Dr. William Whitney Christmas was born on September 1st, 1865, in Warrenton, North Carolina to James Yancey Christmas and Rhoda Gaines.
Christmas attended St. John’s Military Academy, the University of Virginia and George Washington University, earning Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees and later becoming a medical doctor.
He had eventually quit his medical practice to devote himself to aviation, besides the fact that he had no background in aircraft design nor aeronautics.
Dr. Christmas claimed to be one of the first airplane pilots and said that he had made his first flight in March 1908 in his custom designed plane, but burned the aircraft in order to protect his design secrets. This has never been confirmed but he surely patented, built and flew a biplane of his own design in 1909. It was known as the Red Bird.
After the success of Red Bird he built the Red Bird 2 and founded the Christmas Aeroplane Company in 1910. However, his most famous, controversial and “revolutionary” design was the Christmas Bullet. It was a prototype bi-plane fighter which had no struts supporting its wings.
Christmas claimed that the plane would be capable of flying to Germany on a mission to kidnap Kaiser Wilhelm II.
The Christmas Bullet was completed in the fall of 1918, but Dr. Christmas couldn’t find a pilot to test the aircraft. Pilots would come to see it, but no one wanted to take the risk and fly an aircraft with wings designed to flap like a bird during flight.
Finally, Cuthbert Mills accepted the challenge and took the Christmas Bullet up for a maiden flight. Mills was instantly killed when the wings twisted and peeled from the heavy fuselage.
Dr. Christmas was not discouraged by the first Bullet and set out to construct a second. Christmas advertised his plane as “the safest, easiest plane in the world”.
The test flight of the second plane also resulted in structural failure and was followed by an immediate crash in a barn, killing the pilot and destroying the aircraft.
The Christmas Bullet is generally acknowledged as the worst airplane ever built and some aviation historians had called Dr. Christmas “the greatest charlatan whose name has been associated with aircraft”.
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