The world’s first airline passenger flew with Wilbur Wright at Kitty Hawk, NC on May 14, 1908. His name was Charlie Furnas. The flight was a short hop.
Later the same day, Furnas flew with Orville Wright. They covered 4,506 yards in four minutes and a few seconds.
The Wright brothers were in Kitty Hawk to test their airplane that had been modified to carry a pilot and a passenger in accordance with U.S. Army requirements. These flights were the first made by the brothers since 1905 in Dayton.
Furnas, a mechanic, was born in West Milton, Ohio near Dayton in 1880. Furnas had done some odd jobs for the Wrights in the hope that they would teach him to fly.
He showed up at the Kitty Hawk camp without prior notice on April 15. The Wrights were surprised to see him, but they did need some help, so they hired him to help restore their old camp.
One hundred and one years later a bronze marker has been placed in West Milton on the front lawn of a funeral home on Main Street in the house where he was born and raised.
The historic marker reads:
“CHARLES FURNAS, 1880-1941, IN 1908, WEST MILTON NATIVE CHARLES FURNAS WORKED AS A MACHINIST IN DAYTON DOING ODD JOBS FOR THE WRIGHT BROTHERS, THE INVENTORS OF THE FIRST PRACTICAL AIRPLANE. AT THE TIME THE U.S. ARMY HAD AGREED TO PURCHASE AN AIRCRAFT FROM THE WRIGHT BROTHERS PROVIDED IT WOULD CARRY A PILOT AND A PASSENGER. FURNAS WORKED WITH THE BROTHERS TO ADAPT THEIR PLANE. ON MAY 14, 1908, HE FLEW FIRST WITH WILBUR AND THEN ORVILLE, BECOMING THE WORLD’S FIRST AIRPLANE PASSENGER. FOLLOWING THE LAST FLIGHT, THE WRIGHT BROTHERS ENGAGED CHARLES FURNAS FULL TIME. AS THE FIRST PERSON HIRED TO BUILD AIRPLANES, HE WAS THE FIRST EMPLOYEE IN WHAT WOULD BECOME THE AEROSPACE INDUSTRY. HE WORKED WITH ORVILLE AND WILBUR TO DEVELOP “SIGNAL CORPS NO. 1,” AMERICA’S FIRST MILITARY AIRCRAFT AND THE BEGINNING OF THE U.S. AIR FORCE. HE LEFT EMPLOYMENT WITH THE WRIGHT BROTHERS TO START A GARAGE IN WEST MILTON, BUT REMAINED FRIENDS. ORVILLE ATTENDED HIS FUNERAL IN 1941.”