Tom Lingenfelter, America's History Detective, has unearthed a rare document significant to aviation history. Lingenfelter has authenticated the 1928 Spherical Balloon Pilot's License issued to and signed by both Edmund W. Hill and aviation pioneer, Orville Wright.
Edmund W. Hill (1896-1973) had a distinguished military career spanning two world wars. After schooling, which included numerous military institutions, he was commissioned second lieutenant, Infantry, U.S. Army before being transferred to the air service where he would eventually rise to the rank of Air Force Major General.
In 1939, Gen. Hill commanded Bolling Field in Washington DC and would go on to command U.S. Air Forces in Northern Ireland (during World War II) and the Eighth Air Force Composite Command. Gen. Hill was in charge of air operations at the Yalta and Potsdam Conferences and established air forces in Berlin. In 1944, he would become commanding officer in charge of Post Hostilities planning with the U.S. Army Air Force in Europe. Later that year, he would become head of the Air Section of the United States mission to Moscow and served as commanding general of the U.S. Air Force in the U.S.S.R. from December 1944 until May 1945. He was also coordinator of the Inter-American Defense Board before his retirement.
Gen. Hill was a free balloon pilot, captive balloon pilot, dirigible airship pilot and airplane pilot. He flew the first airship to launch and pick up an airplane while in flight at Wilbur Wright Field in 1924. Among his numerous awards are a Distinguished Service Medal, a Legion of Merit with oak leaf cluster, a Bronze Star, and Air Medal, Commander of the British Empire, C.B.E., Legion D'Honeur and Croix de Guerre with Palm. He was also decorated by Great Britain and France.
This license, measuring 5" x 4" unfolded, was issued by the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale in 1928 to Edmund W. Hill acknowledging his expertise in Spherical Ballooning. In excellent condition, it is license number 25 and FAI number 930. Hill's photograph is affixed to the top, right, inside panel with his signature below. On the left, inside panel, is the signature of Orville Wright who served as the Chairman of the National Aeronautic Association Contest Committee. The official seal of the National Aeronautic Association has been affixed twice to the document.
Founded in 1905, the National Aeronautic Association joined with The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale with the goal of fostering aeronautical activities worldwide. The organization, still in existence today, established itself as the world governing body for air sports, aeronautics and astronautics world records. The FAI records database counts over 7,300 record flights to include those of balloons, airships, airplanes, (landplanes, seaplanes, amphibians, very light jets,) gliders, helicopters, autogiros, model aircraft, parachutes, human powered aircraft, spacecraft, tilt-wing/tilt-engine aircraft, hang gliders, paragliders, microlights, space models, and UAVs. In addition, the NAA certifies a wide variety of records including altitude, time-to-climb, distance, speed, greatest payload carried, and efficiency.
When asked why the document is noteworthy, Lingenfelter said, "It's rare because it's for a balloon pilot and it was issued to a young man who would go on to have such a distinguished military career. There are very few ballooning licenses issued and authentically signed by Orville Wright. The document itself is in pristine condition and contains the signatures of two aviation giants."
Tom Lingenfelter a lifetime historian and collector, learned his 'trade' as a Special Agent for USA Counter-Intelligence and as president of Heritage Collectors' Society, he has dealt in rare and authentic documents for over 35 years. For more information on the acquisition of this piece and other artifacts offered by Heritage Collectors' Society, contact Tom Lingenfelter at 215.230.5330 or e-mail him at Tom@heritagecs.com.