First hydrogen-filled balloon flight. Jacques A. C.
Charles, Paris physicist, supervised construction by A. J. and M. N.
Robert of a 13-foot-diameter balloon that was filled with hydrogen. It
got up to about 3,000 ft and traveled about 16 mi in a 45-minute flight
First human balloon flights. A Frenchman, Jean
Pilâtre de Rozier, made the first captive-balloon ascension (Oct. 15).
With the Marquis d'Arlandes, Pilâtre de Rozier made the first free
flight, reaching a peak altitude of about 500 ft, and traveling about
51/2 mi in 20 min. (Nov. 21).
First powered balloon. Gen. Jean Baptiste Marie
Meusnier developed the first propeller-driven and elliptically shaped
balloon—the crew cranking three propellers on a common shaft to give the
craft a speed of about 3 mph.
First balloon flight by a woman. Mme. Thible, a
French opera singer (June 4).
First balloon flight in America.Jean Pierre Blanchard, a
French pilot, made it from Philadelphia to near Woodbury, N.J., in just
over 45 min. (Jan. 9).
First military use of the balloon. Jean Marie
Coutelle, using a balloon built for the French Army, made two 4-hour
observation ascents. The military purpose of the ascents seems to have
been to damage the enemy's morale.
First parachute jump. André-Jacques Garnerin
dropped from about 6,500 ft over Monceau Park in Paris in a
23-foot-diameter parachute made of white canvas with a basket attached
First air transport company. In London, William S.
Henson and John Stringfellow filed articles of incorporation for the
Aerial Transit Company (March 24). It failed.
First dirigible. Henri Giffard, a French engineer,
flew in a controllable (more or less) steam-engine-powered balloon, 144
ft long and 39 ft in diameter, inflated with 88,000 cu ft of coal gas.
It reached 6.7 mph on a flight from Paris to Trappe (Sept. 24).
First aerial photographers. Samuel Archer King and
William Black made two photos of Boston, which are still in
First gas-engine-powered dirigible. Paul Haenlein,
a German engineer, flew in a semi-rigid-frame dirigible, powered by a
4-cylinder internal-combustion engine running on coal gas drawn from the
First transatlantic attempt.The New York Daily
Graphic sponsored the attempt with a 400,000-cubic-foot balloon
carrying a lifeboat. A rip in the bag during inflation brought the
collapse of the balloon and the project.
First successful metal dirigible. An all-metal
dirigible, designed by David Schwarz, a Hungarian, took off from
Berlin's Tempelhof Field and, powered by a 16-horsepower Daimler engine,
got several miles before leaking gas caused it to crash (Nov. 13).
First zeppelin flight. Germany's Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin flew the first of his long series of rigid-frame airships. It attained a
speed of 18 mph and got 31/2 mi before its steering gear
failed (July 2).
First successful heavier-than-air machine flight.
Aviation was really born on the sand dunes at Kitty Hawk, N.C., when
Orville Wright crawled to
his prone position between the wings of the biplane he and his brother
Wilbur had built, opened the throttle of their homemade 12-horsepower
engine, and took to the air. He covered 120 ft in 12 sec. Later that
day, in one of four flights, Wilbur stayed up 59 sec. and covered 852 ft
First airplane maneuvers. Orville Wright made the
first turn with an airplane (Sept. 15); five days later his brother
Wilbur made the first complete circle.
First airplane flight over half an hour. Orville
Wright kept his craft up 33 min., 17 sec. (Oct. 4).
First European airplane flight.Alberto Santos-Dumont, a
Brazilian, flew a heavier-than-air machine at Bagatelle Field, Paris
First airplane fatality. Lt. Thomas E. Selfridge,
U.S. Army Signal Corps, was in a group evaluating the Wright plane at
Fort Myer, Va. He was up 75 ft with Orville Wright when the propeller
hit a bracing wire and was broken, throwing the plane out of control,
killing Selfridge and seriously injuring Wright (Sept. 17).
