REVISED: 4/7/09

U S Aviation Firsts

These are national firsts. Those which were also world firsts are shown in red. Data were gleaned from what are generally regarded as authoritative sources, but viewer feedback of value is shown in brown text.

Airborne American - June 24 (?>July 17), 1784 - Edward Warren of Baltimore MD, age 13, went aloft in a captive balloon built by Peter Carnes, who was either afraid to go up or the balloon wasn't big enough to lift him. The Maryland Journal reported: "He bravely embarked as a volunteer, and behaved with the steady fortitude of an old voyager. The gazing multitude below wafted him their loud applause, the receipt of which, as he was soaring aloft, he politely acknowledged by a significant wave of his hat."

  1877 Pennington

Powered flying machine design - 1838 - Likely the first recorded patent application for a flying machine operating under its own mechanical power, in this case a steam engine, designed by John H Pennington of Baltimore MD. There is considerable confusion between this and a creation patented in 1877 by James J Pennington (relationship, if any, unknown) of Henryville TN, a frame apparatus, suspended from a balloon, using a fan to draw air into its nose and expell it under pressure at its tail. Read about that second Pennington here.

Glider flight - Mar 17, 1883 - John J Montgomery began the first of a series of glider flights at Otay Mesa (near El Cajon) CA.

Parachute jump - Jan 30, 1887 - Thomas E Baldwin, from a balloon at San Francisco CA. It would be 25 years until this feat was tried from an airplane.

Airplane factory - 1900 - Carl Dryden Browne started a commercial airplane factory in Freedom KS and built a model, but was unable to perfect his aircraft. The factory closed in 1902.


  Wright glider posed nose-up

Wright brothers airplane patent - Mar 23, 1903 - First US patent, based on their 1902 glider, applied for. It was issued on May 22, 1906.

Langley flight attempt - Dec 8, 1903 - Second and last trial of the Langley airplane, piloted by Charles Manly, was wrecked in launching from a houseboat on the Potomac River in Washington DC.

  Kitty Hawk NC

Airport - Dec 1903 - Contestable in light of many previous open fields and hillsides that were used for glider and balloons flights; however, since Kitty Hawk had a hangar and a workshop, as well as its own weather station (courtesy of the Coast Guard), and it was the birthing grounds for the Air Age, we feel it is quite proper to regard it as the world's very first dedicated airport.

Man-controlled powered flight - Dec 17, 1903 - Orville Wright, at Kitty Hawk NC, in a 12-second flight of 120 feet. (Wilbur Wright had tried three days earlier, and failed to get airborne; however, he made the fourth flight this historic day (after three previous short hops) for 852' in 59 seconds.)

Complete circle made by an airplane - Sep 20, 1904 - Wright Flier, piloted by Wilbur Wright.


Fully controllable and maneuverable flight - June 23, 1905 - First flight of the Wright Flyer #3 at Huffman Prairie, Dayton OH. By October this aircraft was fully controllable, able to turn and bank, and remain aloft for up to 38 minutes.
    Based on numerous newspaper and scientific publications, it is evident that John Montgomery's pilot, Maloney, demonstrated repeatedly that Montgomery's craft [glider] could bank, make tight turns, dive and climb, carve circles and figure-8s, as well as a corkscrew turn and, after times of 14-20 minutes (without motive power), land at a predetermined location as early as 3/17/05. This questions the claim that the Wright Flyer was first for controllability and maneuverability as it could barely make a banking turn and wasn't considered a practical aircraft until the fall of 1905. In April 1905 Octave Chanute and Alexander Graham Bell were acknowledging to Montgomery significant demonstrations in controlled balanced flight. Bell reacted to eyewitness accounts of the 3/20/05 flight with, "All subsequent attempts in aviation must begin with the Montgomery machine." It is also relevant to note that Montgomery's tandem wing demonstrated its controlled and balanced flights in a lesser scale at the Leonard Ranch 1896-1903. (— Craig Harwood 6/30/04)

Distance and duration record - Oct 5, 1905 - Wilbur Wright, in Wright Flier #3, for 24.2 miles in 38m:03s.

Aero exhibition - Jan 1906 - New York Aero Show, in connection with the annual Auto Show. The first all-aviation exhibition was the Boston Aero Show, on 2/16/10.

Rotary motor used for flight - 1907 - 63hp five-cylinder Adams & Farwell (Dubuque IA), used by Emile Berliner in his helicopter.

Air Service - Aug 1, 1907 - The Aeronautical Division of the Signal Corps, in which two enlisted men, under the command of Capt Charles Chandler, were detailed to handle "all matters pertaining to military ballooning, air machines, and all kindred subjects," although the government at the time had only balloons. First of the US Army's aviation military branches, it existed until July 18, 1914.

Aeroplane for export - Apr 16, 1908 - Wilbur Wright delivered a Flier to Italy and instructed students.

Passenger flight - May 14, 1908 - Wilbur Wright took along Charles Furnas, an employee, in a check flight for delivery of a government airplane. Of interest is that the Wright brothers would not fly together for two years, on May 25, 1910.

Military pilot - May 19, 1908 - Army Lt Thomas E Selfridge, flying AEA's White Wing. First military pilots to fly in service were Army Lts Frederic Humphreys and Frank Lahm, soloing on 10/26/09, after training by Wilbur Wright.

Flying club and civil airport - June 10, 1908 - Aeronautical Society chartered at New York City, and Morris Park air field established—our first real airport.

Wholly public flight - July 4, 1908 - Glenn H Curtiss flew more than a mile at Hammondsport NY in the AEA's June Bug, bringing him the Scientific American trophy. Fitted with wingtip ailerons, it also brought a warning from the Wrights about infringement of their patent.
    The following year the Wrights filed a lawsuit against Curtiss after he made paid exhibition flights and sold an airplane. (— Don Braun 12/18/07)

Air ordinances - July 17, 1908 - Laws were passed governing local aeronautical activities at Kissimmee FL.

Duration record - Sep 9, 1908 - Orville Wright flew for 1h:02m:15s at Fort Myer, VA. In France, Wilbur set a new world duration record at 1h:31m on Sep 21, and again on Dec 31 at 2h:18m in circling flight.

  Lt Thomas Selfridge

Fatality in a powered airplane - Sep 17, 1908 - Lt Thomas E Selfridge, as a passenger* with Orville Wright, in a demonstration flight at Ft Myer VA. (* The first pilot of a powered airplane to be killed was Eugène Lefèbvre in France, on 9/7/09, but he did fly a Wright A to qualify for this bleak honor.)

First woman to fly as an airplane passenger - Oct 7, 1908 - Mrs Hart O Berg, wife of the Wrights' European business manager, flew with Wilbur in England—the date from Bishop Milton Wright's diary, in which he wrote the notation on Oct 7, 1908. [Marvin W McFarland, ed, The Papers of Wilbur & Orville Wright, Volume Two: 1906-1948, McGraw-Hill 1953, p930; New York Times, Oct 8, 1908]. Mme Bollee, wife of French engine manufacturer Leon Bollee, soon after became the second woman passenger in a heavier-than-air machine in Oct 1908. [McFarland, ibid., p931]. Katharine Wright flew with Wilbur (becoming the third woman) at Pau, France, in March 1909 to prove the safety and reliability of the Wright machine to King Edward, who was observing the flights. [Fly: The National Aeronautic Magazine, Apr 1909, p13]. Mrs Ralph H (Sarah) Van Deman was a passenger with Wilbur Wright on Oct 27, 1909 at College Park MD as the first woman to fly in a powered airplane in the USA. [New York Times and Washington Journal, Oct 28, 1909].

    The second was Wilbur's sister, Katharine Wright, who flew with him on Feb 15, 1909, also in France. Sarah Van Deman, who called herself "Lady Jack," was the third when she flew with Wilbur Wright from College Park on Oct 27, 1909 and was the first woman to fly from American soil. (— Nick Engler, Wright Bros Aeroplane Co 8/5/2008)

  Sellers

Personal aircraft - Dec 28, 1908 - Matthew Sellers made several flights with his quadraplane powered by an 8hp Dutheil-Chalmers motor, our nation's first civil airplane designed and advertised for personal use (only for the brave?)

Rotary-wing aircraft - 1909 - William Purvis and Charles Wilson, railroad mechanics in Goodland KS, quit their jobs to work on a rotary-winged aircraft. The venture failed, but their design is believed to be the first rotary-winged aircraft ever patented, a predecessor to the helicopter.

Commercial civil aircraft - Jan 22, 1909 - Pusher built by Glenn Curtiss for sale to the Aeronautic Society of New York.

Flight in which a motion picture camera was used - Apr 24, 1909 - Wilbur Wright, piloted his Flier at Centocelle, Italy, with a cinematographer as passenger.

Aeroplane dealership - June 22, 1909 - Wyckoff, Church & Partridge, auto dealers in New York City, acquired the Curtiss line.

Woman to solo an aircraft - Aug 1, 1909 - Geneve Shaffer flew a glider designed and built by her brother, Cleve (pres: California Aero Mfg & Supply Co), at or near San Francisco.

