Lowell H. Smith
Arizona Aviation Hall of Fame
Lowell Smith was born in Santa Barbara, California. Educated as a mechanical engineer, he learned to fly in Mexico in 1915 while maintaining Pancho Villa’s small fleet of airplanes. In 1917 he joined the U.S. Army Air Service, initially serving as an instructor. Noted as commander of history’s first flight around-the-world in 1924, he played a key role in early military aviation development. In the post-World War I years he set 16 world records for speed and endurance in Army aircraft.
He also pioneered basic techniques for fighting forest fires, refueling planes in the air and deploying airborne troops — techniques still used today. He charted some of the earliest airway routes and in the mid-1930s flew tests on the original Northrop Flying Wing. In the early 1940s he commanded Davis-Monthan AFB, then a World War II bomber training base. A career Air Force officer, his awards included the Helen Culver Gold Medal, Distinguished Flying Cross, French Legion of Honor and Mackay Trophy (twice). Colonel Smith died in a horseback accident in 1945.