First cross-Channel flight.Louis Blériot flew in a
25-horsepower Blériot VI monoplane from Les Baraques near Calais,
France, to Dover Castle, England, in a 26.61-mi (38-kilometer) 37-min.
flight across the English Channel (July 25).
First International Aviation Competition Meeting.
American Glenn Curtiss narrowly
beat France's Louis Blériot in the main event and won the Gordon Bennett
Cup. Meet held at Rheims, France (Aug. 22–28).
First licensed woman pilot. Baroness Raymonde de la
Roche of France, who learned to fly in 1909, received ticket No. 36 on
First flight from shipboard. Lt. Eugene Ely, USN,
took a Curtiss plane off from the deck of the cruiser Birmingham
at Hampton Roads, Va., and flew to Norfolk (Nov. 14). The following
January he reversed the process, flying from Camp Selfridge to the deck
of the armored cruiser Pennsylvania in San Francisco Bay (Jan.
First aircraft to take off from water. Henri Fabre
in a Gnome-powered floatplane, at Martigues, France (March 28).
First U.S. woman pilot.Harriet Quimby, a
magazine writer, got ticket No. 37, making her the first licensed
American female pilot.
First woman's cross-Channel flight.Harriet Quimby flew from
Dover, England, across the English Channel and landed at Hardelot,
France, in a Blériot monoplane loaned to her by Louis Blériot (April
16). She was later killed in a flying accident over Dorchester Bay
during a Harvard-Boston aviation meet on July 1, 1912.
First parachute jump from a powered airplane.
Albert Berry jumped in a test over Jefferson Barracks military post, St.
Louis (March 1). Some sources credit Grant Morton as making first jump
First multi-engined aircraft. Built and flown by
Igor Ivan Sikorsky while
still in his native Russia.
First aerial combat. In Aug., Allied and German
pilots and observers started shooting at each other with pistols and
rifles—with negligible results.
First air raids on England. German zeppelins
dropped bombs on four English communities (Jan. 19).
World's first black combat pilot. Georgia-born
Eugene Jacques Bullard,
denied entry into the U.S. Army Air Corps because of his race, served
throughout World War I in the French Flying Corps. He received the
Legion of Honor, France's highest honor, among many other
First U.S. air squadron. The U.S. Army Air Corps
made its first independent raids over enemy lines, in DH-4 planes
(British-designed) powered with 400-hp American-designed Liberty engines
First regular airmail service. Operated for the
Post Office Department by the Army, the first regular service was
inaugurated with one round trip a day (except Sunday) between
Washington, DC, and New York City (May 15).
First transatlantic flight. The NC-4, one of four
Curtiss flying boats commanded by Lt. Comdr. Albert C. Read, reached
Lisbon, Portugal (May 27), after hops from Trepassy Bay, Newfoundland,
to Horta, Azores (May 16–17), to Ponta Delgada (May 20). The
Liberty-powered craft was piloted by Walter Hinton.
First nonstop transatlantic flight. Capt. John
Alcock and Lt. Arthur Whitten Brown, British World War I flyers, made
the 1,900-mile trip from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Ireland,
in 16 hr., 12 min. in a Vickers-Vimy bomber with two 350-horsepower
Rolls-Royce engines (June 15–16).
First lighter-than-air transatlantic flight. The
British dirigible R-34, commanded by Maj. George H. Scott, left Firth of
Forth, Scotland (July 2), and touched down at Mineola, L.I., 108 hr.
later. The eastbound trip was made in 75 hr. (completed July 13).
First scheduled London–Paris passenger service (using
airplanes). Aircraft Travel and Transport inaugurated
London–Paris service (Aug. 25). Later the company started the first
trans-Channel mail service on the same route (Nov. 10).
First free-fall parachute jump. Leslie Irvin jumped
over McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio, to prove that one wouldn't lose
consciousness during a delayed free-fall using a manually operated
parachute (April 28).