  Wright Army A in early 1910
Army airplane - Aug 2, 1909 - Wright A, purchased for $25,000, plus $5,000 as a bonus for exceeding required specifications. Delivered to Ft Myer VA.

Speed record - Aug 23, 1909 - At the world's first major air meet in Rheims, France, Glenn Curtiss became the first American to claim the recognized speed record by flying at 43.385 mph in his biplane.

Army air field - Aug 25, 1909 - On ground leased at College Park MD.

Army aviation students - Oct 8-Nov 5, 1909 - Lts Frank P Lahm, Benjamin D Foulois, and Frederick E Humphreys were selected to learn to fly an airplane from Wilbur Wright at College Park MD. Humphreys would be first to solo, with Lahm right after him on Oct 26. Foulois, who took a first lesson on Oct 23, would not solo until Mar 2, 1910.

First woman airplane passenger in the USA - Oct 27, 1909 - Mrs Ralph H (Sarah) Van Deman flew with Wilbur Wright at College Park MD to become the first woman in America to go aloft in a powered airplane. [New York Times and Washington Journal, Oct 28, 1909].

Monoplane - Dec 9, 1909 - Dr Henry W Walden. Technically the first monoplane flight, albeit only for about 30 feet. His subsequent flights on 8/3/10, are more often credited with this record. Overseas, five months earlier, Louis Blériot had flown the world's first monoplane across the English Channel (July 25).

Pilot license - 1910 - Recipient of license #1 was Glenn Curtiss. Four more were awarded that year: #2: Frank Lahm, #3: Louis Paulhan, #4: Orville Wright, #5: Wilbur Wrigh. Why was Curtiss #1 and the Wright's #4 and #5? Simply because, with so few recipients when the system of licensing began, they were assigned alphabetically.

Organized air meet - Jan 10-20, 1910 - Dominguez Hills, Los Angeles, attended by an estimated 45,000 spectators. SEE The full story.

Commercial flight school - Mar 19, 1910 - Orville Wright opened the first Wright Flying School at Montgomery AL. (The site would later become Maxwell AFB.)

City-to-city flight - May 29, 1910 - Glenn Curtiss, from Albany NY to New York City, a then-epic flight of about 150 miles. This could loosely be credited as the first air mail flight, as well, for he unofficially carried a letter from Albany's mayor to the mayor of NYC.

Night flight - June ??, 1910 - Charles W Hamilton, over Knoxville TN. A similar claim is made for Walter Brookins, also in 1910, for a night flight in a Wright at Montgomery AL.

Mile-high altitude record - July 17, 1910 - Walter Brookins climbed 6,234' (?>6,175') into the sky over Atlantic City NJ in his new Wright Model A, for which he was awarded a $5,000 prize.

Tricycle gear - Aug 10, 1910 - Conversion from skids to a wheeled tricycle gear made on the Army's Wright by Lt Benjamin Foulois and mechanic O G Simmons.

Gun fired from an airplane - Aug 20, 1910 - Two shots were fired from a Curtiss biplane at a ground target with a rifle by Lt Jacob A Fickel at Sheepshead Bay NY. Several claims of earlier occasions are unsubstantiated.

Air-to-ground radio - Aug 27, 1910 - James McCurdy, in a Curtiss, sent and received messages. A similar event also occurred this year, but undated, when Elmo N Pickerill sent what was claimed to be the "first air-to-ground telegraph," during a flight from Mineola to Manhattan Beach NY.

  Blanche Scott

Woman to solo a powered airplane - Sep 2 (?>12), 1910 - Blanche Scott; however, since it was never established if her brief flight, measured in seconds, was intentional or accidental (some witnesses claimed it was caused by a gust of wind), Bessica Medlar Raiche is more often credited with her solo flight on Sep 16, 1910, although Scott did rate her own US postage stamp in 1995.

President to fly - Oct 11, 1910 - Theodore Roosevelt, then out of office and on a speaking tour of the area, flew with Arch Hoxsey, who piloted a Wright Flier at Aviation Park (now Lambert Field) St Louis flying meet. First Chief Executive to fly during his term was the second Roosevelt, in 1943.

Airplane flown from a ship - Nov 14, 1910 - Eugene Ely, in Curtiss Albany Flyer, from an 83-foot platform on battleship USS Birmingham.

Monoplane flying boat - 1911 - Designed and built by Grover Loening.

Municipal airport - early 1911 - Modesto CA, at which Lincoln Beachey flew in the ceremonies.
Licensed woman pilot - 1911 - Harriet Quimby, earning FAI pilot license #37. She was also the first woman to fly across the English Channel, from Dover to Hardelot, France, on 4/16/12, and the first woman to receive a piloting license from the Aero Club of America (second was Matilde Moisant, third was Julia Clarke, and fourth was Katherine Stinson.)

Airplane flown to a ship - Jan 10, 1911 - Eugene Ely, in Curtiss Albany Flyer, landed on a platform on USS Pennsylvania moored at San Francisco Bay.

Water takeoff and landing - Jan 26, 1911 - Glenn Curtiss, in his Hydro, at San Diego. (Henri Fabre had had made a successful a water take-off in his Hydroavion monoplane on 3/28/10, at Martigues, France, but could not alight on water because of fragility of his airfoil pontoons and had to land on shore instead.)

Navy aviator - Jan 28, 1911 - Lt T G Ellyson, flying a Curtiss pusher at San Diego CA.

Commercial aircraft manufacturer - Feb 1, 1911 - Burgess & Curtis Co at Marblehead MA, receives authorization from the Wright Co. (This was not Glenn Curtiss.)

State Militia Aviation Unit - Feb 10, 1911 - An aviation detachment was established in California from preliminary plans in 1909. One month after Eugene Ely's landing on Pennsylvania, MajGen E A Forbes organized the Aeronautical Detachment of the 7th Co, Coast Artillery Corps, California National Guard (CNG), with Ely as a private! Immediately afterwards, three members of the Company were detailed to the Curtiss Aviation School at San Diego. On Apr 1, 1911, the Detachment received $1,000 from Ely as a donation to a fund of $10,000 that was being raised to conduct experiments in Army aviation, for which he was rewarded with a commission as second lieutenant in the CNG on July 27, 1911. [Research paper by Ron Reuther 12/08/99]. SEE conflicting claim of Jan 17, 1921.

Mail delivery by air sanctioned by a Post Office - Feb 17, 1911 - 18 miles flown by Fred Wiseman from Petaluma to Santa Rosa CA. SEE the Air Mail feature page.

Naval Aviation Service created - May 8, 1911 - With funds of $24,000 appropriated by Bureau of Navigation on 3/4/11. This was also the date of requisition of USN's first airplane, a Curtiss Model D. to be delivered on 7/1/11.

Military flight school - May 20, 1911 - The Army established its pilot training school at College Park MD, and bids were taken for hangars.

Altitude record - June 1, 1911 - 6,450' attained by Army Lt Henry H Arnold in a Burgess-Wright.

US Navy airplane - July 1, 1911 - Curtiss D Triad as Navy A-1, first flown by Lt T G Ellyson. This was followed by a Curtiss A-2 and Wright B-1.

Distance - July 27, 1911 - St Croix Johnstone, Mineola NY, in a Blériot copy, 176.23 miles.

Duration, with one passenger - Aug 19, 1911 - George W Beatty at Chicago, in a Wright biplane, 3h:42m:22s.

Altitude, aviator alone - Aug 20, 1911 - Lincoln Beachey at Chicago, in a Curtiss to 11,642'.

Transcontinental flights - Sep 17-Nov 5, 1911 - Calbraith P Rodgers, in Wright EX Vin Fiz, from Sheepshead Bay NY to Pasadena CA, 3,390 (estimated) miles in 82h:04m flying time, requiring 49 days and 69 stops, many of them crashes. SEE The Vin Fiz story. Almost concurrently, Robert G Fowler began the first west-to-east crossing on 10/19/11, from Los Angeles to Jacksonville FL, 2,520 miles in 112 days ending 2/12/12. SEE The Fowler story.

Official dedicated air mail delivery - Sep 23, 1911 - Six miles flown by Earl Ovington from Long Island to Mineola NY, in a Blériot. SEE the Air Mail feature page.

Duration, with two passengers - Sep 26, 1911 - T De Witt Milling at Nassau NY, in a Burgess-Wright, 1h:54m:42s.

Duration, aviator alone - Oct 19, 1911 - Howard Gill at Kinloch MO, in a Wright biplane, 4h:16m:35s.

Retractable landing gear - Nov 3, 1911 - Application filed by F McCarroll for a retracting mechanism, and patent issued on 11/7/15.

Electric starter - Jan 10, 1912 - Used on the sole Curtiss Model D flying boat in tests at San Diego. SEE ALSO Apr 15, 1914.



