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A Boeing 747

Aviation includes the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. Aircraft includes fixed-wing and rotary-wing types, morphable wings, wing-less lifting bodies, as well as lighter-than-air craft such as hot air balloons and airships.

Aviation began in the 18th century with the development of the hot air balloon, an apparatus capable of atmospheric displacement through buoyancy. Some of the most significant advancements in aviation technology came with the controlled gliding flying of Otto Lilienthal in 1896; then a large step in significance came with the construction of the first powered airplane by the Wright brothers in the early 1900s. Since that time, aviation has been technologically revolutionized by the introduction of the jet which permitted a major form of transport throughout the world. (Full article...)

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J-3 aircraft with CAP markings
J-3 aircraft with CAP markings
The Civil Air Patrol is the official civilian auxiliary of the United States Air Force. It was created just days before the Attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941, and is credited with sinking at least two German U-boats during the War. It was seen as a way to use America's civil aviation resources to aid the war effort, rather than grounding them, as was the case in the United Kingdom. Today, the Civil Air Patrol is a volunteer organization dedicated to education and national service, including people from all backgrounds and all walks of life. It performs three key missions: Emergency services (including search and rescue), aerospace education for youth and the general public, and cadet programs. The September 11, 2001 attacks demonstrated the importance of the Civil Air Patrol, as it was this organization's aircraft that flew blood to victims of the attack as well as providing the first aerial pictures of the World Trade Center site. (Full article...)

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Hot air balloon inflation
Hot air balloon inflation
Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human flight technology, dating back to the Montgolfier brothers' invention in Annonay, France in 1783. The first manned flight was made in Paris by Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes. Unmanned hot air balloons are mentioned in Chinese history. Chu-ko Kung-ming (諸葛 孔明) in the three kingdoms era used airborne lanterns for military signalling.

Did you know

...that in the late 1940s the USAF Northrop YB-49 set both an unofficial endurance record and a transcontinental speed record? ...that the Ryan X-13 Vertijet aircraft landed by using a hook on its nose to hang itself on a wire? ... that a USAAF B-17 Flying Fortress aircraft crashed shortly after take-off at Bakers Creek, Queensland in 1943, killing 40 of the 41 service personnel on board and making it Australia's worst aviation disaster?

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Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan (born June 17, 1943 in Estacada, Oregon) is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He is most famous for his design of the record-breaking Voyager, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the suborbital rocket plane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004.

Selected Aircraft

A spitfire in flight
A spitfire in flight

The Supermarine Spitfire was a single-seat fighter used by the RAF and many Allied countries in World War II.

Produced by Supermarine, the Spitfire was designed by R.J. Mitchell, who continued to refine it until his death from cancer in 1937. The elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a faster top speed than the Hurricane and other contemporary designs; it also resulted in a distinctive appearance. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire saw service during the whole of World War II, in all theatres of war, and in many different variants.

More than 20,300 examples of all variants were built, including two-seat trainers, with some Spitfires remaining in service well into the 1950s. It was the only fighter aircraft to be in continual production before, during and after the war.

The aircraft was dubbed Spitfire by Sir Robert MacLean, director of Vickers (the parent company of Supermarine) at the time, and on hearing this, Mitchell is reported to have said, "...sort of bloody silly name they would give it." The word dates from Elizabethan times and refers to a particularly fiery, ferocious type of person, usually a woman. The name had previously been used unofficially for Mitchell's earlier F.7/30 Type 224 design.

The prototype (K5054) first flew on March 5, 1936, from Eastleigh Aerodrome (later Southampton Airport). Testing continued until May 26, 1936, when Mutt Summers (Chief Test Pilot for Vickers (Aviation) Ltd.) flew K5054 to Martlesham and handed the aircraft over to Squadron Leader Anderson of the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE).

  • Length: 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m)
  • Wingspan: 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)
  • Number Built: 20,351 (excluding Seafires)
  • Maximum speed: 330 knots (378 mph, 605 km/h)
  • Maiden flight: March 5, 1936
  • Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 supercharged V12 engine, 1470 hp at 9250 ft (1096 kW at 2820 m)

