World Aviation in 1917
In Washington DC a report recommends that the United States
Army and Navy build airships similar to Zeppelins.
Manfred von Richtofen, the most famous and most successful
air ace of the First World War, is awarded the Pour le Mérite.
Scoring 80 confirmed kills, Richthofen is finally shot down
as he flies deep into British lines in pursuit of Wilfrid May
in April 1918. His brother, Manfred Albrecht Freiherr von
Richthofen, also receives the decoration in 1917.
declares the beginning of unrestricted submarine warfare.
The German Friedrichshafen GIII bomber, capable of carrying
4,900 kilos (3,300 pounds) of bombs, becomes operational.
Zeppelin LZ82 (L36) is wrecked after a forced landing at
German Leutnants Peter and Frohwein, in a DFW CV aircraft,
record the first night fighting victories when they shoot
down two enemy bombers at Malzeville.
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the father of the rigid
airship, dies of pneumonia aged 78.
Revolution in Russia.
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicates in favour of Grand Duke
Zeppelin LZ86 (L39) is brought down over Compiegne in France
by anti-aircraft fire.
German Schutte-Lanz airship SL9 (E2) is destroyed during a
storm with the loss of all hands.
French aircraft manufacturer, Armand Deperdussin, is jailed
for five years for embezzling 32,000,000 francs from his own
fighter pilot Leutnant Werner Voss, one of Manfred von
Richthofen's closest rivals as an air ace during the 1916-17
period, with 48 victories to his credit, is awarded the Pour
In the first ever planned night interception operation,
German Leutnant Frankl of Jasta 4, flying an Albatros DIII,
shoots down a BE2c of No.100 Squadron over Ouiery la Motte.
The United States declares war on Germany. The United States
Army Signal Corps possesses 250 aircraft and the United
States Marine Corps (USMC) has a further 54.
Cuba declares war on Germany.
Breguet 14s are introduced into service with French squadrons
on the Western Front.
Seattle, USA, William E. Boeing's Pacific Aero Products
Company becomes the Boeing Airplane Company.
Lieutenant Colonel William 'Billy' Mitchell becomes the first
United States army officer to over fly the German lines.
Fast and well-armed Spad XIII single-seat fighters enter
service with French squadrons on the Western Front.
The first Airmail stamps are issued by the Italian Post
Office. 200,000 25c Express Letter stamps were overprinted 'Esperimento
Posta Aerea - Maggio 1917 - Torino-Roma-Roma-Torino'
The first night bombing raid on London by an aeroplane takes
Zeppelin LZ64 (L22) is shot down by a British flying boat
with the loss of all hands.
Leutnant Heinrich Gontermann is awarded the Pour le Mérite.
Gontermann achieved eighteen victories against Allied
balloons, once shooting down four in three minutes. He is
killed in a crash while testing a new Fokker DRI.
The United States Government agrees to send an Army division
Italian military air mail service is established between
Turin and Rome.
French Premier Alexandre Ribot requests American aid in the
shape of 5,000 pilots, 4,500 aircraft and 50,000 mechanics.
Twenty-one aircraft attack Folkestone and Shorncliffe in
Kent, in the first large daylight raid by German Gotha
bombers. The attack leaves 95 dead and 260 injured and one
Gotha is destroyed and another damaged by fighters based in
After flying overnight from Chicago, the United States Navy's
B1 dirigible (steerable airship) arrives at Akron, Ohio.
Austrian pilot Linienschiffleutnant G.Banfield, at the
controls of a Pfalz AII fighter, forces down an Italian
seaplane, achieving the first Austro-Hungarian victory
against enemy night bombers.
The first German Staaken RVI four-engined bomber becomes
The Aviation Section of United States Army Signal Corps
becomes the Airplane Division.
England is attacked by a force of 22 Gotha bombers at
Sheerness in Kent.
The United States Army's First Aeronautic Detachment arrives
French fighter ace Georges Guynemer is awarded entry into the
Fourteen Gotha bombers execute the first large-scale daylight
bombing raid on London, leaving 162 dead and 432 injured.
These casualties represent nearly 20% of all those caused in
Britain by aeroplanes between 1914 and 1918.
Ernst von Brandenburg, the leader of the mass Gotha raids,
wins the Pour le Mérite.
Leutnant Karl Allmenroder, who honed his skills as a combat
pilot under Manfred von Richthofen in Jasta 11, is awarded
the Pour le Mérite. He scores 30 air combat victories during
the First World War.
Zeppelin LZ92 (L43) is shot down by British aircraft over the
93 civilian mechanics sail from the United States for England
to study the British and French aviation industries.
Zeppelin LZ95 (L48) is shot down by British aircraft over
Suffolk in England by British aircraft.
Zeppelin LZ28 (L40) is wrecked at Neuenwald in Germany.
Prompted by the entry of the United States into the war, the
German Army Air Service unveils its Amerika-programm (America
Programme), which provides for the creation of 40 new fighter
squadrons and the expansion of aircraft manufacturing output
from 1,000 to 2,000 aircraft per month.