Parachute jump from an airplane - Mar 1, 1912 - Tethered jump by Army Capt Albert "Bert" Berry, at c.1500' over St Louis MO, wearing a "medium sized" parachute deployed from a conical container attached to the landing skid of a Benoist Headless flown by Tony Jannus. Tom Benoist and Jannus received US patent #1,053,182 for their "parachute carrying and dispensing means carried by an airplane." Asked if he would repeat the performance, Berry replied: "Never again! I believe I turned five somersaults on my way down ... My course downward ... was like a crazy arrow. I was not prepared for the violent sensation that I felt when I broke away from the aeroplane."

Aerial weaponry - June 7, 1912 - A Lewis machine gun was test-fired by Army Capt C D Chandler from an Army Wright B in flight over College Park MD.

  "Hap" flies the radio (photo from an unknown family album)
Air-to-ground radio (?) - Nov 2, 1912 - USAS Lts Follett Bradley (radioman) and Henry H Arnold (pilot). Official Army claim of event competes with a similar claim on Aug 27, 1910 (qv), and one undated earlier that year, but there might be a differentiation between Morse Code and actual voice transmission. This is still unclear since both refer only to a "wireless," which could be either.


Postage stamp depicting an airplane - Dec 16, 1912 - Issued this date. Oddly, it was a 20-cent parcel post stamp, since a postal air mail system had yet to be devised.

Skywriting - July 19, 1913 - By Milton J Bryant over Seattle WA, in forming a business of aerial advertising.

Inside loop - Nov 18 (?>27), 1913 - Lincoln Beachey, in a custom-built Curtiss over Coronado CA, was also the first to fly upside-down. First woman to loop was Ruth Law, in June 1915.

Full monocoque fuselage - 1914 - Etienne Dormoy's design for the Maximilian Schmidt monoplane, which won many competitions in its class.

Scheduled airline using an airplane - Jan 1, 1914 - St Petersburg to Tampa FL, in a Benoist flying boat piloted by Anthony Jannus. One-way fare was $5.00. Contract ended Mar 30.

Naval Air Station - Jan 15-20, 1914 - Pensacola FL established as a permanent site after temporary camps at San Diego and Annapolis 1911-12.

Tethered parachute jump - Feb 23, 1914 - Automatic attached backpack-type parachute demonstrated by Charles Broadwick. However, two years earlier, on Mar 1, 1912 (qv), Albert Berry is documented as the world's first actual parachute drop of a human being, but for some reason his feat more often goes uncredited.

Electric starter - Apr 15, 1914 - Battery-operated self-starter installed on 200hp Anzani of a "Collier" flying boat. This conflicts with Jan 10, 1912 claim and needs more information.

Gyroscopic stabilizer - June ??, 1914 - Lawrence Sperry, son of inventor Elmer A Sperry, flew a Curtiss flying boat fitted with four gyroscopes over the Seine River in France while standing in the cockpit with his hands clearly off the controls, and his mechanic standing on the lower wing. Despite gusty winds, the ship maintained longitudinal stability and won a 50,000-franc first prize.

Woman parachutist - June 21, 1914 - 15-year-old Georgia "Tiny" Broadwick made a tethered jump from 1,000' over Los Angeles CA.

Army Aviation Section created - July 18, 1914 - As part of the Army Signal Corps. Strength: 60 officers and cadets, 260 enlisted men. It existed until May 20, 1918.

NACA formed - Mar 3, 1915 - The Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (later the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics) was established by a rider to the Naval Appropriations Act "...to supervise and direct the scientific study of the problems of flight, with a view of their practical solution." $5,000 a year was appropriated for 5 years—total appropriation for USN aeronautics was $1 million. Evolved into NASA Oct 1, 1958.

Catapult launch from a boat - Apr 16, 1915 - USN AB-2 flying boat successfully catapulted from a floating barge, flown by Lt P N Bellinger. Lt T G Ellyson is sometimes credited with this feat, but his take-off was a demonstration of feasibility made from a cable at Hammondsport NY on Sep 11, 1911.

Catapult launch from a moving ship - Nov 6, 1915 - Made from USS North Carolina underway on Pensacola Bay, by LtCdr Henry C Mustin.

Army 1st Aero Squadron - Mar 15, 1916 - Activated for duty in the Mexican Punitive Campaign at Columbus NM, under the command of Capt Benjamin D Foulois. Provision organization first came on Mar 5, 1913, at Texas City TX, with issuance of Army Field Order #1.

Altitude record - Apr 2, 1916 - 16,072' attained by USN Lt R C Saufley in a Curtiss hydroaeroplane.

Coast Guard Aviation Section - Aug 29, 1916 - Official formation; however, seeds had been sown when evaluations and preliminary planning began in late 1915. Actual activity came on 1 Apr 1916 when Lt Elmer F Stone received orders to begin flight training at Curtiss Flying School in Newport News VA and Lt Norman B Hall was sent to the Curtiss factory to study aero engineering. When USCG was absorbed by USN for WW1 on Apr 6, 1917, nine Guardsmen had won their wings. Lt Stone earned fame in 1919 as pilot of NC-4, the only one of three aircraft to complete the world's first transatlantic flight.

Air-to-air radio transmission - Sep 2, 1916. Possibly a world first, as well—data are sketchy.

Loop in a seaplane - Feb 13, 1917 - USMC Capt Francis T Evans in a single-float Curtiss N-9.

Aircraft Manufacturers Association formed - Feb 13, 1917 (?>July 24, 1917) - Frank H Russell as president. Established to handle cross-licensing patents between all manufacturers.

National aircraft insignia - May 19, 1917 - A white star with a red dot in its center on a blue circle, and vertical red-white-blue stripes on the rudder was approved by the Army. This was temporarily replaced in Feb 1918 by a concentric red-blue-white circle until the end of World War I.

Army Aviation Section renamed - June 2, 1917 - Aviation Section became the Airplane Division of the Army Signal Corps. Maj B D Foulois appointed officer-in-charge on 7/23/17.

McCook Field established - Oct 19, 1917 - Aeronautical experimental station for the Army Signal Corps in Dayton OH.

USMC Aviation Unit - Oct 27, 1917 - First Marine Aviation Co was formed by the Navy Dept at Philadelphia Navy Yard under the command of Capt Roy S Geiger. For overseas deployment, the First Marine Aviation Force was formed at NAS Miami, Apr 15, 1918, headed by Capt A A Cunningham.

Aerial combat - Apr 14, 1918 - Air Service Lts Douglas Campbell and Alan Winslow, 94th Pursuit Squadron; each downed one German plane.

The mail takes wing in a wartime DH-4

National air mail service inaugurated - May 15, 1918 - Washington DC to Philadelphia to New York City regular service by the Aviation Section of the Signal Corps. SEE Air Mail feature page.

Division of Military Aeronautics established - May 20, 1918 - The shortest-lived of the Army's aviation titles, it lasted only four days.
Army Air Service established - May 24, 1918 - Aeronautics Division revised as the Army Air Service, independent from the Army itself. However, the Army Reorganization Act of June 4, 1920, was later adopted, making the Air Service part of the Army.

Altitude record - Sep 18, 1918 - 28,899' attained by Army Maj Rudolph W "Shorty" Schroeder over Dayton OH.

Service combat ace - Sep 1918 - Capt Edward V Rickenbacker, with a final victory total of 26. First victory on Apr 29, 1918 (eight days after the death of von Richthofen). First American combat ace outside of US service was Capt Paul F Baer, serving with Lafayette Escadrille.

Military transcontinental flight - Dec 4, 1918 - Four Air Service Curtiss JN-4s left San Diego CA, but only one reached Jacksonville FL, on Dec 22, 1918, piloted by Maj Albert D Smith.

International air mail route - Mar 3-11, 1919 - Edward Hubbard and William Boeing flew US and Canadian mails in a Boeing C-700 from Seattle WA to Vancouver BC and back for a week.

Untethered rip-cord parachute jump - Apr 28, 1919 - Leslie L Irvin (founder of Irvin Parachute Co in 1923), at McCook Field, Dayton OH, in a 26' all-silk 'chute, proving conclusively that one would not lose consciousness in a free-fall parachute jump, as had been predicted by some "experts."

Scheduled airline with multiple destinations - May 1919 - Motion pictures director Cecil B DeMille's Mercury Air Service, aka Mercury Aviation Co, DeMille Field, West Los Angeles CA. Scheduled service to Santa Catalina Island and San Diego, later San Francisco, with Junker-Larsen JL-6 monoplanes. Inaugurated five months before KLM began operations in Europe.

Transatlantic flight - May 16-31, 1919 - USN LtCdr Albert C Read and pilot Lt Walter Hinton, in Curtiss NC-4, one of a flight of three, from Long Island to Plymouth, England, via Newfoundland, the Azores, and Lisbon, 4,514 miles in 53h:58m. SEE The full NC-4 story.

Forestry air patrol - June 1, 1919 - An organized and sustained aerial forest fire patrol was initiated at Rockwell Field CA, using Curtiss JN-4Ds and JN-6Hs.

