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Thursday, 28 July 2011



In 1890 French engineer Clement Ader built a steam- powered bat-winged aeroplane which made the first powered take-off in history. Unfortunately it couldn't be steered and it's maximum speed was 50MPH.

The first powered flight was by Orville Wright in his Wright Flyer One at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. (He'd drawn lots with his brother Wilbur to see who would fly first) It flew for 12 seconds at a height of 500 feet and covered 37,120 feet. The flight was witnessed by four men and a boy.

The wing spin of a Boeing 747 is longer than Orville Wright's maiden flight.

The Wright Flyer One was a biplane glider fitted with a 12 hp motor and linen covered wings. It did not have an under-carriage and carried only one person lying prone. The glider was based on the design of a bicycle with wings and engine. It launched off wooden rails.

After four flights by the Wright Brothers a gust of wind overturned and wrecked their wooden flier. However they stuffed all the pieces into barrels and shipped them back home to their bicycle shop. The original machine is now in The Science Museum, London.

In 1905 the Wright Brothers built their Flyer 111. It was the first practical plane capable of flights over half an hour and could do a figure of eight.

On October 23, 1906, Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont made the first powered heavier-than-air flight in Europe. Santos-Dumont piloted his14-bis before a large crowd of witnesses at the grounds of Paris' Château de Bagatelle in the Bois de Boulogne for a distance of 60 metres (197 ft) at a height of about five meters (16 ft).

Santos-Dumont believed that aviation would usher in an era of worldwide peace and prosperity, so he filed no patents and offered his designs free. He committed suicide after seeing aircraft used in warfare in the 1930's.

First official flight of the 14bis

American pilot Samuel F Cody made the first aeroplane flight in Britain at Farnborough in Hampshire on Oct 16, 1908.

French aviator Louis Blériot's flight across the English Channel on July 25, 1909 demonstrated conclusively the international potential of aeroplanes. The French aviator flew across the Channel in 37 minutes in a small.24 horse-powered monoplane, winning a £1,000 prize from the London Daily Mail which had been offered to the first person to fly across the Channel.

Commemorative poster. Inscription: Flight across the English Channel an airplane. Bleriot landed on the coast at Dover.

The Wright brothers formed a million-dollar corporation for the commercial manufacture of their airplanes on November 24, 1909.

French aviator Henri Fabre became the first person to fly a seaplane, the Fabre Hydravion. He successfully took off from a water runway near Martigues, France on March 28, 1910 and flew for a distance of about half a kilometer (a third of a mile). Remarkably, Fabre had no flying experience before that day.

Henri Fabre at the controls of his machine

British journalist Lilian Bland was the first woman to design and build her own aircraft, in 1910, but gave up flying when offered a motorcar instead.

The first landing of an aircraft on a ship’s deck was made by American pilot Eugene Ely. His Curtis Pusher bi-plane landed on a special 120ft platform on the U.S armored cruiser Pennsylvania, in San Francisco Bay on January 18, 1911. Two months previously Ely had made the first successful take off from a warship.

Ely landing his plane on board the USS Pennsylvania

The air-tractor sledge was a converted fixed-wing aircraft taken on the 1911–14 Australasian Antarctic Expedition, the first plane to be taken to the Antarctic. Its use during the expedition was minimal; the freezing conditions resulted in the jamming of the engine's pistons, and its frame was left on the ice when the expedition returned home in December 1913.

Russian American Igor Sikorsky flew the world's first multi-engine fixed-wing aircraft, the Russky Vityaz, which he designed himself in 1913.

The world's first practical all-metal aircraft was the Junkers J1, nicknamed the Blechesel ("Tin Donkey" or "Sheet Metal Donkey"). Its first test flight was undertaken at the Fliegerersatzabteilung 1 (FEA 1) airfield just west of Berlin in December 1915.

Early aircraft's throttles had a ball on the end of it and in order to go full throttle the pilot had to push the throttle all the way forward into the wall of the instrument panel. Hence "balls to the wall" for going very fast.