First U.S. black female pilot.Bessie Coleman received
license June 15. She was killed April 30, 1926, in a flying
First naval vessel sunk by aircraft. Two
battleships being scrapped by treaty were sunk by bombs dropped from
Army planes in demonstration put on by Brig. Gen. William S. Mitchell (July
First helium balloon. The C-7, nonrigid Navy
dirigible was first to use noninflammable helium as lifting gas, making
a flight from Hampton Roads, Va., to Washington, D.C. (Dec. 1).
First member of Caterpillar Club. Lt. (later Maj.
Gen.) Harold Harris bailed out of a crippled plane he was testing at
McCook Field, Dayton, Ohio (Oct. 20), and became the first man to join
the Caterpillar Club—those whose lives have been saved by
First nonstop transcontinental flight. Lts. John A.
Macready and Oakley Kelly flew a single-engine Fokker T-2 nonstop from
New York to San Diego, a distance of just over 2,500 mi in 26 hr., 50
min. (May 2–3).
First autogyro flight.Juan de la Cierva, a
brilliant Spanish mathematician, made the first successful flight in a
rotary wing aircraft in Madrid (June 9).
First round-the-world flight. Four Douglas Cruiser
biplanes of the U.S. Army Air Corps took off from Seattle under command
of Maj. Frederick Martin (April 6). 175 days later, two of the planes
(Lt. Lowell Smith's and Lt. Erik Nelson's) landed in Seattle after a
circuitous route—one source saying 26,345 mi, another saying 27,553
First polar flight. Then–Lt. Cmdr. Richard E. Byrd, acting
as navigator, and Floyd Bennett as pilot, flew a Trimotor Fokker from
Kings Bay, Spitsbergen, over the North Pole and back in 151/2
hr. (May 8–9).
First solo nonstop transatlantic flight.Charles Augustus Lindbergh lifted his Wright-powered Ryan monoplane, Spirit of St. Louis,
from Roosevelt Field, N.Y., to stay aloft 33 hr. 39 min. and travel
3,600 mi to Le Bourget Field outside Paris (May 20–21). Although 91
persons in 13 separate flights crossed the Atlantic before him, he flew
directly between two great world cities and did it alone.
First transatlantic passenger. Charles A. Levine
was piloted by Clarence D. Chamberlin from Roosevelt Field, N.Y., to
Eisleben, Germany, in a Wright-powered Bellanca (June 4–5).
First east–west transatlantic crossing. Baron
Guenther von Huenefeld, piloted by German Capt. Hermann Koehl and Irish
Capt. James Fitzmaurice, left Dublin for New York City (April 12) in a
single-engine all-metal Junkersmonoplane. Some 37 hr. later, they
crashed on Greely Island, Labrador and were rescued.
First transarctic flight. Sir Hubert Wilkins, an
Australian explorer, and Carl Ben Eielson, who served as pilot, flew
from Point Barrow, Alaska, to Spitsbergen (mid-April).
First U.S.–Australia flight. Sir Charles
Kingsford-Smith and Capt. Charles T. P. Ulm, Australians, and two
American navigators, Harry W. Lyon and James Warner, crossed the Pacific
from Oakland to Brisbane. They went via Hawaii and the Fiji Islands in a
trimotor Fokker (May 31–June 8).
First of the endurance records. With Air Corps Maj.
Carl Spaatz in command and Capt. Ira Eaker as chief pilot, an Army
Fokker, aided by refueling in the air, remained aloft 150 hr. 40 min. at
Los Angeles (Jan. 1–7).
First round-the-world airship flight. The LZ-127,
known as the Graf Zeppelin, flew 21,300 mi in 20 days and 4 hr.
Also set distance record (Aug.).
First blind flight.James H. Doolittle proved
the feasibility of instrument-guided flying when he took off and landed
entirely on instruments (Sept. 24).
First rocket-engine flight. Fritz von Opel, a
German auto maker, stayed aloft in his small rocket-powered craft for 75
sec., covering nearly 2 mi (Sept. 30).
First South Pole flight. Comdr. Richard E. Byrd,
with Bernt Balchen as pilot, Harold I. June, radio operator, and Capt.
A. C. McKinley, photographer, flew a trimotor Fokker from the Bay of
Whales, Little America, over the South Pole and back (Nov. 28–29).