Practical multi-engine airliner - Aug 23, 1919 - Built in Milwaukee WI, the twin-engine Vincent Burnelli-designed Lawson C-2 Air-Line (not "Air Liner") was test-flown by Charles Cox and Alfred Lawson as America's first commercial aircraft created specifically for carrying passengers in luxury and comfort.

Altitude record - Sep 18, 1919 - 31,420' (?>34,610') attained by Roland Rohlfs in a Curtiss L-3 triplane.

Army transcontinental reliability and endurance flight - Oct 8-31, 1919 - New York to San Francisco and return. 44 aircraft completed westbound, 15 eastbound, and 10 made the round-trip.

Reversible-pitch propeller - Oct 30, 1919 - Successfully tested at McCook Field.

Municipal airport - Nov 1919 - MacCauley Field, Tucson AZ. Renamed Fishburn Field, Tucson Municipal Flying Field, and Mayse Field, finally closing in 1933,

Retractable gear of practical value - 1920 - Dayton-Wright RB, which also had the world's first variable-camber wing.

Lifting body - 1920 - Patent application for a winged passenger-carrying airfoil-fuselage by Vincent J Burnelli was filed Jan 6, 1921 but, for unknown reasons, issue (#1,758,498) was delayed until May 13, 1930. His Remington-Burnelli RB-1, however, flew successfully in 1920 to prove feasibilty of the design, which carried on in many subsequent models and variants into the 1960s.

Altitude record - Feb 27, 1920 - 33,113' attained by Army Maj Rudolph W "Shorty" Schroeder in a turbo-supercharged Liberty-powered Packard-LePere, over McCook Field, Dayton OH. Also should qualify as World's first vapor trail, as viewers on the ground reported everything from a passing comet to "a visitor from Mars," unaware of its real source.

Coast Guard Air Station - Mar 24, 1920 - Established at Morehead City NC, but only lasted a year because of a lack of funding, The first permanent stations wouldn't come until mid-1926.

Law violation - Apr 27, 1920 - Issued to Ormer Locklear for "reckless aerial driving" over Los Angeles. He was fined $25.00.

Air Service created - June 4, 1920 - The Army Reorganization bill was signed by President Wilson to designate the USAS, comprised of 1,516 officers and 16,000 enlisted men.

NACA wind tunnel - June 11, 1920 - NACA's own program of aeronautics research, conducted by its own staff in its own facilities, began with the first operation of its five-foot wind tunnel at Langley Laboratory.

All-metal airplane - June 20, 1920 - Gallaudet CO-1.

Scheduled international airline service - Nov 1, 1920 - Aeromarine West Indies Airways, between Key West FL and Havana, Cuba, a 60-minute flight as an alternative to an eight-hour boat trip.

National Air Race - Nov 25-27, 1920 - Mitchel Field NY. Also first Pulitzer Race, won by Army Lt C C Mosely flying a Verville-Packard at a top speed of 156.54mph.

National Guard aeronautical operation - Jan 17, 1921 - 109th Observation Squadron commissioned at St Paul MN—a controversial claim, perhaps first to receive an official unit designation. SEE Feb 10, 1911.

Transcontinental air mail service - Feb 21 (?>22), 1921 - Mineola NY to San Francisco—a route established on Aug 8, 1920—flown by Army Lt W D Coney in a de Havilland DH-4M, taking 23h:20m. This also qualified as a record as the first one-day transcontinental flight.

Pressurized military airplane - June 8, 1921 - First flight of an Army Air Service pressurized cabin airplane, a DH-9A piloted by Lt Harold R Harris.

Battleship sunk by airplanes - July 21, 1921 - Joint service tests against the German battleship Ostfriesland ended dramatically when BrigGen Billy Mitchell's Army bombers dropped eleven 1000- and 2000-pound bombs, sinking the ship.

Crop dusting - Aug 4, 1921 - 5,000 catalpa trees were sprayed in 15 minutes at Troy OH by a hopper-rigged Curtiss JN-4D flown by Army Lt John Macready accompanied by Etienne Dormoy.

Navy Bureau of Aeronautics established - Aug 10, 1921 - Rear Adm William A Moffett as first chief.

In-flight motion picture - Aug 1921 - Aeromarine Airways at Chicago. Claim is recorded but without found documentation, so the jury is still out on this one. See Summer 1919. (11/15/06)
Altitude record - Sep 18, 1921 - 34,508' attained by Army Lt John A Macready in a Packard-LePere, Dayton OH.

Aerial "refueling" - Nov 12, 1921 - First air-to-air refueling, as such, made when Wesley May stepped from the wing of one biplane to that of another with a five-gallon can of gasoline strapped to his back.

Aircraft carrier - Mar 20, 1922 - USS Langley commissioned as CV-1 at Norfolk VA, converted from collier Jupiter.

Helicopter in controlled horizontal flight - June 16, 1922 - Henry Berliner in a war-surplus Nieuport biplane fighter modified with tilting tail rotor, and a short-span upper wing with 14'0" helicopter blades at the tips, in a demonstration for the military at College Park MD. This claim for a first is contested by that of the Engineering Division's de Bothezat helicopter free-flight on 10/19/22 and has yet to be finalized.

Airline ticket agency - July, 1922 - Aeromarine Airways, Cleveland OH.

Endurance record - 38 hours in a Fokker T-2 flown by Army pilots Oakley G Kelly and John A Macready at San Diego CA.

Aircraft carrier takeoff - Oct 17, 1922 - USN Lt Virgil C Griffin, in a Vought VE-7SF [A987], from USS Langley moored at York River VA.

Speed record - Oct 18, 1922 - BrigGen William Mitchell becomes the first US military pilot to hold the recognized speed record at 222.97mph in the Curtiss R-6 at Selfridge Field MI.

Aircraft carrier landing - Oct 26, 1922 - USN LtCdr Godfrey Chevalier, in an Aeromarine 39-B, on USS Langley. He was fatally injured in a crash two weeks later.

Caterpillar Club member - Oct 29, 1922 - Air Service test pilot Lt Harold Harris, when he jumped from a crippled plane over McCook Field (OH). The Caterpillar Club was exclusive to those whose lives were saved by parachutes.

Aircraft carrier catapult launch - Nov 18, 1922 - USN Lt Cdr Kenneth Whiting, in a Consolidated PT floatplane, from USS Langley.

Dropable auxiliary fuel tank - Mar 5, 1923 - A jettisonable auxiliary belly tank fitted to the bomb rack of a Thomas-Morse MB-3A at Selfridge Field increased its flying radius to about 400 miles.

Speed record - Mar 29, 1923 - US Air Service Lt R L Maitland, 239.95 mph in Curtiss R-6 at Dayton OH.

Kelly and Macready
Transcontinental non-stop flight - May 2-3, 1923 - Air Service Lts Oakley G Kelly and John A Macready, in a Fokker T-2, from Roosevelt Field NY to San Diego CA, 2,520 miles in 26h:50m. The event was also credited for sparking the government in inaugurating the transcontinental air mail service in mid-1924.

In-flight plane-to-plane refueling - June 26 (?>27), 1923 - Capt L H Smith and Lt J P Richter, in an Army de Havilland DH-4B over Rockwell Field, San Diego. They also set a distance record of 3,293 miles covered in the flight.

Endurance record - Aug 27-28, 1923 - 37h:15m, by Capt L H Smith and Lt J P Richter, in a DH-4B over Rockwell Field, San Diego. They also set a distance record of 3,293 miles covered in the flight.

Vought UO-1 hooked

Airplane-airship hook-on - Sep 18, 1923 - Over Langley Field VA, a Sperry M-1 Messenger (p: Lt Rex K Stoner) was picked up in flight by a trapeze suspended from the Army non-rigid (LTA) Air Service airship (blimp) D-3. Accomplished again on 12/15/24 with Army LTA airship TC-3 (p: Lt Clyde Finter). As for rigid airships (dirigibles) ...

An airplane "trapeze" was installed under Frame 100 of the Navy rigid airship ZR-3 USS Los Angeles in late 1928 and original hook-on experiments (LtCdr Herbert V Wiley commanding) began with a Vought UO-1 (p: Lt A W Gorton) in July 1929—the first successful hook-on with UO-1 was made on Aug 20, and the project was publicly demonstrated at the National Air Races in Cleveland on Aug 29. Other aircraft used for experiments with the Los Angeles were Consolidated N2Y-1 and Curtiss XF9C-1. (— Rick Zitarosa 9/7/07)

Speed record - Nov 4, 1923 - USN Lt Alford Williams, 266.59 mph in Navy-Curtiss Racer at Mitchel Field, Long Island, which remained a US record until 1930.

Flight on instruments - Mar 7, 1924 - USAS Lts E H Barksdale and B Jones, for 575 miles in a flight from Dayton OH to Mitchel Field NY in a DH-4B.

Global flight - Apr 6-Sep 28, 1924 - Four Douglas DWC World Cruisers commanded by USAS Maj F Martin, from and to Seattle WA. Only two planes completed the 26,345-mile (?>28,945-mile) flight of 371h:11m; average speed: 75mph.

