200 Pounds of Silk

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It wasn't the most dramatic flight of 1910, but it left an important legacy. Phil Parmelee, a pilot with the Wright exhibition team, took off from Dayton, Ohio, with 200 pounds of silk loaded into his Wright B Flyer, to be delivered to a merchant in Columbus. Dry goods salesman Max Morehouse paid the Wrights $5,000 for the flight, equivalent to more than $120,000 today—and so was born the air cargo industry.

At 10:00 a.m. on Saturday, October 2, in commemoration of the 2010 flight, a replica of the Wright B Flyer will take off from Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, circle the Huffman Prairie Flying Field from which Parmelee's flight originated, and head for Rickenbacker Airport in Columbus. Instead of silk, the replica Flyer will carry a piece of ceramic composite cloth and a micro-UAV developed by the Air Force Research Laboratory.

Members of the Wright and Parmelee families will be on hand at Huffman Prairie for the flyover, and the public can follow the commemorative flight on Twitter (hard to imagine Wilbur and Orville using that word).

Watch aerial footage of the real Phil Parmelee, from a 1912 Mack Sennnett comedy:

This Mack Sennett silent comedy includes rare footage of a Wright Model B piloted by Phil Parmelee. After he left the Wright exhibition team, Parmelee had a brief career as an actor, starring in A Dash Through the Clouds, released in 1912. Playing the role of Slim, “the Aviator,” Parmelee flew with actress Mabel Normand in a Wright Model B for the film’s aerial scenes. This scene features good footage of the Model B taking off and landing as Parmelee and Normand’s character, Josephine, fly to the rescue of Josephine’s boyfriend, Chubby, who is in a shack, hiding from a group of Mexicans whom he has angered. At the film’s end, Josephine switches her affection from Chubby to Slim. Shortly after the film was completed, Parmelee died in an airplane accident in Washington state. Video: Library of Congress

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