Aviation History - Prehistory to 1919

Around 1000 BCE, the Chinese society invented the kite as a means of entertainment.

As of 400 BCE, the Chinese fascination with flight would evolve into a spinning top made of feathers that would float in the air if turned upon its axis.

Around the year of 1000 the Chinese successfully launched the first rockets.

In the 15th century, Leonardo Divinci pondered flight and sketched aerodynamic machines for use in flight.

In 1617, Italian Fauste Veranzio from Venice became the first person to jump with a parachute.

The first manned flights took place in 1783 when the Montgolfier Brothers from France built a hot air balloon.

On January 7, 1785, Frenchman Jean Pierre François Blanchard and American Dr. John Jeffries made the first flight over the English Channel, traveling from Dover, England, to Calais, France.

On January 9, 1793, the first airmail and first balloon flight in North America was witnessed by President George Washington in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The hot-air-balloon was piloted by Frenchman Jean Pierre François Blanchard.

In 1794, the French successfully used balloons in battle for aerial reconnaissance.

In 1809, George Cayley published the first laws of aerodynamics. In 1849, he was the first to design and build a heavier-than-air aircraft to carry a person.

Following in Cayley's steps, Otto Lilienthal built five gliders and had over 2000 flights before his death in 1896.

After studying Caylay and Lilenthal, the Wright Brothers demonstrated in 1903 that powered controlled flight was possible.

In 1909, the US military purchased aircraft from Wright Aircraft Company. This purchase resulted in the world's first air force.

The Wright's public demonstrations in Europe and the United States would set the wheels of aviation in motion.

By 1910, the French and the Italians would have their own air force. During the same year, the United States demonstrated that an aircraft could be launched from a military ship.

With the militaries of the world stockpiling airplanes, it was not long until these aircraft were utilized as an offensive weapon of war. Italy first used aerial bombardment of the Turks in 1911.

During World War I, the French and Germans used aerial bombardment to reach behind enemy lines where artillery could not. As a psychological weapon against the enemy, the Germans were the first to use aerial bombing on civilian populations. The Germans are also credited with being the first to drop chemical weapons from aircraft during WWI.

Aviation History - 1920 to 1949

Charles Lindburgh
Photo Credit: Library of Congress
In 1924, Clyde Cessna began manufacturing biplanes. Cessna's formation of the Cessna Corporation in 1927 would lead to the largest producer of recreational aircraft in the world today.

In 1927, Charles Lindbergh was the first aviator to cross the Atlantic Ocean while flying 'The Spirit of St. Louis'.

During 1927, Charles Kingsford-Smith was successful in crossing the Pacific Ocean from California to Australia in an airplane.

In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean in an airplane. She repeated the feat over the Pacific in 1935.

With the introduction of World War II, aircraft such as the B-29 bomber, the Mitsubishi Zeros, German Messerschmitts, and the P-52 Mustangs would prove to be the workhorses during the war.

On June 12, 1943, the first guided missile, the V-1, was launched by Germany into downtown London. At the apex of the war, almost 200 V-1 missiles were being fired daily by the Germans. The first aircraft to break the sound barrier was the German missile, the V-2, which was the successor to the V-1.

A Boeing B-29 Superfortress bomber, the Enola Gay, carried the first atomic bombs to Japan in 1945. The dropping of the bombs would bring an end to World War II for the allies.

On October 14, 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first pilot to fly faster than the speed of sound in the X-1. In December of 1953, Yeager surpassed twice the speed of sound at mach 2.4 in the X-1A.

The Beechcraft corporation introduced the Bonanza aircraft in 1947. This aircraft remains in production today. The Bonanza is longest continuously running aircraft production line.

Aviation History - 1950 to 1979

The USSR launched the first artificial satellite, Sputnik I, into space on October 4, 1957.

On November 3rd of 1957, the soviets launched Laika the dog into space.

The United States launched their first satellite, Explorer I, into orbit on January 3rd of 1958.

On January 2nd of 1959, the Soviets are first to send a satellite, Luna 1, pass the moon.

Soviet satellite, Luna II, crashes onto the surface of the moon on September 14, 1959 in an attempted landing.

Soviet satellite, Luna III, photographs the dark side of the moon and transmits photos back to earth on October 7, 1959.

Kittinger leaving the balloon
Photo Credit: U.S Air Force
On the 16th of August, 1960, Joseph Kittinger set a manned world record altitude gain of 102,800 feet (31,333 meters) in his Man-High II balloon. After reaching peak altitude, Kittinger stepped out of his balloon and freefell for 85,300 feet (26,000 meters) before opening his parachute at 17,500 feet (5334 meters). During the fall, he reached speeds of over 600 mph (1111 kmh). Both the balloon altitude gain record and skydiving freefall record still stands today.