Altitude record - May 19, 1924 - 35,239' attained by USAS Lt John Macready in a LePere fighter over Dayton OH.

Transcontinental dawn-to-dusk flight - June 23, 1924 - New York to San Francisco by USAS Lt Russell L Maugham in a Curtiss PW-8, with five fuel stops enroute.

Contract air mail - Feb 2, 1925 - President Calvin Coolidge signed the (PA Congressman Clyde) Kelly bill authorizing contract air transport of US mail by commercial air carriers. When enacted it became the Air Mail Act of 1925—aka the Kelly Act—which also set airmail rates and the level of cash subsidies to be paid to companies that carried the mail.

Ford 4-AT-A

Scheduled air freight service - Apr 3 (?>13), 1925 - Implemented by auto manufacturer Henry Ford, between Detroit and Chicago with, predictably, Ford Tri-Motors.

Airplane over the North Pole - May 8-9, 1926 - Adm Richard E Byrd, pilot Floyd Bennett, and crew in Fokker BA-1 Josephine Ford. There is controversy over Byrd's claim of a world record, with expressed doubts by Bernt Balchen (who also piloted Byrd on the 1929 South Pole flight) and others, and more recent research suggesting that he was well short of his goal when he turned back—most damning was an admission by Bennett shortly before his death that they had, indeed, not made it to the Pole. Reconciling the plane's average true speed of about 77mph and its fuel consumption with the 15.5 hours flight time (plus 12 minutes Byrd had claimed to have circled the Pole) for the measured distance of 1,535 miles also showed that it was not possible to make it all the way at less than 100mph average ground speed. Honors should instead go to Umberto Nobile and Roald Amundsen, who flew from Spitzbergen over the Pole to Alaska a few days later. SEE SIDEBAR: An interview with Bess Balchen Urbahn.

Air Commerce Act - May 20, 1926 - President Calvin Coolidge signed into law the first Federal legislation regulating civil aeronautics.

Aerial reforesting - July 2, 1926 - Seeding by airplane in Hawaii.

Army Air Corps established - July 2, 1926 - Army Air Service restructured under the Air Corps Act. The Air Corps became a subordinate element of the Army Air Forces, and no longer an administrative organization, on June 20, 1941. It continued to exist as a combat arm of the Army (similar to Infantry) until disestablished by Congress with the creation of the US Air Force in 1947.

Paratroops - 1927 - 12 battle-ready Marines successfully parachuted from a USMC transport plane in 14 seconds at Anacostia, and shortly afterward duplicated the feat by parachuting over the Potomac River with rubber rafts that were inflated during their descent.

Airplane to receive an ATC - Mar 1927 - Buhl-Verville J-4 Airster proudly wore Approved Type Certificate #1.

Transatlantic non-stop solo flight - May 20-21, 1927 - Charles A Lindbergh, in Ryan NYP Spirit of St Louis, from Long Island to Paris, in 33h:32m (?>33h:39m). Although 91 persons in 13 separate flights had crossed the Atlantic before him, he flew directly between two great world cities and did it alone. Incidental to that flight, he also set several new intercity speed records in flying the Ryan from San Diego to New York.

Transpacific flight - June 28-29, 1927 - Army Lts A F Hegenberger and Lester J Maitland, in Fokker C-2 Bird of Paradise, from Oakland to Honolulu in 25h:49m using dead reckoning. While it was technically not fully transpacific, it was the longest over-water flight ever attempted at the time. At least sharing some honor were Emory Bronte and Ernie Smith, who followed on July 14-15, 1927, in a Travel Air cabin City of Oakland. Nearly out of fuel, Smith stall-landed in trees on Molokai, Hawaii and they walked away from it. Not until Oct 5, 1931 would a full crossing of the Pacific be accomplished by Herndon and Pangborn.

Air map - July 15, 1927 - Moline IL-to-St Louis MO strip map issued by DoC.

Altitude record - July 25, 1927 - 38,484' attained by USN Lt C C Champion in a Wright Apache.

Transcontinental amphibian flight - Mar 1-9, 1928 - USAAC Lts Burnie R Dallas and Beckwith Havens in a Loening Amphibian. Total flight time: 32h:45m.

Woman to cross the Atlantic by air - June 17-18, 1928 - Amelia Earhart, from Newfoundland to Wales, as a passenger in the Wilmer Stultz-Louis Gordon Fokker C-2 Friendship.

Avro Avian
Woman to fly transcontinental round-trip - Aug 31, 1928 - Amelia Earhart on her "vagaboding trip" in an Avro Avian [G-EBUG=7083], from Rye NY to Glendale CA and return.

Diesel airplane engine flight - Sep 19, 1928 - Stinson SM-1DX Detroiter [X7654] powered by a 225hp Packard DR-980, flown by Herman Dohner and Lionel Woolson. Engine was also used to set unrefuelled endurance record of 84h:32m on 5/28/31. Aircraft is preserved a the Ford Museum in Detroit.

Autogiro flight - Dec 19, 1928 - Harold F Pitcairn, Willow Grove PA.

Question Mark
Endurance record - Jan 1-7, 1929 - USAAC Maj Carl Spaatz and crew Capt Ira Eaker, Lt Elwood Queseda, Lt Harry Halverson, and Sgt Roy Hooe, in Fokker C-2A Question Mark, using air-to-air refueling over Los Angeles. Time aloft: 150h:40m:15s. This was the first of the official endurance records.

Women's endurance record - Feb 11, 1929 - Evelyn Trout sets a solo flight endurance record of 17h:21m:37s in her Golden Eagle.

Women's endurance record - Apr 24, 1929 - 17-year-old Elinor Smith sets a women's solo flight endurance record of 26h:21m:32s in a Bellanca CH at Roosevelt Field NY.

Altitude record - May 8, 1929 - 39,140' attained by USN Lt Apollo Soucek in a Wright Apache over Anacostia DC.

Endurance record - May 19-26, 1929 - 172h:321m:02s at Fort Worth TX by James Kelly, an ex-cowboy with only a few hours of flight time, and Reginald Robbins, a railroad mechanic who had been flying since 1922, in a well-used Ryan brougham. Distance traveled: about 12,900 miles.

Endurance record - July 13-30, 1929 - 420h:21m:30s at St Louis by Dale Jackson and Forrest O'Brine in Curtiss Robin [NR59H]. Distance traveled: about 25,500 miles—more than the circumference of the earth at the equator!

In-flight motion picture - Summer 1929 - Transcontinental Air Transport, over Columbus OH, where a demonstration consisted of a comedy short and a newsreel projected on a 24" x 20" screen using a battery-run projector. Aviation (10/26/29) reported TAT plans to show movies on their major routes, with titles changed twice weekly. Claim is challenged by a similar claim from Aeromarine Airways, for Aug 1921. (11/15/06)

Art Walker and Nick Mamer
Transcontinental non-stop round-trip - Aug 15-21, 1929 - Nick Mamer and Art Walker in Buhl CA-6 Special Spokane Sun God, using air-to-air refueling to travel 7,200 point-to-point miles (in 10,000 air miles) from Spokane WA to New York City. Time aloft: 120h:01m:40s. 1930 Aircraft Year Book shows 115h:45m:10s. SEE The full story.

Takeoff and landing on instruments - Sep 24, 1929 - USAAC Lt James H Doolittle in a Consolidated NY-2, for a 15-mile flight in a covered cockpit at Mitchel Field NY, but with a safety pilot in an open cockpit.

Airplane over the South Pole - Nov 28-29, 1929 - USN Adm Richard Byrd, pilot Bernt Balchen, radioman Harold June, and photographer A C McKinley, in Ford 4-AT Floyd Bennett.

Altitude record - June 4, 1930 - 43,166' attained by USN Lt Apollo Soucek in a Wright Apache over Anacostia DC to regain his record from 1929.

Hunter Brothers Mechanic's running-board (K O Eckland coll)
Endurance record - June 11-July 4, 1930 - 553h:41m:30s at Chicago by John and Kenneth Hunter in Stinson SM-1B City of Chicago [NC5189], covering about 40,000 miles in so doing. Refueling plane was flown by their brothers, Albert and Walter. Their feat was short-lived as the title was regained by Jackson and O'Brine the following month. SEE next.

Endurance record - July 21-Aug 17, 1930 - 647h:28m:30s at St Louis by Dale Jackson and Forrest O'Brine in Curtiss Robin [NR59H], regaining their title set in 1929.

Longest distance air race - July 21-Aug 1, 1930 - All-America Flying Derby covered 5,451 statute miles from Detroit to New York to Texas to California and back to Detroit in 11 days. $15,000 first prize in a field of ten planes won by Lee Gehlbach in a modified Command-Aire (prophetically wearing race #1), at an average speed of 127.11 mph. Apparently the distance record still stands. SEE the Longest Air Race.

Woman's solo transcontinental flight - Oct 5-9, 1930 - Laura Ingalls, in her de Havilland Gypsy Moth, from Roosevelt Field NY to Glendale CA with nine stops. Flight time 30h:27m.

