In the winter of 1912, Frank Coffyn filmed the first silent motion pictures of New York ever taken from an airplane.
Coffyn, a member of the Wright Exhibition Team, equipped the Wright Model B with the first-ever airplane pontoons, and barely missed the ice floes bobbing in New York Harbor as he lifted off. He mounted a camera rigidly between the seats, its view changing as the nose of the airplane moved. Coffyn began with an overflight of the Statue of Liberty and produced the first aerial motion pictures of the monument and Ellis Island. He then passed over the round structure of Fort Jay, a military prison on Governor's Island, and circled to Battery Park at the tip of New York, coordinating his banks and turns by watching the flutter of a length of string tied to the cross wire of his Wright B. For his dramatic final demonstration, Coffyn flew under both the Manhattan and the Brooklyn Bridges before landing with the wind at his back for speed and coasting to the dock at Battery Park. The clip ends with footage of Coffyn some 31 years later, as he reminisced about the golden days of the Wright team.
Video: National Air and Space Museum (8:31)