First Paris–New York nonstop flight. Dieudonné
Costes and Maurice Bellonte, French pilots, flew a Hispano-powered
Breguet biplane from Le Bourget Field to Valley Stream, L.I., in 37 hr.,
18 min. (Sept. 2–3).
First flight into the stratosphere.Auguste Piccard, a Swiss
physicist, and Charles Knipfer ascended in a balloon from Augsburg,
Germany, and reached a height of 51,793 ft in a 17-hr. flight that
terminated on a glacier near Innsbruck, Austria (May 27).
First nonstop transpacific flight. Hugh Herndon and
Clyde Pangborn took off from Sabishiro Beach, Japan, dropped their
landing gear, and flew 4,860 mi to near Wenatchee, Wash., in 41 hr. 13
min. (Oct. 4–5).
First woman's transatlantic solo.Amelia Earhart, flying a
Pratt & Whitney Wasp-powered Lockheed Vega, flew alone from Harbor
Grace, Newfoundland, to Ireland in approximately 15 hr. (May
First westbound transatlantic solo. James A.
Mollison, a British pilot, took a de Havilland Puss Moth from
Portmarnock, Ireland, to Pennfield, New Brunswick (Aug. 18).
First woman airline pilot. Ruth Rowland Nichols,
first woman to hold three international records at the same time—speed,
distance, and altitude—was employed by N.Y.–New England Airways.
First round-the-world solo.Wiley Post took a
Lockheed Vega, Winnie Mae, 15,596 mi around the world in 7 days,
18 hr., 491/2 min. (July 15–22).
First west-east transatlantic solo flight..Beryl Markham flew a
single-engine Vega Gull from London to Nova Scotia in 21 hrs, 25 min.
First successful helicopter flight. Hanna Reitsch,
a German pilot, flew Dr. Heinrich Focke's FW-61 in free, fully
controlled flight at Bremen (July 4). Ms. Reitsch was also the first
woman civil and military aviation test pilot.
First woman known to fly combat. Sabiha Gokcen,
Turkish female army pilot, bombed and strafed Kurdish tribesmen during a
First turbojet flight. Just before their invasion
of Poland, the Germans flew a Heinkel He-178 plane powered by a Heinkel
S3B turbojet (Aug. 27).
First wartime use of military gliders. German
commandos made a successful glider assault on Belgium's Fort Eben-Emael
during WWII (May 10).
Most combat missions flown by a pilot in any war.
Captain Hans-Ulrich Rudel of Germany flew 2,530 combat missions during
WWII while flying a JU-87 Stuka dive bomber. He survived the war.
Top-scoring fighter pilot of any war. German
Luftwaffe ace Maj. Erich Hartmann scored 352 victories all while flying
a Messerschmitt BF 109 during WWII. He was involved in 800 dogfights,
and flew 1,425 missions. Maj. Hartmann survived the war.
First enemy bombing of U.S. mainland. During WWII,
a floatplane launched from a Japanese submarine off Cape Blanco, Ore.,
dropped incendiary bombs on the Oregon forest in two attempts to start
forest fires and terrorize American civilians, but the bombs did little
damage (Sept. 9 and 29).
First woman fighter pilot to shoot down an enemy
aircraft. Soviet Lieutenant Lilya Litvyak, flying a Yak-1
fighter of the women's 586th Fighter Aviation Regiment, shot down two
German planes over Stalingrad (Sept. 13).
First American jet plane flight. Robert Stanley,
chief pilot for Bell Aircraft Corp., flew the Bell XP-59
Airacomet at Muroc Army Base, Calif. (Oct. 1).
First production stage rocket-engine fighter plane.
The German Messerschmitt Me 163B Komet (test flown 1941) became
operational in June 1944. Some 350 of these delta-wing fighters were
built before WWII in Europe ended.
First piloted supersonic flight in an airplane.
Capt. Charles E. Yeager, U.S.
Air Force, flew the X-1 rocket-powered research plane built by Bell
Aircraft Corp., faster than the speed of sound at Muroc Air Force Base,
Calif. (Oct. 14).