Transcontinental commercial air service - Oct 25, 1930 - Between New York City and Los Angeles

Autogiro altitude record - Apr 22 (?>8), 1931 - 18,400' attained by Amelia Earhart.

Johnny Miller Congratulated (Stephen Pitcairn coll)
Transcontinental autogiro flight - May 14, 1931 - John Miller in Pitcairn PCA-2 [NC10781], dubbed Missing Link, from Willow Grove to San Diego CA on May 28, flying during daylight at 90mph and landing every three hours for fuel. Flight time of 43.8 hrs included a four-day stopover at Omaha Air Races for demonstration flights. A successful return trip, as well, was made June 21-30.

Non-fueling endurance record - May 25-28, 1931 - Packard Motors Co test pilots Frederic A Brossy and Walter E Lees, in Bellanca Pacemaker Special [NR782W] with a Packard DR-980 diesel engine ("...burning furnace oil"), broke the French non-fueling record of 67h:12m by flying at Jacksonville FL for 84h:32m, a record that stood until broken by the Rutan-Yeager Voyager global flight in 1986. A prior attempt by the pair on Apr 12, 1931 fell short of the mark (73h:48m).

Rocket-powered, manned flight - June 4, 1931 - William G Swan, at Bader Field, Atlantic City NJ, in his rocket-powered glider. He also carried some pieces of mail, which would undoubtedly qualify this flight as the first rocket air mail, as well. A second successful flight followed the next day. Flight particulars were not found.

Lightplane altitude record - June 13, 1931 - 22,500' attained by Mae Haizlip in her Buhl LA-1 Speedwing.

Global flight - June 23-July 1, 1931 - Wiley Post and Harold Gatty, from and to Roosevelt Field NY in Lockheed Vega Winnie Mae, over 15,474 miles with 14 stops. Flight time 8d:15h:51m.

Herndon & Pangborn
Transpacific non-stop flight - Oct 4-5, 1931 - Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon Jr, from Sabishoro, Japan to Wenatchee WA, 4,500 miles in 41h:13m as the final leg of their around-the-world flight in Bellanca CH-400 Miss Veedol that began July 28. Eight others before them had failed in similar attempts to conquer a distance 2,000 miles longer than Lindbergh's NYC-Paris flight. SEE The full story.

Bendix Trophy - Sep 4, 1931 - James H Doolittle wins the first Bendix transcontinental race flying a Laird Super Solution from Los Angeles to Cleveland in 09h:10m with an average speed of 223.058 mph. He then flew to New York to complete a record full flight across the continent.

Diesel altitude record - Feb 14, 1932 - By Ruth Nichols in Lockheed Vega 1 Miss Teaneck, altitude of 19,928' still has not been surpassed to date.

Solo blind flight - May 9, 1932 - By USAAC Capt A F Hegenberger, flying solely on instruments without a check pilot aboard, at Dayton OH.

Transatlantic solo flight by a woman - May 20-21, 1932 - Amelia Earhart, in a Lockheed Vega 5B, from Newfoundland to North Ireland, 2,026 miles in 14h:56m.

Transcontinental solo flight by a woman - Aug 25, 1932 - Amelia Earhart, in a Lockheed Vega 5B, from Los Angeles to Newark, 2,448 miles in 19h:15m.

Presidential aircraft - 1933 - One USN Douglas RD-2 Dolphin [9347] was officially assigned for executive use by Franklin D Roosevelt, but there is no record of him traveling in it, mainly due to his physical disability. It would be 10 more years before he flew in an airplane.

Global solo flight - July 15-22, 1933 - Wiley Post, in Lockheed Vega 5 Winnie Mae, 15,596 miles from and to Floyd Bennett Field NY in 07d:18h:49m:30s.

Pressurized flying suit - 1934 - Goodrich Corp engineer Russ Colley conceived and built the first pressure suit that would enable pilots to fly at altitudes of 30,000' and more, flight tested later in the year by Wiley Post.

Army civil mail flights - Feb 19, 1934 - President Franklin D Roosevelt issued an Executive Order canceling existing airmail contracts because of alleged fraud and collusion. The USAAC was designated to take over airmail operations.

Bureau of Air Commerce established - July 1, 1934 - to replace the Aeronautics Branch in the Department of Commerce.

Women's National Air Meet - Aug 1934 - Dayton OH, sponsored by Ninety-Nines and Women's Natl Aeronautics Assn.

In-flight sound motion picture - Summer 1935 - Central Airlines, enroute from Washington DC to Pittsburgh.

Blind carrier landing - July 30, 1935 - USN Lt Frank Akers flew a Berliner-Joyce OJ-2 from NAS San Diego to USS Langley at sea and landed on instruments (under a hood), for which feat he was awarded a DFC.
    Akers made the first demonstration of a blind landing system intended for carrier flying when he flew under a hood at College Park MD on 5/1/34. He later took-off blind from Anacostia and landed blind at College Park. (— Andries Visser 5/2/02)

Transpacific scheduled airline - Nov 22-29, 1935 - Pan-American Airways, from Alameda, on San Francisco Bay, to Manila in the Martin M-130 China Clipper, chief pilot: Edwin Musick.

Aerial traffic report - 1936 - Broadcast from the Goodyear blimp over New York City.

Transcontinental speed record - Jan 13, 1936 - Howard Hughes in Jacqueline Cochran's Northrop Gamma 2G, modified with a 850hp Wright Cyclone, from Burbank CA to Newark NJ in 9h:27m at an average speed of 259 mph, earning the Harmon Trophy. Then he then went on to set intercity records for New York to Miami and Chicago to Los Angeles in his rental.

Transatlantic round-trip flight - Sep 2-15, 1936 - Henry T "Dick" Merrill and Harry Richman, in Vultee V1-A Lady Peace, from New York to London, 3,300 miles in 18h:38m, and from Southport to Newfoundland, 2,300 miles in 17h:24m.

300mph fighter plane - 1937 - Curtiss XP-37 attained 340mph at 20,000' with new liquid-cooled Allison V-1710-C8.

Global speed record - July 10-14, 1938 - Howard Hughes (and crew: Harry Connor, Ed Lund, Richard Stoddard, Thomas Thurlow) in Lockheed 14—NYC, Paris, Moscow, Omsk, Yakutsk, Fairbanks, Minneapolis, NYC—14,791 miles in 3d:19h:08m:10s.

Transcontinental non-stop lightplane flight - Nov 29-30, 1938 - John M "Johnnie" Jones, in an Aeronca 50-C modified with extra fuel tanks, from Los Angeles to New York, 2,785 miles in 30h:47m. Total fuel bill: $25.70.

Flight of a pressurized airliner - Dec 31, 1938 - Boeing 307, the first one put in use by TWA in April 1940. (First experiments in pressurization began in 1922 at Wright Field, in a de Havilland DH-4.)

Successful single main rotor helicopter - 1939 - Sikorsky VS-300 (p: Igor Sikorsky).

All-stainless steel military aircraft - 1939 - USN Fleetwings XBT-12.

Transcontinental speed record - Feb 11, 1939 - Lockheed XP-38 flown (in secrecy) by USAAF Lt Ben Kelsey from March Field CA to Mitchel Field NY in flight time of 7h:2m; average speed just under 400mph. Kelsey caught a tree-top on landing and crashed into a golf course sand trap, sustaining only minor injury.

Transatlantic scheduled airline - May 20, 1939 - Pan-American Airways, from New York to Portugal and France, in a Boeing 314 Yankee Clipper, at first only air mail. Pathfinder flight from Baltimore on Mar 26, 1939 carried 21 passengers. SEE The PAA Clippers. While the Graf Zeppelin did commercially connect Europe and the Americas in the mid-1930s, it was the airplane that would represent the means for fast, scheduled air service.

Autogyro air mail service - July 6, 1939 - Eastern Air Lines, from Philadelphia Post Office to Camden NJ, in a Kellett KD-1B.

Hydraulic carrier-deck catapult - Aug 4, 1939 - Flush-deck catapults first used on carriers Yorktown and Enterprise to launch Curtiss SBC-3 and Vought O3U-3.

Airplane to exceed 400 mph in level flight - Oct 1 (?>8), 1940 - Vought F4U Corsair; 404 mph.

Army Air Forces established - June 20, 1941 - Army Regulation 95-5 created the USAAF, with the USAAC and GHQ-AF as its principal parts, but GHQ was dissolved Mar 9, 1942. The Air Corps became a subordinate element of the AAF and continued to exist as a combat arm of the Army until 1947.

JATO flight test - Mar 1941 - First trial was with an Ercoupe in July 1941 at March AAB (p: Lt Homer Boushey), using rockets developed by Cal Tech. The rocket units were then refined and installed on an A-20A for 44 test launches at Muroc AAB, Apr 7-24, 1942.

Civil Air Patrol established - Dec 1, 1941.

