James Harold Doolittle was born December 14, 1896, and lived to the ripe age of 96.  He was an American General and aviation pioneer. He was one of the first to make coast-to-coast flights, earned a doctorate from M.I.T. in aeronautics, and his most significant accomplishment was helping to develop instrument flying.

Early Life

Jimmy Doolittle got his start in life in Alameda, California, but spent a good part of his youth in Nome, Alaska. He fell in love with flying at age 14 when his school attended the 1910 Los Angeles International Air Meet where he saw his first airplane in flight. At age 23 he enlisted in the Signal Corps Reserve as a flying cadet and ground trained at the School of Military Aeronautics at the University of California. A year later he received his Reserve Military Aviator rating and was commissioned a first lieutenant. 

Military Career

During World War I, Doolittle stayed in the U.S. and worked as a flight instructor at Camp John Dick Aviation Concentration Center in Texas. Doolittle quickly became one of the most famous pilots during the inter-war period. In 1922 he made the first of many pioneering flights across the country with early navigation instruments.

Instrument Flight Pioneer

Doolittle’s most important contribution to aeronautical technology was his involvement with instrument flying. He was the first to recognize that true operational freedom in the air was not possible unless pilots developed the ability to control all aspects of aviation regardless of the vision from the cockpit. He was the first to envision pilots using instruments to fly through fog, clouds, and darkness.

In 1929, Doolittle became the first pilot to take off, fly and land an airplane using only instruments, without a view outside the cockpit. He went on to assist in the development of fog flying equipment. He helped develop and was the first to test the now universally used artificial horizon and directional gyroscope. His contributions made all-weather airline operations possible.  

Honors and Awards

In 1972, Jimmy Doolittle was awarded the Horatio Alger Award. Flying magazine ranks Doolittle number 6 on its list of the 51 heroes of Aviation. In 1966 he was inducted into the International Air & Space Hall of Fame at the San Diego Air & Space Museum.

Ready to Join the Heroes of Flight?

So many great men and women have spent their careers in flight. Taking to the airways has been rewarding for so many individuals since the first flight took place. If you’re thinking about a career in aviation, there is no better time than now to get started. Book a tour at one of our two campuses and find out how aviation can change your life for the better.

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