.
Testing the Sperry Automatic Pilot
Mr. Elmer A. Sperry had invented a number of gyroscopic stabilized devices and as early as the fall of 1910 had called his stabilizer for airplanes to the attention of the Chief Signal Officer (CSO). In June, 1912 he advised the CSO that he had built 11 stabilizers for other applications, all similar to the one he proposed using on aircraft. At that time, Sperry was told that the Signal Corps had neither the equipment nor personnel to undertake an investigation of the device. The total number of airplanes available was only seven, so the problem was not an imagined one. Later in 1912, the Army received half a dozen additional airplanes, mostly Wright Model C pushers, and was in a much better position to use some of its machines for experimental purposes. In early February, 1913, S.C. No. 15 was equipped with the new Sperry automatic pilot for testing by the Army. With only the lateral component of the Sperry Automatic Pilot installed, Lieutenant Geiger made the first test flight on February 17, 1913. He found the machine flew well when the engine was in perfect tune, but felt more power was needed to make the type useful. Mr. Sperry was present for the project test.
Lieutenant Goodier's Crash
The following day, Lieutenant Geiger permitted Lieutenant Lewis Goodier, Jr., who had just received his Military Aviator rating on February 14, 1913, to fly the new seaplane with its adornment of fancy Sperry gadgetry. It was powered by a 75-