Lt. Jacob E. Fickel fired the first shot from an airplane on August 20, 1910, at Sheepshead Bay race track near New York City.
With Mr. Glenn Curtis piloting, Lt. Fickel used a Springfield Model 1903 .30-’06 and effectively fired twice at a 3×5-foot target from an altitude of 100 feet to demonstrate that an airplane would not break up in flight due to the gun’s recoil. The next month, Lt. Fickel and Mr. Curtis repeated the experiment in Boston, Massachusetts, using a Colt Model 1911.
Lt. Fickel demonstrated his aerial gunnery skills at an air show in the summer of 1911 at Nassau Boulevard airfield on Long Island competing against a team of Britons, Thomas Sopwith and Malcolm Campbell.
Fickel handedly won the competition by placing six bullets through a dinner plate target while being flown in an aircraft 200 feet off the ground. These experiments led to the development of low-recoil machine guns, which were soon added to military airplanes.
Lt. Fickel would continue serving through World War I and World War II and become a Major General in the U.S. Air Force before passing away in 1956.