The Imperial Airways biplane City of Liverpool is believed to be the first airline lost to sabotage when a passenger set a fire on board in 1933.

The Junkers J1 survived World War I and was placed on display in a Berlin aviation museum. Sadly, it met its end during one of the earliest Royal Air Force bombing raids on Berlin, during World War II.

On August 24, 1938 – during the Second Sino-Japanese War – a DC-2 (the Kweilin), jointly operated by China National Aviation Corporation (CNAC) and Pan American, carrying 18 passengers and crew, was forced down by Japanese aircraft just north of Hong Kong in Chinese territory.  It was the first commercial passenger airliner to be shot down by hostile forces

The Kweilin was refurbished, returned to service, and two years later became the third commercial passenger airliner to be shot down by hostile forces.

A DC-2 passenger airliner

The fastest biplane, an Italian Fiat built in 1941 during World War II, had a top speed of 323 mph.

Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first President of the United States to travel by airplane while in office. On January 14, 1943, he traveled from Miami to Morocco to meet with Winston Churchill.

The Hughes Flying Boat, dubbed the Spruce Goose, the largest aircraft ever built was piloted by designer Howard Hughes on its first and only flight on November 2, 1947. Built with laminated birch and spruce, the massive wooden aircraft had a wingspan longer than a football field and was designed to carry more than 700 men to battle. Despite its successful maiden flight, the Spruce Goose never went into production, primarily because critics alleged that its wooden framework was insufficient to support its weight during long flights.

The world's first ever jet airliner, the De Havilland Comet 1 makes its maiden flight, from London to Johannesburg on May 2, 1952.

The world’s first vertical take-off and landing aircraft, forerunner of the Harrier, was made by the Hawker Siddeley Company and flown for the first time in 1960.

The Boeing 747, the world's first "jumbo jet", entered commercial service for launch customer Pan American Airways in 1970. Its maiden voyage was from John F Kennedy International Airport to London Heathrow Airport.

Russia's version of the Concorde nicknamed 'Concordski' crashed on its very first public appearance. A second one was built but that was only ever used to transport mail.

The smallest biplane ever flown, Bumble Bee Two, was only 106 inches (just under 9ft) long when it was piloted by American Robert H. Starr in Arizona, in April 1988. Unfortunately it crashed on its first outing.

The record for the most passengers on an airplane was set in 1991 when 1086 Ethiopian Jews were evacuated on a Boeing 747 to Jerusalem. The plane landed with 1088 passengers as two babies were born during the flight.

The Airbus A380, the largest passenger airliner in the world, made its maiden voyage from Toulouse, France on  April 27, 2005. It entered commercial service on 25 October 2007 with Singapore Airlines. The A380 is roughly the length of eight buses.

An Air France A380-800 landing at Los Angeles International Airport

The Antonov An-225 Mriya is the world's longest and heaviest airplane ever built, with a maximum takeoff weight of 640 tonnes (710 short tons). It also has the largest wingspan of any aircraft in operational service (twice the wing area of a Boeing 747). It made its first flight on December 21, 1988 with a 74-minute flight from Kiev.

The An-225 in current livery in 2012

The An-225 was designed to carry the Soviet Union’s Buran space shuttle between launch and landing site. When it landed at Perth in Australia on May 15, 2016, its cargo, a power generator for a mine, took 12 hours to unload.


A Boeing 747′s wingspan is longer than the Wright brother’s first flight.

At any given moment there are approximately 400,000 people flying in aeroplanes.

An aircraft takes about 4000 gallons of fuel to take off.

The phrase "push the envelope", meaning to go beyond current limits of performance was first seen in 1978 and had its origins in aviation.  It came from the phrase "flight envelope" for a plane’s operational or performance boundaries.

An aircraft's "black box" is actually two boxes.

An airplane’s black box is actually orange.

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