On April 12th of 1961, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri A. Gagarin became the first person to orbit the earth.

On May 5th of 1961, Alan Shepard makes first U.S. spaceflight. With the success of Shepard, President John F. Kennedy announced the United States' intention of sending a man to the moon before the end of the decade.

The first amateur satellite, Oscar, was launched piggy-backing a United States Air Force satellite on December 12, 1961. Oscar broadcast 'Hi-Hi' in morse code for three weeks during orbit. The signal was heard by over 500 amateur radio operators in 28 countries.

American John Glenn achieved orbit around the earth on February 20, 1962.

Soviet cosmonaut, Valentina Tereshkova, became the first woman in space on June 16,1963 aboard the Vostok 6. She orbited the earth 48 times over a period of three days.

On August 5, 1964, the United States launched the first air missions against the North Vietnamese during the Vietnam War. The target was a patrol boat.

France launches its first satellite, Asterix 1, on November 26, 1965. It was the third country to place a satellite in space.

Neil Armstrong takes the first steps on the Moon on July 20, 1969.

Japan became the fourth country to place a satellite, Lambda 4S-5, in space on February 11, 1970.

On April 24, 1970, China gained international recognition as the fifth nation to launch a satellite into space.

The United Kingdom became the sixth country to place a satellite, Black Knight 1, in orbit on October 28, 1971.

In 1978 the United States Defense Deparment launched the first operational GPS satellites. This satellite system would become the backbone of all aviation navigation. The system would become fully operational in 1994.

The European Space Agency launched its first satellite, CAT, on December 24, 1979

Aviation History - 1980 to Present

Rohini 1, India's first satellite was launched on July 18, 1980.

The first Space Shuttle flights were conducted in 1981. In June 1983 Dr. Sally K. Ride became the first American woman to fly in space.

The space shuttle Challenger exploded after launch on January 28, 1986, killing all seven aboard.

Captain Joseph Kittinger is first to travel solo across the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon. His 86 hour flight between the 14th and 18th in September of 1984 covered 3535 miles (5690 kilometers).

Photo Credit: NASA
Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager enjoy success as the first to pilot an aircraft, the Voyager, around the world without refueling in December of 1986. The aircraft weighed 939 lbs (426 kilograms) and had 17 fuel tanks. The flight was completed in just over nine days.

On September 19,1988, Israel launched its first satellite, Horizon 1, into space.

Iraq launched its first satellite, 'Rocket 3rd Stage', on December 5, 1989.

Patty Wagstaff savors victory as the first woman to win the U.S. National Aerobatic Championship in 1991.

American Steve Fosset became the first balloonist to travel solo across the Pacific Ocean in 1995.

In 1995 Mooney Aircraft Corporation produced its 10,000th aircraft.

The space shuttle Columbia disintegrated over Texas on February 1, 2003 killing all seven crew aboard.

China gained international recognition as the third nation to place a man in space on October 15, 2003. Chinese astronaut Yang Liwei tells mission control 'I fell good' after thirty minutes of flight. Yang's flight lasted for 21 hours and 23 minutes.

SpaceShipOne on Final Approach
Photo Credit: Scaled Composites
Brian Binnie became the first non-government pilot to break the sound barrier on December 17, 2003, aboard the privately owned SpaceShipOne aircraft.

On June 21, 2004, Mike Melvill became the first civilian to reach space aboard the privately owned spacecraft, SpaceShipOne.

On September 29, 2004, Mike Melvill was successful again in reaching space aboard the SpaceShipOne aircraft.

SpaceShipOne was launched into space for the second time within two weeks on October 4, 2004. Piloted by Brian Binnie, the aircraft reached an altitude of 354,200 feet. The Xprize of $10,000,000 was awarded to Mohave Aerospace, the company responsible for SpaceShipOne, for completing two spaceflights within a two week period.

On January 18, 2005, the largest commercial airline plane ever built to date was debuted in Toulouse, France. The A380 Airbus seats 555 people but can carry as many as 853. The commercial jet is manufactured by Airbus SAS. The first test flight of the A380 occured on April 27, 2005.

American millionaire Steve Fossett became the first pilot to fly solo non-stop around the world without refueling. On March 3rd, 2005, Fossett completed the 23,000 mile journey in 67 hours. Point of take off and landing was Salina, Kansas USA.

On February 12th, 2006, American millionaire Steve Fossett set a long distance flight record without refueling after flying 26,389 miles in 76 hours and 45 minutes. He departed Cape Canarival, Florida and flew around the world and continued on to Bournemouth International Airport, in southern England.