First round-the-world nonstop flight. Capt.
James Gallagher and USAF crew of 13 flew a Boeing B-50A Superfortress
around the world nonstop from Ft. Worth, returning to same point: 23,452
mi in 94 hr., 1 min., with four aerial refuelings en route (Feb.
First nonstop transatlantic jet flight. Col. David
C. Schilling (USAF) flew 3,300 mi from England to Limestone, Maine, in
10 hr., 1 min. (Sept. 22).
First solo across North Pole. Charles F. Blair,
Jr., flew a converted P-51 (May 29).
First jetliner service. The De Havilland Comet
flight was inaugurated by BOAC between London and Johannesburg, South
Africa. Flight, including stops, took 23 hr., 38 min. (May 2).
First transatlantic helicopter flight. Capt.
Vincent H. McGovern and 1st Lt. Harold W. Moore piloted two Sikorsky
H-19s from Westover, Mass., to Prestwick, Scotland (3,410 mi). Trip was
made in five stops, with a flying time of 42 hr., 25 min. (July
First transatlantic round trip in same day. A
British Canberra twin-jet bomber flew from Aldergrove, Northern Ireland,
to Gander, Newfoundland, and back in 7 hr., 59 min. flying time (Aug.
First transcontinental round trip in same day. Lt.
John M. Conroy piloted an F-86 Sabrejet across U.S. (Los Angeles–New
York) and back—5,085 mi—in 11 hr., 33 min., 27 sec. (May 21).
First round-the-world nonstop jet plane flight.
Maj. Gen. Archie J. Old, Jr., USAF, led a flight of three Boeing B-52
bombers, powered with eight 10,000-pound-thrust Pratt & Whitney
Aircraft J57 engines around the world in 45 hr., 19 min; distance 24,325
mi; average speed 525 mph (completed Jan. 18).
First transatlantic jet passenger service. BOAC,
New York to London (Oct. 4). Pan American started daily service, New
York to Paris (Oct. 26).
First domestic jet passenger service. National
Airlines inaugurated service between New York and Miami (Dec. 10).
First female pilot to fly faster than sound.
British pilot, Diana Barnato Walker, flew at a speed of 1,262 mph,
flying a two-seat R.A.F. Lightning fighter.
Prototype of world's first supersonic airliner. The
Soviet-designed Tupolev Tu-144 made its first flight, Dec. 31. It first
achieved supersonic speed on June 5, 1969.
First female pilot of a major U.S. scheduled
airline. Emily H. Warner became employed by Frontier Airlines
on Jan. 29 as second officer on a Boeing 737.
First regularly scheduled commercial supersonic transport
(SST) flights begin. Air France and British Airways inaugurated
service (Jan. 21). Air France flew the Paris–Rio de Janeiro route; B.A.,
the London–Bahrain. Both airlines began SST service to Washington, D.C.
First successful human-powered aircraft. Paul
MacCready, an aeronautical engineer from Pasadena, Calif., was awarded
the Kremer Prize for creating the world's first successful human-powered
aircraft. The Gossamer Condor was flown by Bryan Allen over the
required 3-mile course on Aug. 23.
First successful transatlantic balloon flight.
Three Albuquerque, N.M., men, Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, and Maxie
Anderson, completed the crossing (Aug. 16.; landed, Aug. 17) in their
helium-filled balloon, Double Eagle II.
First man-powered aircraft to fly across the English
Channel. The Kremer Prize for the Channel crossing was won by
Bryan Allen, who flew the Gossamer Albatross from Folkestone,
England, to Cap Gris-Nez, France, in 2 hr., 55 min. (June 12).
First successful balloon flight over the North
Pole. Sidney Conn and his wife, Eleanor, in hot-air balloon
Joy of Sound (April 11).
First nonstop transcontinental balloon flight, and
also record for longest overland voyage in a balloon. Maxie Anderson and
his son completed four-day flight from Fort Baker, Calif., to Matane,
Quebec, in their helium-filled balloon, Kitty Hawk (May 12).