Aerial combat victory of WW2 - Dec 7, 1941. Shared by USAAF 2Lts Ken Taylor and George Welch of 5th Fighter Group, 47th Pursuit Squadron, both with two victories over Japanese attackers near Oahu this day in P-40Bs. Times were not recorded, so it is impossible to say who was first on the clock.

USAAF WW2 combat ace - Dec 16, 1941 - Lt Boyd "Buzz" Wagner, in a P-40.

Flying Tigers enter combat - Dec 20, 1941 - The American Volunteer Group (Claire Chennault's Flying Tigers) in action over Kunming, China.

Commercial aircraft global flight - Jan 6, 1942. PAA Pacific Clipper, Boeing 314 [NC18602]. Having landed in New Zealand shortly after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, it continued westward instead of returning across the Pacific Ocean.

USN WW2 combat ace - Feb 20, 1942 - Lt Edward "Butch" O'Hare, in an F4F.

US attack on Japanese homeland - Apr 18, 1942 - 16 North American B-25s commanded by LtCol James H Doolittle, take-off from USS Hornet (CV-8) at sea and bomb Tokyo.

Naval battle fought entirely by airplanes - May 4-8, 1942. Battle of New Guinea, more popularly Battle of the Coral Sea, a strategic victory for the Allies, whose surface ships, using only aircraft, never came within gunshot range of Japanese ships.

US attack on Nazi Europe - July 4, 1942 - Flown by B-17s of the 97th Bombardment Group against the Rouen-Sotteville railyards in France. The first USAAF air raid on Germany was made by 8th AF B-17s against Wilhelmshaven and other targets in northeastern Germany on Jan 27, 1943.

Jet airplane - Oct 1, 1942 - Bell XP-59A, piloted by Robert Stanley, at Muroc AFB CA. What jetplane flew first? Germany's Heinkel He.178 flew on 8/27/39, the Italian Campini-Caproni CC-2 (not a true jet, but more of a turbojet, actually a thermojet) on 8/27/40, and the British Gloster E.28/39 on 5/15/41.

Practical use of JATO - Jan 8, 1943 - First jet-assisted take-off with permanent JATO units on an A-20A at Muroc AAB CA.

President to fly while in office - Jan 11-14, 1943 - Franklin Delano Roosevelt, in Boeing 314 Dixie Clipper, to Casablanca and back (on the return trip, he celebrated his 65th birthday.) Although it was our first actual presidential aircraft, the first designated as official, shortly thereafter, was a Consolidated C-87A Liberator Express. SEE ALSO 1953.

Turbojet engine - Mar 1943 - First American-designed turbojet, Westinghouse X19A.

Composite jet and piston engine airplane - June 25, 1944 - Ryan FR-1 Fireball.

Rocket airplane - July 5, 1944 - Northrop MX-334.

Non-stop flight over the North Pole - 1944 - USAF B-29 Pacusan Dreamboat, Honolulu to Cairo.

Navy jet airplane - June 7, 1945 - Ryan FR-1 Fireball, a fighter propelled by both a turbojet and a reciprocating engine.

Carrier jet landing - Nov 6, 1945 - Ryan FR-1, piloted by USN Ens Jake C West, whose landing on USS Wake Island (CVE-65) was inadvertent—the plane's piston engine failed, and West came in powered only by the turbojet.

Helicopter to receive an ATC - Mar 8, 1946 - Bell X-47.

Jet bomber - May 17, 1946 - Maiden flight of America's first jet bomber, Douglas XB-43 [44-61508], piloted by Bob Brush and Russell Thaw at Muroc Dry Lake CA.

Carrier jet launch - July 21, 1946 - An XFD Phantom piloted by LtCdr James Davidson made first successful landings and takeoffs (deck launched without catapults) on USS Franklin D Roosevelt (CV-42).

Lightplane global flight - 1947 - Piper PA-12 Super Cruisers City of Washington (p: Clifford Evans), and City of Los Angeles (p: George Truman).

Air Force established - Sep 18, 1947 - With passage of the National Security Act the USAAF became the US Air Force, a separate military service.

Helicopter airmail service - Oct 1, 1947 - Los Angeles Airways, Sikorsky S-51.

Airplane to break the sound barrier - Oct 14, 1947 - Bell XS-1, flown to Mach 1.06 (700mph) by USAF Capt Charles E Yeager at Muroc AFB CA.

Police helicopter - Apr 1948 - NYPD purchases a Bell 47 and establishes pilot and crew training at Niagara Falls, headed by Capt Gus Crawford.

Berlin Airlift - June 26, 1948 - Operation Vittles began with Douglas C-47 crews bringing in 80 tons of supplies on the first day. By the time it ended, on Aug 30, 1949, the Anglo-American airlift delivered a total of 2,324,257 tons of food, fuel, and supplies to the beleaguered city.

Transcontinental helicopter flight, - 1949 - Hiller 360, San Francisco to New York City.

Non-stop global flight - Mar 2, 1949 - Boeing B-50A Lucky Lady II of the 43rd Bomb Group (p: Capt James Gallagher, Lt Arthur Neal) flew 23,452 miles with four aerial refuelings, departing Carswell AFB TX, and returning there 94h:01m later. For this the 14-man crew became the first USAF recipients of the Mackay Trophy.

Hoist rescue by helicopter - Nov 1949 - Sikorsky R-5.

Korean War victory - June 27, 1950 - Pilot Lt William Hudson and Radarman Lt Carl Fraser, in their North Amercian F-82G Twin Mustang, downed a Yak fighter north of Seoul, which also was the first "kill" for the USAF, and in the last propeller-driven fighter ordered into production by the Air Force.

Transatlantic jet flight - Sep 22, 1950 - USAF Col David C Schilling flew from England to Limestone ME, 3,300 miles in 10h:01m.

All-jet combat - Nov 8, 1950 - A Lockheed F-80C, piloted by USAF Lt Russell J Brown Jr, downed a MiG-15 in the Korean War.

Jet bomber - 1951 - Boeing's B-47 came off the production line in Wichita.

Jet transport - Apr 21, 1951 - Chase C-122A with four paired GE J47s underwing.

Jet ace - May 20, 1951 - USAF Capt James Jabara, WW2 combat pilot who went on to down 15 enemy planes in Korea.

Gas-turbine helicopter - Dec 1951 - Kaman K-225 with Boeing 502 engine.

Helicopter to fly across the Atlantic - Aug 1, 1952 - Two Sikorsky S-55s set not only this record, but the non-stop distance record for rotary-wing aircraft, as well, in flying 3,410 miles from Westover MA to Prestwick, Scotland in 42h:25m. Pilots were USAF Capt Vincent H McGovern and Lt Harold W Moore.

Licensed pilot to become President - 1953 - Dwight D Eisenhower, who soloed in 1937 while serving with Gen Douglas MacArthur in the Philippines and received his pilot's license (#93528) in July 1939. Eisenhower was also the first to have a presidential helicopter, in 1957. First President as a combat pilot was George H Bush, who flew combat missions in a USN Grumman TBF during WW2. Neither, however, pursued a career in aviation. Son, George W Bush, was first President qualified as jet pilot (Texas ANG).
   Franklin D Roosevelt was the first President to use air travel, in 1932. The Democratic National Convention, meeting in Chicago, had nominated him as their presidential candidate and he flew from Albany NY, where he was serving as Governor, to Chicago to deliver his acceptance speech in person. Until then candidates did not routinely attend the conventions and sent their acceptance speeches, which were then delivered by others. Roosevelt wanted to make a grandstand play to attract public attention, which, of course, he did. He also scared the hell out of reporters accompanying him, most (or all) of whom had never before flown. Their introduction to aviation came on what I have heard was a very stormy night flight! (— Robert Booth 10/6/00)

Airplane to exceed Mach 2 - Nov 20, 1953 - Douglas D-558-2, flown by A Scott Crossfield at Edwards AFB CA. The plane—designed for a maximum speed of Mach 1.6—was released from a B-29 mother ship at 32,000' and climbed to 72,000' to enter a shallow dive, reaching Mach 2.005.

Speed records - Dec 12, 1953 - Bell X-1A, flown at Mach 2.44 by USAF Maj Charles Jaeger, also qualified as first to exceed Mach 2 in level flight.

VTOL flight - Aug 1, 1954 - Convair XFY-1. First transition to horizontal flight on 11/2/54.

Twin-turbine helicopter - Sep 1954 - Modified Kaman HTK-1.

Aerial refueling of a jet aircraft - Sep 1, 1954 - Boeing B-47 bomber, by a KB-47B tanker.

Air Force Academy - July 11, 1955 - First class of 306 Cadets sworn in at Colorado Springs CO.

Transcontinental round-trip flight in one day - May 21, 1955 - USAF Lt John M Conroy in a North American F-86, from NYC to Los Angeles and back over 5,085 miles in 11h:33m:27s.

Altitude record - Sep 7, 1956 - Bell X-2, piloted by Capt Iven C Kincheloe to an altitude of 126,000' at more than 1,500 mph, for which he was awarded the 1956 Mackay Trophy. The record stands in a separate category as rocket-powered aircraft altitude flight, excluding dedicated spacecraft.

