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The Boeing 747, one of the most iconic aircraft in history.

Aviation, or air transport, refers to 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 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.

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Color Autochrome Lumière of a Nieuport Fighter in Aisne, France 1917
One of the many innovations of World War I, aircraft were first used for reconnaissance purposes and later as fighters and bombers. Consequently, this was the first war which involved a struggle for control of the air, which turned it into another battlefield, alongside the battlefields of land and sea.

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Giant Plane Comparison.jpg
Credit: Clem Tillier

An overlay diagram showing four of the largest wide-body aircraft ever built, the Hughes H-4 Hercules (the "Spruce Goose", aircraft with the greatest wingspan), the Antonov An-225 Mriya (the largest freight aircraft), the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (soon to be the largest version of the Jumbojet), and the Airbus A380-800 (the largest passenger aircraft).

...Archive/Nominations

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 Indra Lal Roy of the Royal Air Force became India's first flying ace after he achieved 10 victories in thirteen days during World War I? ... that Jimmy Doolittle commanded a 22 plane demonstration celebrating the opening of Henderson, Kentucky's Audubon Memorial Bridge in 1932?

Selected Aircraft

B-17 on bomb run.jpg

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is an American four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 planes, the airplane outperformed both the other entries and the Air Corps' expectations. Although losing the contract due to an accident, the Air Corps was so in favor of the B-17 that they ordered 13 B-17s regardless. Evolving through numerous design stages, from B-17A to G, the Flying Fortress is considered the first truly mass-produced large aircraft. From its pre-war inception, the USAAC touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a high-flying, long-ranging potent bomber capable of defending itself. With the ability to return home despite extensive battle damage, its durability, especially in belly-landings and ditchings, quickly took on mythical proportions.

The B-17 was primarily involved in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial targets. The United States Eighth Air Force based in England and the Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy complemented the RAF Bomber Command's night-time area bombing in Operation Pointblank, which helped secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for Operation Overlord. The B-17 also participated, to a lesser extent, in the War in the Pacific.

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Selected biography

Benjamin Delahauf Foulois in flying helmet.jpg
Benjamin Delahauf Foulois (1879-1967) was an early aviation pioneer who rose to become a chief of the U.S. Army Air Corps. The son of a French immigrant, he was born and raised in Connecticut. He enlisted in the Army at age 18 to serve in the Spanish–American War. After just a few month he was separated because of disease he had picked up in Puerto Rico. He re-enlisted in 1899 and was sent to the Philippines where he received a commission as a Second Lieutenant. Foulois believed that the new airplane would replace the cavalry for reconnaissance and in 1908 transferred into the Signal Corps.

Foulois conducted the acceptance test for the Army's first aircraft, a Wright Model A, in 1909. He participated in the Mexican Expedition from 1916–17 and was part of the American Expeditionary Force in France during World War I where he was responsible for the logistics and maintenance of the U.S. air fleet. During World War I he and Billy Mitchell began a long and hostile relationship over the direction of military aviation and the best method to get there. After the war he served as a military attaché to Germany where he gathered a great deal of intelligence on German aviation. He later went on to command the 1st Aero Squadron and ultimately commanded the Air Corps.

He retired in 1935 as part of the fallout from the Air Mail scandal. Foulois continued to advocate for a strong air service in retirement. In 1959, at the invitation of the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, Foulois began touring Air Force bases advocating national security. He died of a heart attack on 25 April 1967 and is buried in his home town of Washington, Connecticut.

In the news

Wikinews Aviation portal
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Today in Aviation

