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More serious aviation efforts began in San Diego with the arrival of Glenn Curtiss in 1910. According to the San Diego Historical Society, his was "the first plane in America to be controlled by ailerons instead of the wing-warping used by the Wrights. It was also the first plane on wheels this side of the Atlantic."
With the encouragement of the Chamber of Commerce and cooperation of San Diego's most important landowner and businessman John D. Spreckels, Curtiss set up a flying school on North Island. The San Diego Aero Club, founded by another Chamber leader, DC Collier, located itself nearby. Both entities enjoyed the largess of Spreckels, who allowed them to use his property rent-free.
Curtiss trained many of the first military pilots at his school, and it was at North Island that he invested the seaplane, which first took off and landed on San Diego Bay. Although Curtiss left San Diego after Spreckels denied him the opportunity to purchase part of North Island for a permanent school, the magnate did allow the Army and later the Navy to establish training and patrol bases there, at least until such time that Spreckels planned to build a resort and luxury subdivision on the island.
Flying conditions were so good at North Island that the Army had increased its activities to the point that land and sky had become dangerously overcrowded by 1916. Both services wished to expand their operations, but now Spreckels wanted his property back for the sake of his planned real estate developments. Although Spreckels never denied the Army or Navy the use of his land, he did refuse the Navy Department's million-dollar offer in 1917 to take it off his hands. At that point, the Navy initiated condemnation proceedings, which closed in 1921 with a payment to Spreckels in excess of five million dollars.
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