Lieutenant Kelly's boots

The footwear of US Army Lt George E. M. Kelly features prominently in a series of photographs he took from a Wright biplane in January 1911. However, these images — here published for, we believe, the first time — are of great importance, as the oldest aerial reconnaissance photos thought to survive. Starting our ‘Hidden History’ special, focusing on lesser-known aviation stories, this is the tale of a pioneer aviator, his moment of history, and his tragic demise


Four of the pioneering aerial reconnaissance photos taken by Lt George E. M. Kelly from a Wright biplane on 16 January 1911.

When Lt George Edward Maurice Kelly climbed into the cockpit of the US Army’s Curtiss Model D biplane at Fort Sam Houston, Texas, on 9 May 1911, it would be his last flight. He crashed and died that day. Four months earlier he had participated in the San Francisco International Air Meet, taking aerial reconnaissance photographs which are published here for the first time. They are the earliest military reconnaissance photos captured from an aeroplane that are known to exist.

Become a Premium Member to Read More

This is a premium article and requires an active Key.Aero subscription to view.

I’m an existing member, sign me in!

I don’t have a subscription…

Enjoy the following subscriber only benefits:

  • Unlimited access to all KeyAero content
  • Exclusive in-depth articles and analysis, videos, quizzes added daily
  • A fully searchable archive – boasting hundreds of thousands of pieces of quality aviation content
  • Access to read all our leading aviation magazines online - meaning you can enjoy the likes of FlyPast, Aeroplane Monthly, AirForces Monthly, Combat Aircraft, Aviation News, Airports of the World, PC Pilot and Airliner World - as soon as they leave the editor’s desk.
  • Access on any device- anywhere, anytime
  • Choose from our offers below