Everyone loves to be first, and here at Hartzell, we especially love to celebrate firsts in aviation. So here’s a list of those who achieved their respective places in aviation history first.
- First powered balloon. Powered flight had to start somewhere, and it started with balloons. The first propeller-driven balloon was developed and flown by General Jean Baptiste Marie Meusnier in 1784, just one year after the first balloon flight. The balloon crew achieved “powered” flight by cranking three propellers on a single shaft, moving the balloon at a brisk 3 miles an hour, though they had little control over direction.
- First successful controlled flight. The Wright Brothers took to the sky over the sands of Kitty Hawk in 1903. Powered by a gasoline engine and controlled through wing-warping coupled with a rudder. As they fine-tuned their ability to control the aircraft, they also became the first to conduct airplane maneuvers in 1904 and the first to stay in the air for over half an hour, in 1905.
- First aerial combat. In 1914, Allied and German pilots engaged in aerial combat. This was achieved by shooting at one another with pistols and rifles while in flight. As one would imagine, this mode of aerial combat was not very effective.
- First U.S. air squadron. The first independent raids conducted by the U.S. Army Air Corps occurred behind enemy lines in 1918 in aircraft powered by Liberty engines.
- First transatlantic flight. Another Liberty-powered aircraft made the first transatlantic flight in 1919, piloted by Walter Hinton. Amelia Earhart would be the first woman to conduct this flight solo, in 1932.
- First around the world flight. In 1924, under the command of Major Fredrick Martin, four Douglas Cruiser biplanes from the U.S. Army Air Corps left Seattle to attempt the first flight circling the globe. Two planes managed to make it the whole way – 175 days later.
- First piloted supersonic flight in an airplane.In 1947, Chuck Yeager of the U.S. Air Force took this famous flight, piloting the X-1 aircraft built by Bell Aircraft. The first woman to break the sound barrier was Diana Barnato Walker, a British pilot, in 1963.
- First long-distance solar-powered flight. The Solar Challenger, a small experimental solar aircraft piloted by Janice Brown, flew 6 miles in 22 minutes in 1980.
- First nonstop round-the-world flight on a single tank of gas. Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew the Voyager around the world in about 216 hours, without refueling, in 1986. Steve Fossett would be the first to fly this route solo, without refueling, in 2005