The Airplane
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  1903   First sustained flight with a powered, controlled airplane

Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, complete the first four sustained flights with a powered, controlled airplane at Kill Devil Hills, 4 miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. On their best flight of the day, Wilbur flew 852 feet over the ground in 59 seconds.


The US government buys its first airplane

The US government bought its first airplane on July 30, 1909, from Orville, and Willbur Wright. The cost was $25,000, and they got a $5,000, because it went above 40mph.


1914-1918   Dramatic improvements in structures and control and propulsion systems

1918   Airmail service inaugurated

The U. S. Postal Service inaugurates airmail service from Polo Grounds in Washington, D.C., on May 15. Two years later, on February 22, 1920, the first transcontinental airmail service arrives in New York from San Francisco in 33 hours and 20 minutes, nearly 3 days faster than mail delivery by train.

During World War I, the requirements of higher speed, higher altitude, and greater maneuverability drive dramatic improvements in aerodynamics, structures, and control and propulsion system design.

  1915   National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics

Congress charters the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, a federal agency to advanced aeronautical research in the United States

1925-1926   Introduction of lightweight, air-cooled radial engines

The introduction of a new generation of lightweight, air-cooled radial engines revolutionizes aeronautics, making bigger, faster planes possible
1927   First nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic

On May 21, Charles Lindbergh completes the first nonstop solo flight across the Atlantic, traveling 3,600 miles from New York to Paris in a Ryan monoplane named the Spirit of St. Louis. On June 29, Albert Hegenberger and Lester Maitland complete the first flight from Oakland, California, to Honolulu, Hawaii. At 2,400 miles it is the longest open-sea flight to date.
  1937   Jet engines designed

Jet engines designed independently by Britain’s Frank Whittle and Germany’s Hans von Ohain make their first test runs. (Seven years earlier, Whittle, a young Royal Air Force officer, filed a patent for a gas turbine engine to power an aircraft, but the Royal Air Ministry was not interested in developing the idea at the time. Meanwhile, German doctoral student Von Ohain was developing his own design.) Two years later, on August 27, the first jet aircraft, the Heinkel HE 178, takes off, powered by von Ohain’s HE S-3 engine
1939-1945   World War II spurs innovation

A world war again spurs innovation. The British develop airplane-detecting radar just in time for the Battle of Britain. At the same time the Germans develop radiowave navigation techniques. The both sides develop airborne radar, useful for attacking aircraft at night. German engineers produce the first practical jet fighter, the twin-engine ME 262, which flies at 540 miles per hour, and the Boeing Company modifies its B-17 into the high-altitude Flying Fortress. Later it makes the 141-foot-wingspan long-range B-29 Superfortress. In Britain the Instrument Landing System (ILS) for landing in bad weather is put into use in 1944.



1   Sound barrior broken

U.S. Air Force pilot Captain Charles "Chuck" Yeager becomes the fastest man alive when he pilots the Bell X-1 faster than sound for the first time on October 14 over the town of Victorville, California


1950s   B-52 bomber

Boeing makes the B-52 bomber. It has eight turbojet engines, intercontinental range, and a capacity of 500,000 pounds.

1963   First small jet aircraft to enter mass production

The prototype Learjet 23 makes its first flight on October 7. Powered by two GE CJ610 turbojet engines, it is 43 feet long, with a wingspan of 35.5 feet, and can carry seven passengers (including two pilots) in a fully pressurized cabin. It becomes the first small jet aircraft to enter mass production, with more than 100 sold by the end of 1965
1990s   B-2 bomber developed

Northrop Grumman develops the B-2 bomber, with a "flying wing" design. Made of composite materials rather than metal, it cannot be detected by conventional radar. At about the same time, Lockheed designs the F-117 stealth fighter, also difficult to detect by radar