Aviation History


Travel by airplane has a long and interesting history starting from the first commercial flight in 1933 on the modern airliner, Boeing 247. This important event made a definitive mark in the time line of aviation but was only one of many major accomplishments. The following will highlight a few of the fascinating landmarks of aviation history that punctuated the last century.

The Zeppelin Hindenburg

The 1930s revealed the so-called airship era of aviation history. The German passenger airship LZ 129 Hindenburg was one such example of the popularity of these. However, the event surrounding this airship was a sad one as tragedy struck during flight. Destined for Lakehurst Naval Air Station in Manchester Township, New Jersey, the Hindenburg disaster occurred as the airship caught on fire and crashed. Thirty-five fatalities were counted in this tragic incident and needless to say, confidence in airships dramatically decreased. News coverage broadcast the terrible news all over the globe, essentially bringing the airship period to a sad close.


Chuck Yeager Breaks the Sound Barrier

The sound barrier was broken by Chuck Yeager in 1947, marking another big event in the history of aviation. Yeager was a test pilot in the United States Air Force and flew the experimental Bell X-1 at Mach 1. The aircraft was at an altitude of 45,000 feet when this occurred. The Bell X-1 is on display in the Smithsonian Institution’s national museum for air and space. Yeager received more than one award for this accomplishment, including the MacKay and Collier trophy in 1948 and a trophy for Harmon International in 1954. The Myra, West Virginia native went on to bust through other barriers of sound and even altitude years later.

Boeing 747

Fast-forwarding from Chuck Yeager’s major accomplishment to the 1970s, many people recognize the Boeing 747 and it is often referred to endearingly as the “jumbo jet” of aircraft. Its cargo transport and commercial flight role make it a significant part of aviation history. This airliner, Boeing 747, made its first commercial flight from New York to London in the early part of that decade. Major airlines that use the model include British Airways, Korean Air, Japan Airlines, and Cathay Pacific. The Boeing 747, apart from being recognizable, is important in that it could carry such a large load of passengers or cargo. In fact, it held the record for carrying the most passengers for several decades.

Aviation Continues to Develop

The Zeppelin Hindenburg crisis, Chuck Yeager’s breaking of the sound barrier, and the introduction of the Boeing 747 jumbo jet are just three of the many turning points in aviation. While many more events exist on the historical time line of flight, these events show some of the individual pieces of the puzzle. Events like these have helped shape the history of aviation and offer opportunities for learning and reflection. Flight has come a long way and will continue to change and grow in years to come, making it an exciting part of technology and history!

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Deidra Bales


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