Born in Michigan and raised in St. Johns by his father after his mother was killed by a runaway horse, Philip Orin Parmelee (8 March 1887 – 1 June 1912) was an American aviation pioneer trained by the Wright brothers and credited with several early world aviation records and “firsts” in flight. He turned a keen interest in small engines into employment with the Wright Company in its early years and was one of several young pilots hired by the Wright brothers to demonstrate and publicize the capabilities of their airplanes. Because of his youth, blond good looks, and daring reputation, Parmelee had the nickname “Skyman” attributed to him.
Among the feats credited to Parmelee are the first commercial flight of an airplane, establishing a world cross-country speed record, holding the world flying endurance record, piloting the first aircraft to drop a bomb, conducting the first military reconnaissance flight and piloting the first aircraft involved in the world’s first parachute jump.
Parmelee was killed in the crash of an airplane he was piloting at an exhibition in Yakima, Washington, when turbulence flipped the airplane upside down.
An historic marker to Philip O. Parmelee, erected in 1978, is displayed at the Lansing Capital Region International Airport terminal in DeWitt Township, Michigan.
Parmelee appeared in an early silent film A Dash Through the Clouds directed by Mack Sennett and starring Mabel Normand. In the film Parmelee plays a pilot called ‘Slim’ and flies Mabel around in his Wright B aeroplane. Parmelee completed this film and it was released two weeks after his death on June 24, 1912.