Commercial airmail flights are instituted between Naples and
Palermo in Italy.
Lieutenant Colonel William 'Billy' Mitchell replaces Major
T.F.Dodd as Aviation Officer of the American Expeditionary
A large formation of Gotha and Friedrichshafen bombers
attacks London, leaving 57 dead and many injured.
Major B.D. Foulois takes command of United States Army Signal
Corps' Airplane Division.
The United States Congress in Washington DC passes a bill
earmarking $640 million for expenditure on military aviation.
German Jagdgeschwader I, comprising Jastas 4, 6, 10, and 11
is formed and led by Manfred von Richthofen, it soon acquires
the nickname of the 'Flying Circus'.
In Washington DC a naval aircraft factory is approved for
A British Airco (de Havilland) DH4 bomber arrives in USA for
evaluation and the first American manufactured DH4, powered
by a Liberty engine, appears in February 1918.
The Third Battle of Ypres, better known as Passchendaele,
begins. Approximately 850 Allied aircraft contend with some
600 German for control of the air over the battlefield.
The Australian naval air fleet is formed.
The first Allied bomber is shot down by German night fighter
defences near Frankfurt in Main.
The last large-scale, daylight bombing raid on England by
German Gothas leaves 78 casualties.
The United States 1st Aero Squadron, commanded by Major Ralph
Royce, sails for France.
In France, an airmail service is instituted between Paris, Le
Mans and St Nazaire.
Dutch Marine Luchtvaartdienst is established.
Zeppelin LZ66 (L23) is shot down near Jutland by a Sopwith
Pup, flown from cruiser HMS Yarmouth by Flight Sub-Lieutenant
B.A. Smart of the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS).
The first two Fokker FI (DrI) single-seat, triplane fighters
are received by Manfred von Richthofen's 'Flying Circus'.
A German Fokker FI (DrI), flown by fighter ace Leutnant
Werner Voss, records the first combat victory for the type by
shooting down a British aircraft.
The United States' 1st Aero Squadron arrives in France.
Brigadier-General William L. Kenly is appointed the first
Chief of Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force.
French fighter ace Capitaine Georges Guynemer is killed.
Russia is declared a Republic by the Provisional Government
German Staaken RVI heavy bombers are used to attack Britain
for the first time.
German fighter ace Leutnant Werner Voss is shot down and
killed by Captain James McCudden of 56 Squadron, Royal Flying
An explosion destroys Zeppelin LZ102 (L57) in its shed at
Juterbog near Berlin.
Zeppelin LZ 50 (L16) is dismantled after being wrecked in an
Five Zeppelins are lost: Zeppelin LZ85 (L45) is forced down
behind Allied lines and destroyed by the crew; LZ93 (L44) is
shot down by anti-aircraft fire over St Clement in France;
LZ96 (L49) is forced down in France and captured; LZ89 (L50)
goes missing over the Mediterranean; LZ101 (L55) is wrecked
during a forced landing in Germany.
The American 400 horse-power Liberty engine is tested on a
Curtiss HS-1 seaplane.
A German Fokker DrI triplane, with Leutnant Heinrich
Gontermann in the cockpit, breaks-up in flight. The type is
grounded pending an investigation which reveals deficiencies
in the construction of the fighter's wings.
The storming of the Winter Palace in Moscow heralds seizure
of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia .
Bolsheviks set up the Bureau of Commissars of Aviation and
United States Navy Tellier flying-boats based at Le Croisac
in France commence operations.
The opening of the Battle of Cambrai. During the battle
German Schutzstaffeln (escort squadrons) reconstituted as
Schlachstaffeln (battle squadrons) attack Allied positions.
Brigadier-General B.D. Foulois succeeds Brigadier-General
William L. Kenly as Chief of Air Service of the American
It is announced that from February 1918, the Lafayette
Escadrille will become part of the American Expeditionary
The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.
Aviatrix Katherine Stinson flies from San Diego to San
Francisco, thereby establishing a new American non-stop
distance record of 975 kilometres (606 miles).
German Navy Oberleutnant Christiansen, flying a Brandenburg
W12 seaplane, shoots down the British non-rigid airship C27.
Peace negotiations begin between Bolshevik Russia and the
Central Powers at Brest-Litovsk.
Also this year...
The following air services are established:
- Hellenic Army Air Force
- Spanish Aeronautica Naval
- Turkish Army Air Service
- Portuguese Arma da
Aeronautica and Aviacao Maritima
- Hellenic Naval Air Force
- Cuban Cuerpo de Aviacion
The Russian Ilya Mourometz
bomber IM-Ye2 appears with heavy defensive armament,
comprising one cannon and eight machine-guns.
An adapted biplane made by
Mjr Chassaing of the French Army Medical Service becomes the
first ambulance aircraft and is used for the evacuation of
wounded from Loulin Lafaux.