First long-distance solar-powered flight. Janice
Brown, a 98-lb former teacher, flew a tiny experimental solar-powered
aircraft, Solar Challenger, 6 mi in 22 min. near Marana, Ariz.
(Dec. 3). The craft was powered by a 2.75-horsepower engine.
First solar-powered aircraft to fly across the English
Channel. Stephen R. Ptacek flew the 210-pound Solar
Challenger at an average speed of 30 mph from Cormeilles-en-Vexin
near Paris to the Royal Manston Air Force Base in southeast England in 5
hr., 30 min. (July 7).
First solo transatlantic balloon flight. Joe W.
Kittinger landed Sept. 18 near Savona, Italy, in his helium-filled
balloon, Rosie O'Grady's Balloon of Peace, after a flight of
3,535 mi from Caribou, Maine.
First nonstop flight around the world without
refueling. From Edwards AFB, Calif., Dick Rutan and Jeana
Yeager flew in Voyager around the world (24,986.727 mi),
returning to Edwards in 216 hr., 3 min., 44 sec. (Dec. 14–23).
First transatlantic hot-air balloon flight.Richard Branson and Per
Lindstrand flew 2,789.6 mi from Sugarloaf Mt., Maine, to Ireland in the
hot-air balloon Virgin Atlantic Flyer (July 2–4).
First transpacific hot-air balloon flight.Richard Branson and Per
Lindstrand flew about 6,700 mi from Miyakonyo, Japan, to 150 mi west of
Yellowknife, Canada (Jan. 15–17).
First woman to copilot a commercial supersonic
plane. Barbara Harmer, British Airways, flew as first officer
on the Concorde from London to New York City (March 25).
First solo transpacific balloon flight.Steve Fossett made a
flight of more than 5,430 mi from Seoul, South Korea, to Leader,
Saskatchewan, Canada, in a helium-filled balloon. Also set record for
distance (Feb. 18–21, 1995).
First U.S. female combat pilot to bomb an enemy
target. On Dec. 16, Lt. Kendra Williams, USN, bombed enemy
targets over Iraq during Operation Desert Fox.
First nonstop round-the-world balloon flight.
Bertrand Piccard (Switzerland) and Brian Jones (UK) flew
28,431 mi (45,755 km) from Chateaux d'Oex, Switzerland, to Dakhla,
Egypt, in 19 days, 21 hr., and 55 min. (March 1–21).
First solar-powered flight to shatter altitude records.
NASA's solar-powered propeller-driven plane Helios
reached an altitude of 96,500 ft during a flight over Hawaii, breaking
not only the 80,200-foot record for propeller-driven aircraft, but the
85,068-foot mark for all nonrocket aircraft as well (Aug. 13–14).
First solo nonstop round-the-world balloon flight.
Steve Fossett (U.S.) flew
from Northam, West Australia, to Lake Yamma Yamma, Queensland,
Australia, landing after 14 days, 19 hrs. He broke three balloon records
along the way: fastest time around the world, measured by crossing 117°
East longitude (13 days, 3 min.), longest distance flown solo (20,483.25
mi; 32,963.35 km), and longest time flown solo (355 hrs, 50 min.) (June
First non-stop 10,000-mile-plus passenger airline flight.
Singapore Airlines launched a non-stop 181/2 hour,
10,335-mile flight on the long-range Airbus 340-500 between Singapore to
Newark, New Jersey (June 28–29). (To date, the world's longest nonstop
commercial flight took place on Nov. 10, 2005. A Boeing 777-200LR
Worldliner flew from London to Hong Kong [13,422 miles] in 22 hrs, 43
First nonstop solo flight around the world without
refueling. From Salina, Kansas, Steve Fossett flew the
Virgin Atlantic Globalflyer 22,878 mi around the world, arriving
back in Kansas 67 hrs later (Feb. 28–March 3).
Youngest and first black pilot to fly solo around the world.
From Miami Gardens, Florida, Barrington Irving flew a Columbia
400 plane named Inspiration around the world in 96 days, 150
hours (March 23-June 27).