What was the first regulation in powered aviation? – Friday Fact
Although Paris enacted a local ordinance in 1784 about balloon flights the first rule that we could identify as being a direct precursor to our modern regulatory set, came about as a result of the first fatal accident in powered aviation.
In 1908, 4 years after their first flight, the Wright brothers were carrying out acceptance trials in the Wright flyer at Fort Myer, Virginia, with the US Army Signal Corps. Army officers were riding as passengers on these flights to assess the machine and it was on one of these flights that the right propeller broke causing Orville Wright to lose control and crash. Orville broke his left thigh and several ribs, and spent 6 weeks in the hospital, whereas the passenger, First Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, hit his head on part of the aircraft structure and died 3 hours later having never regained consciousness. As can be seen in the photo below, he wasn’t wearing a helmet.
In spite of the crash the US Army bought the Wright brothers machine for $30,000 but with it they created a new US Army regulation: Anyone piloting or riding as a passenger in the machine must wear a helmet.
The US Army investigation into this crash is quite comprehensive (for the time) and has the ‘DNA’ of modern accident reports.