Navy Altitude Record 1915

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Lieutenant Junior Grade Richard C. Saufley, United States Navy

On 03 December 1915, Naval Aviator #14 Lieutenant Richard C. Saufley set an American altitude record flying the Curtiss AH-14 to 11,975 feet over Pensacola, Florida. Saufley was a member of the first class of naval aviators to be trained at Pensacola, Florida. He was born on 1 September 1884 at Stanford, Kentucky. Saufley graduated from the United States Naval Academy in June 1908 and was commissioned Ensign in June 1910.  He served onboard Kansas (BB-21), Biddle (TB-26), and Terry (DD-25). Saufley received training in the very first class for Naval Aviators at Pensacola, Florida and on 6 June 1913 was promoted to Lieutenant (j.g.) and designated Naval Aviator No. 14.

First naval aviator class at Pensacola, Florida, Standing (L-R): Robert R. Paunack, Earl W. Spencer Jr., Harold T. Bartlett, Edwards, Clarence K. Bronson, William M. Corry, Norfleet, Edward O. McDonnell and Harold W. Scofield. Seated: Richard C. Saufley, Patrick N.L. Bellinger, Kenneth Whiting, Henry C. Mustin, Albert C. Read, Earle F. Johnson, Alfred Austell Cunningham, Francis T. Evans, and Haas. (Photo credit: State Library and Archives of Florida )

During the Mexican campaign of 1914, he was attached to Mississippi (BB-23) and North Carolina (ACR-12). In 1915 and 1916, his assignments were concerned with the technological development of naval aviation. Concentrating on hydroaeroplane (today’s term would be seaplane) development, he set altitude and endurance records and was attempting to better his own record when he died in a plane crash at Pensacola, Florida on 9 June 1916. His Curtiss Model E hydroaeroplane, AH-8, went down at the 8 hr., 51 min. mark of the flight.

Lt. Saufley would die in a crash on 9 June 1916. In 1939 a training airfield, Saufley Field,  was named for him at Pensacola, and it would be used to train aviators during World War II  and up until the mid 1970’s. Today, it hosts the Naval Education and Training Program Development Center at Pensacola, Florida.

Curtiss hydroaeroplanes on the ramp Pensacola Bay, Florida.

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