Today in Aviation

May 28

  • 2010 – The first Solar Impulse aircraft, HB-SIA, the first solar-powered aircraft capable of flying both day and night thanks to batteries charged by solar power that provide it with power during darkness, makes its first flight powered entirely by solar energy, charging its batteries in flight. The flight takes place at Payerne Airport outside Payerne, Switzerland.[1]
  • 2009 – A Nigerian Air Force Van's Aircraft RV-6A Air Beetle crashed near Kaduna, Nigeria on a training flight, both occupants killed.
  • 1999 – An Indian Air Force Mil Mi-17 Hip helicopter is shot down by Pakistan air defence units using an FIM-92 Stinger missile during the Kargil conflict. Four IAF personnel were killed.
  • 1991 – An Sikorsky MH-60G Pave Hawk based at Eglin AFB, Florida, crashes off Antigua in the Caribbean, injuring six of eight aboard, but no fatalities. Although initially reported to have been on a training mission, an accident report obtained by the Northwest Florida Daily News, Fort Walton Beach, Florida, in August, revealed that the crew was sightseeing, taking pictures over beachside hotels and harbors, when the accident occurred.
  • 1982 – No. 410 Squadron became first CF Voodoo squadron to disband.
  • 1971 – World War II hero and movie star Audie Murphy is among six people killed in the crash of a light plane near Catawba, Virginia.
  • 1959 – Twenty-five ex-RCAF Beech Expeditors flew across the Atlantic under the Military Assistance Program, to Portugal and France.
  • 1948 – The Royal Netherlands Navy commissions its first fleet aircraft carrier, HNLMS Karel Doorman (R81), which formerly had served in the British Royal Navy as HMS Venerable. She replaces the first Dutch carrier, the escort carrier HNLMS Karel Doorman (QH1).
  • 1945 – A Curtiss SB2C-4 Helldiver, BuNo 19866, suffers from a stalled engine during a target run and crashes into Lower Otay Reservoir near San Diego, California. Navy pilot E. D. Frazar, of Richmond, Texas, and U.S. Army gunner Joseph Metz, of Youngstown, Ohio, survive, swim ashore, and hitchhike back to Ream Field. The plane is raised from the reservoir on 20 August 2010. The dive bomber will be transported to Pensacola, Florida for restoration by the National Museum of Naval Aviation.
  • 1944 – Luftwaffe Messerschmitt Bf 109G-6, 'Red 3', formerly carrying RQ+DR, werke nummer 163306, crashes into Lake Trzebun in Pomerania, northwest Poland in 0831 hrs. takeoff accident from airfield at Gebbert (now Jaworze), killing pilot Feldwebel Ernst Pleines of 2 Staffel, Jagdgruppe West. (Luftwaffe Verlustmeldung 174 - Casualty Report 174.) He was buried 15 June at Gebbert. Wreck discovered June 1999 in 56 feet (17 m) of water, subsequently recovered by Gdańsk-based Klub Pletwonurków Rekin (Shark Divers' Club) for the Polish Eagles Aviation Foundation for restoration and display.
  • 1938 – The Bristol 146 was built by Bristol to an Air Ministry order for a prototype single-seat eight-gun fighter meeting F.5/34 issued in 1934. The specification further called for an air-cooled engine for overseas use. The Type 146, K5119, incorporated the experience of metal-skinned monoplanes that Bristol had gained with the earlier Type 133, but was quite different in detail. Delivered to Martlesham in April 1938, it came close to meeting the specified requirements, but was not ordered into production. On this date, following an Empire Air Day display at Filton Aerodrome, the sole Type 146, while taxiing, struck a "set-piece" display and was damaged beyond economic repair. It was the last single-engined fighter to be built by Bristol.
  • 1931 – A Bellanca with a Packard DR-980 diesel engine flew for 84 h: 32 m without landing for fuel setting a record.
  • 1921 – Seven men, five of the Army and two civilians, were killed in the wreck of an Army Curtiss Eagle ambulance airplane, USAAS 64242, 64243 or 64244, near Indian Head, Maryland, 40 miles southeast of Washington, in a terrific wind and electrical storm at 1825 hrs. The dead were: Lieutenant Colonel Archie Miller, U.S.A., M. H., Washington, D.C.; Maurice Connolly of Dubuque, Iowa, formerly a member of the United States House of Representatives; A. G. Batchelder of Washington, chairman of the Board of the American Automobile Association; Lieutenant Stanley M. Ames of Washington, pilot of the wrecked plane; Lieutenant Cleveland M. McDermott, Langley Field, Virginia; Lieutenant John M. Pennewill, Langley Field, Virginia; and Sergeant Mechanic Richard Blumenkranz, Washington. Army Air Service officers said the accident was the worst in the history of aviation in the United States and that it was one of the few in which all of the passengers in a falling plane had been killed almost instantly. The ship struck the ground nose first and the impact was so great that the big 400-horsepower Liberty motor in the front end of the craft was torn from its chassis and thrown back into the cockpit on top of the pilot and the passengers. All the bodies were mutilated. The Curtiss-Eagle was returning from a trip to Langley Field, near Newport News, Virginia where it had departed at 1630 hrs., and had just crossed the Potomac River, when it ran into the storm which had passed over Washington an hour before.
  • 1921 – Geo Mestdagh, Belgian aviation pioneer, dies.
  • 1920 – The first Lewis & Vought VE-7 (Vought Experimental No.7) is delivered to the U. S. Navy.
  • 1914 – Glenn Curtiss successfully flies the refurbished Langley Aerodrome for a distance of approximately 150 ft. at Keuka Lake, Hammindsport, New York.