The First Three Thai Pilots
Three Pilots
  Above, flying certificates issued to the first three Thai pilots to receive their training in France. The first to receive his was Major Luang Sakdi, in 1912; the two others received theirs the following year.  
       Certainly the implications were not lost on the modern minded King, nor on the powerful Prince Chakrabongse. Even before Van de Born's demonstration - on January 11, 1911, to be exact - three Thais had been selected to go to France to learn how to fly. When they returned, they would form a flying unit in the army, the first in any Asian fighting force.      The three officers selected were Major Luang Sakdisanlayawut (later Marshal Praya Chalerm Akas), Captain Luang Arwutikitkam (later Marshal Praya Vehasayan Silapasit), and Captain Tip Ketuthat (later Marshal Praya Thayanpikart). They left Siam the following month and arrived in Paris in March 31.      It was over a year, however, before they finally began their training at Villacoublay, near Paris, on July 2, 1912. The first to receive his certificate as a civilian pilot from the Aero Club of France was Major Luang Sakdi, who learned to fly on a Breguet biplane which could attain a speed of 62 miles per hour. He then started training with the French Army to qualify for the "Brevet d'Aviateur Militaire Francaise:, obtaining it on August 18, 1913. The other two candidates received their certificates from the Aero Club in June, 1913, flying Nieuport monoplanes.      A report on their progress, published in the Bangkok Times of May 3, 1913, mentioned that Major Luang Sakdi had flown from Paris to Ramboullet withb a passenger at an altitude of 1,200 meters and also that he had received instruction in flying seaplanes.  
  Above, scenes during the first flying demonstration, held on the grounds of the Royal Bangkok Sports Club. At top, the Belgian pilot Van den Born is about to take off from the race track, while below is an improvised hangar at the club.
(Photos courtesy Chakrabongse Collection)

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