President to use a helicopter - 1957 - Dwight D Eisenhower, in a Bell H-13J.

Global non-stop jet flight - Jan 17-18 - USAF MGenl Archie J Olds Jr led a flight of three Boeing B-52s around the world in 45h:19m; distance 24,325 miles, average speed 525 mph.

Remotely-piloted air vehicle - July 1957 - Modified USN Kaman HTK-1.

Supersonic woman - May 18, 1957 - Jacqueline Cochran flew a Canadair North American F-86 faster than the speed of sound. Cochran, in her lifetime, held more speed, altitude, and distance records than any other male or female pilot in aviation history.

Transcontinental supersonic flight - July 16, 1957 - USMC Maj John Glenn in a Vought F8U. Los Alamitos CA to Floyd Bennett Field NY, 03h:22m:50s, v (avg): 723.517.

NASA formed - Oct 1, 1958 - National Aeronautics and Space Administration replaces NACA. T Keith Glennan, administrator, and Hugh Dryden, deputy administrator.

International commercial jet service - Oct 25, 1958 - Pan American Boeing 707-121 from Idlewild (NYC) to Paris with a fuel stop at Gander, Newfoundland; chief pilot Sam Miller.

Endurance record - Dec 4, 1958 - John Cook and Robert Timm took-off from McCarran Airfield in Las Vegas NV in a Cessna 172 and, with in-flight refueling, remained aloft for 64d:22h:19m:05s—more than two months in continual flight. They finally landed at McCarren on 2/7/59.

Domestic jet passenger service - Dec 10, 1958 - National Airlines route between NYC and Miami FL.

Altitude record - Dec 6, 1959 - 98,556' attained by USN Cdr Lawrence E Flint in McDonnell XF-4H-1.



Highest parachute jump - Aug 16, 1960 - from 102,800' in a parachute test over New Mexico by USAF Capt Joseph W Kittinger, clad in a pressure suit and carried to that altitude in a balloon gondola. It took 01h:43m to reach altitude, and only 13m:45s to make the return trip. He also set three other records at the same time: (1) the highest man had ever gone in unpowered flight, (2) the longest free-fall in history—16 miles, (3) the first man to exceed the speed of sound without a vehicle—614mph at that altitude.

Speed record - Nov 22, 1961 - 1606.3mph by USAF LtCol Robert B Robinson in McDonnell XF-4H-1.

Commercial airliner to exceed the speed of sound - Apr 1962 - Douglas DC-8-53 [N9608Z], in service with Philippine Airlines, during a brief dive.

Joint military aircraft designations - Sep 18, 1962 - A common (tri-service) method of designating aircraft effected for all US services.



Solo global flight by a woman - Apr 17, 1964 - Geraldine "Jerrie" Mock, in a Cessna 180 The Spirit of Columbus [N1538C]. Flight of 23,103 statute miles began at Columbus OH on Mar 19; elapsed time: 29d:11h:59m.

Transcontinental carrier-to-carrier non-stop helicopter flight - Mar 6, 1965 - 2,116 mi from an unspecified carrier at San Diego to USS Franklin D Roosevelt at Mayport FL, c.16h:00m, in a specially modified Sikorsky SH-3A (two 500-gal external fuel tanks), by Capt J R Williford and crew. Required strict fuel metering and much one-engine fight near-stall speed to accomplish this record.

Altitude record - May 1, 1965 - 80,258' by Lockheed A-12/SR-71.

Speed records - May 1, 1965 - Lockheed A-12/SR-71 in 500km closed circuit: 1,643.042 mph (USAF Majs Walter F Daniel & Noel T Warner) and 1000km closed circuit: 1,688.891 mph (USAF Maj Daniel & Capt James P Cooney).

Airplane to exceed Mach 3 - May ?, 1965 - Lockheed A-12/SR-71.

SPECIAL CATEGORY:
Altitude record for a paper airplane - Aug 11, 1966 - 50,125'. A test vehicle placed in the speed brake of a Vought F-8D was released at altitude somewhere between Eglin AFB & Cecil Field NAS. The pilot of the mother ship preferred to remain anonymous, and the historic craft was never recovered. Neither FAI nor NASA expressed any interest in the feat.

Transcontinental carrier-to-carrier jet flight - June 6, 1967 - From USS Bonhomme Richard in the Pacific to USS Saratoga in the Atlantic, 03h:28m, in a Vought F8U Crusader flown by USN Capt Robert Dose & LCdr Paul Miller. Distance unstated.

Composite materials airplane - Dec 1969 - Windecker Eagle AC-7 certified by FAA, designed by Dr Leo Windecker, who began experimenting with composite materials in 1956.

Female airline pilot - Jan 29, 1973 - Emily H Warner, as second officer on a Frontier Airlines Boeing 737.

Female USN pilot - Feb 27, 1974 - Ltjg Barbara Ann Allen, at NAS Corpus Christi.

Female US Army pilot - June 4, 1974 - 2Lt Sally D Woolfolk received her wings to fly UH-1 Huey helicopters.
Altitude record - July 28, 1976 - USAF Capt Robert C Helt attained 85,069' in horizontal flight in a Lockheed SR-71A at Beale AFB CA.

Speed records - July 28, 1976 - Two records set; USAF Capt Eldon W Joersz, 2193.16 mph over a straight course, and USAF Maj Adolphus H Bledsoe, 2092.29 mph over a closed circuit, both in Lockheed SR-71As at Beale AFB CA.

Man-powered flight to meet the Kremer requirements - Aug 23, 1977 - Gossamer Condor completed the Kremer Circuit, piloted by cyclist Bryan Allen in a figure-8 around two pylons one-half mile apart, in 06m:22s at Shafter (CA) airport to win a cash prize of £50,000 from the Royal Aeronautical Society of London for designer Paul MacCready.



Man-powered flight across the English Channel - June 12, 1980 - Gossamer Condor won the Kremer Prize for a Channel Crossing when cyclist Bryan Allen flew from Folkestone to Cap Gris-Nez, France, in 02h:55m.



Global helicopter flight - Sep 30-Nov 15, 1982 - Bell 206L Long Ranger II The Spirit of Texas [N3911Z], piloted by H Ross Perot Jr and Jay Coburn, traveled for 29d:3h:8m from and to Fort Worth TX. Awarded the Langley Medal; the Bell was donated to NASM.

All-female USN aircrew - Mar 21, 1983 - First to conduct an operational mission, in a Grumman C-1 Trader from VRC-30, ended with an arrested carrier landing on USS Ranger. Lt Elizabeth Toedt, Ltjg Cheryl A Martin, AD3 Gina Greterman, ADAN Robin Banks.

Global non-stop, non-refueled flight - Dec 14-23, 1986 - Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager set a distance record for airplanes, and for the first non-stop global flight without refueling in their Voyager—24,987 miles in 216h:03m:44s (more than nine days)—nearly double the previous distance record set in 1962 by a USAF B-52H. They also broke the endurance record of 84h:32m that was set 55 years previously,

Female USAF test pilot - June 10, 1989 - Capt Jacquelyn S Parker graduated from the Air Force Test Pilot School at Edwards AFB CA.

Transcontinental speed record - Mar 6, 1990 - Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, on a flight from Oxnard CA to Salisbury MD at an average speed of 2,124.05 mph (Mach 2.8) in slightly less than 01h:08m. After the flight, the aircraft was signed over to NASM.

Computer-designed commercial aircraft - June 12, 1994 - Computer engineered Boeing 777-200 first flown.

Female bomber pilot - Mar 31, 1995 - 2Lt Kelly Flinn began training at Barksdale AFB, and graduated Sep 25; assigned to fly B-52 Stratofortress.

Jet pilot as US President - 2001 - George W Bush, Texas ANG.

Sport Pilot Licence - Sep 1, 2004 - FAA's special-class Part 61 for licensing private pilots in low-power lightplanes with economy and less restrictive requirements in order to generate renewed interest in civil sport aviation.

Private craft to reach space - Oct 4, 2004 - Burt Rutan's SpaceShipOne in its second attempt from Mojave CA, entirely funded by private investment. The historic flight to 62 miles altitude by pilot Brian Binnie earned the $10 million Ansari-X prize.

Global non-stop, non-refueled solo flight - Feb 28-Mar 3, 2005 - Steve Fossett in his GlobalFlyer [N277SF], produced by Burt Rutan team. Initial time estimate: 67h:02m eastward from and to Salina KS, covering nearly 23,000 statute miles.

Global non-stop, non-refueled solo flight - Feb 8-11, 2006 - Bettering his 2005 distance record and that of his global balloon flight in 2002, Steve Fossett in his GlobalFlyer [N277SF] circled the globe eastward, then recrossed the Atlantic for a distance of 26,389 statute miles. Time aloft: 76h:50m from Kennedy Space Center (FL) to Bournemouth England (endpoint of record was the Shannon (Ireland) VOR, and official distance was later amended as closer to 26,000 miles).

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