World Aviation in 1917

6 January
In Washington DC a report recommends that the United States Army and Navy build airships similar to Zeppelins.

16 January
Rittmeister 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.

31 January
Germany declares the beginning of unrestricted submarine warfare.

1 February
The German Friedrichshafen G.III bomber, capable of carrying 4,900 kilos (3,300 pounds) of bombs, becomes operational.

7 February
Zeppelin LZ82 (L36) is wrecked after a forced landing at Rehben-an-der-Aller.

11-12 February
German Leutnants Peter and Frohwein, in a DFW C.V aircraft, record the first night fighting victories when they shoot down two enemy bombers at Malzeville.

8 March
Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin, the father of the rigid airship, dies of pneumonia aged 78.

12 March
Revolution in Russia.

15 March
Tsar Nicholas II of Russia abdicates in favour of Grand Duke Michael.

17 March
Zeppelin LZ86 (L39) is brought down over Compiegne in France by anti-aircraft fire.

30 March
German Schütte-Lanz airship SL9 (E2) is destroyed during a storm with the loss of all hands.

30 March
French aircraft manufacturer, Armand Deperdussin, is jailed for five years for embezzling 32,000,000 francs from his own company.

German 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 le Mérite.

5-6 April
In the first ever planned night interception operation, German Leutnant Frankl of Jasta 4, flying an Albatros D.III, shoots down a BE2c of No. 100 Squadron over Ouiery la Motte.

6 April
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.

7 April
Cuba declares war on Germany.

12 April
Breguet 14s are introduced into service with French squadrons on the Western Front.

18 April
In Seattle, USA, William E. Boeing’s Pacific Aero Products Company becomes the Boeing Airplane Company.

24 April
Lieutenant Colonel William ‘Billy’ Mitchell becomes the first United States army officer to over fly the German lines.

Fast and well-armed Spad S.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’

7 May
The first night bombing raid on London by an aeroplane takes place.

14 May
Zeppelin LZ64 (L22) is shot down by a British flying boat with the loss of all hands.

15 May
German 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 Dr.I.

19 May
The United States Government agrees to send an Army division to France.

22 May
Italian military air mail service is established between Turin and Rome.

24 May
French Premier Alexandre Ribot requests American aid in the shape of 5,000 pilots, 4,500 aircraft and 50,000 mechanics.

25 May
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 France.

30 May
After flying overnight from Chicago, the United States Navy’s B-1 dirigible (steerable airship) arrives at Akron, Ohio.

31 May
Austrian pilot Linienschiffleutnant G. Banfield, at the controls of a Pfalz A.II fighter, forces down an Italian seaplane, achieving the first Austro-Hungarian victory against enemy night bombers.

The first German Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI four-engined bomber becomes operational.

2 June
The Aviation Section of United States Army Signal Corps becomes the Airplane Division.

5 June
England is attacked by a force of 22 Gotha bombers at Sheerness in Kent.

5 June
The United States Army’s First Aeronautic Detachment arrives in France.

6 June
French fighter ace Georges Guynemer is awarded entry into the Legion d’Honneur.

13 June
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.

13 June
Hauptmann Ernst von Brandenburg, the leader of the mass Gotha raids, wins the Pour le Mérite.

14 June
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.

14 June
Zeppelin LZ92 (L43) is shot down by British aircraft over the North Sea.

16 June
93 civilian mechanics sail from the United States for England to study the British and French aviation industries.

17 June
Zeppelin LZ95 (L48) is shot down by British aircraft over Suffolk in England by British aircraft.

17 June
Zeppelin LZ28 (L40) is wrecked at Neuenwald in Germany.

26 June
Prompted by the entry of the United States into the war, the German Army Air Service unveils its Amerikaprogramm (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.

28 June
Commercial airmail flights are instituted between Naples and Palermo in Italy.

30 June
Lieutenant Colonel William ‘Billy’ Mitchell replaces Major T.F. Dodd as Aviation Officer of the American Expeditionary Forces.

7 July
A large formation of Gotha and Friedrichshafen bombers attacks London, leaving 57 dead and many injured.

23 July
Major B.D. Foulois takes command of United States Army Signal Corps’ Airplane Division.

24 July
The United States Congress in Washington DC passes a bill earmarking $640 million for expenditure on military aviation.

26 July
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’.

27 July
In Washington DC a naval aircraft factory is approved for Philadelphia.

27 July
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.

31 July
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.

1 August
The Australian naval air fleet is formed.

8-9 August
The first Allied bomber is shot down by German night fighter defences near Frankfurt in Main.

12 August
The last large-scale, daylight bombing raid on England by German Gothas leaves 78 casualties.

13 August
The United States 1st Aero Squadron, commanded by Major Ralph Royce, sails for France.

17 August
In France, an airmail service is instituted between Paris, Le Mans and St Nazaire.

18 August
Dutch Marine Luchtvaartdienst (Netherlands Naval Aviation Service) is established.

21 August
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).

21 August
The first two Fokker F.I (Dr.I) single-seat, triplane fighters are received by Manfred von Richthofen’s ‘Flying Circus’.

30 August
A German Fokker F.I (Dr.I), flown by fighter ace Leutnant Werner Voss, records the first combat victory for the type by shooting down a British aircraft.

3 September
The United States’ 1st Aero Squadron arrives in France.

3 September
Brigadier-General William L. Kenly is appointed the first Chief of Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force.

11 September
French fighter ace Capitaine Georges Guynemer is killed.

15 September
Russia is declared a Republic by the Provisional Government under Kerensky.

17 September
German Zeppelin-Staaken R.VI heavy bombers are used to attack Britain for the first time.

23 September
German fighter ace Leutnant Werner Voss is shot down and killed by Captain James McCudden of 56 Squadron, Royal Flying Corps (RFC).

8 October
An explosion destroys Zeppelin LZ102 (L57) in its shed at Jüterbog near Berlin.

19 October
Zeppelin LZ 50 (L16) is dismantled after being wrecked in an accident.

20 October
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.

21 October
The American 400-horsepower Liberty engine is tested on a Curtiss HS-1 seaplane.

28 October
A German Fokker Dr.I 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.

7 November
The storming of the Winter Palace in Moscow heralds seizure of power by the Bolsheviks in Russia .

10 November
Bolsheviks set up the Bureau of Commissars of Aviation and Aeronautics (BKAV).

18 November
United States Navy Tellier flying-boats based at Le Croisac in France commence operations.

20 November
The opening of the Battle of Cambrai. During the battle German Schutzstaffeln (escort squadrons) reconstituted as Schlachtstaffeln (battle squadrons) attack Allied positions.

27 November
Brigadier-General B.D. Foulois succeeds Brigadier-General William L. Kenly as Chief of Air Service of the American Expeditionary Force.

3 December
It is announced that from February 1918, the Lafayette Escadrille will become part of the American Expeditionary Force.

7 December
The United States declares war on Austria-Hungary.

11 December
Aviatrix Katherine Stinson flies from San Diego to San Francisco, thereby establishing a new American non-stop distance record of 975 kilometres (606 miles).

17 December
German Navy Oberleutnant Christiansen, flying a Brandenburg W12 seaplane, shoots down the British non-rigid airship C27.

22 December
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.