April 18

  • 2009 – Royal Air Maroc Boeing 747-2 B6 B CN-RME is substantially damaged when it lurches forward during an engine ground run and subsequently goes through a fence at Mohammed V International Airport, Morocco.
  • 2005 – A United States Air Force F-16D crashed next to the Ashley River near Charleston, South Carolina. The two crew members ejected safely. Both the main power and backup power failed moments before the crash, the pilot said.
  • 1999 – Royal Australian Air Force General Dynamics F-111G, A8-291, c/n B1-63, of 6 Sqn., crashes about 2230 hrs. while on exercises in Malaysia. Believed to have hit one of two peaks on small island Pulua Aur, off the east coast of the Malay Peninsula, and then crashed into the South China Sea. The two crew, Sqn. Ldr. Steve Hobbs and Flt. Lt. Anthony Short, are killed.
  • 1993 – USAF aircraft attack and destroy an Iraqi radar station
  • 1991 – Eastern Air Lines is dissolved after 64 years of operation. Many of its remaining assets are parceled out to American and Continental.
  • 1988 – The U. S. Navy conducts Operation Praying Mantis against Iranian forces and facilities in the Persian Gulf. A-6E Intruders from the aircraft carrier USS Enterprise (CVN-65) sink a speedboat, assist surface ships in sinking the frigate Sahand, and cripple the frigate Sabalan. Two Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force F-4 Phantom fighters approach the guided-missile cruiser USS Wainwright (CG-28), which damages one of them with a surface-to-air missile.
  • 1986 – STS-61-C Space Shuttle Columbia returns on earth, last shuttle mission before the Space Shuttle Challenger disaster.
  • 1986 – Aerovias Guatemala Sud Aviation SE-210 Caravelle III crashed in the jungle 8 km (5 mls) from Flores (Guatemala) after two missed approaches, killing all 87 occupants.
  • 1982 – Death of Josef Mai, German WWI fighter ace and WWII instructor.
  • 1981 – Bell Helicopters delivered its 25.000th helicopter, a Model 222, to Omniflight Helicopters.
  • 1979 – Death of Giovanni Ballestra, Italian Air Force pilot, not bailing out of his F-104 Starfighter on fire in order to avoid victims in a high denisity population zone.
  • 1977 – Philippine Airlines DC-8-53 RP-C803 was operating Philippine Airlines Flight 421 when during takeoff at Haneda, Japan it lifted off prematurely, banked, touched down, and ran off the runway tearing off the undercarriage and all 4 engines. There were no fatalities; however the aircraft was damaged beyond repair.
  • 1974Court Line Flight 95, a BAC One-Eleven, collides with a Piper Aztec on the runway at London Luton Airport, killing the pilot of the Aztec; there are no casualties on board the One-Eleven, but the aircraft is substantially damaged; the Aztec is written off.
  • 1973 – Results of the USAF A-X fly-off announced, with the Fairchild YA-10 selected over the Northrop YA-9.
  • 1969 – Soyuz 5 reenters earth.
  • 1965 – Death of Charles Marie Joseph Leon Nuville, French WWI fighter ace and WWII officer.
  • 1960 – Capital Airlines Flight 20 Vickers 745D Viscount crashes into a farm in Charles City County, Virginia, killing all 50 aboard.
  • 1958 – The Avro CF-105 Arrow prototype exceeded M 1.5 at 50,000 ft during a test flight at Malton, Ontario, piloted by J. Zurakowski.
  • 1958 – Birth of Jeffrey Nels Williams, USAF test pilot and NASA astronaut.
  • 1958 – US Navy Lieutenant-Commander George Watkins flies from Edwards Air Base in California to a world record absolute altitude within the atmosphere of 76,932 feet in a Grumman F11 F-1 Tiger.
  • 1957 – End of Operation Power Flite, 3 B-52 B aircraft of the 93rd Bombardment Wing of the 15th Air Force lands at March Air Force Base near Riverside, California after flying for a total of 45 hours and 19 min, first jet aircraft to circle the world nonstop.
  • 1955 – Second prototype Lockheed XF-104A Starfighter, 53-7787, c/n 083-0002, is lost when airframe sheds the bottom ejection seat hatch fairing during 20 mm gun firing causing an explosive decompression. Test pilot Herman R. "Fish" Salmon ejected as aircraft broke up, injured landing in rough country. Joe Baugher cites date of 14 April for this accident.
  • 1952 - The Convair YB-60 makes a successful first flight at Carswell Air Force Base at Fort Worth, Texas.
  • 1945 – Luftwaffe ace (six victories) Oberst Johannes Steinhoff, of the jet experten Jagdverband 44, suffers tire blow-out on take-off from Flughafen München Riem when his Messerschmitt Me 262 hits a bomb crater. He lifts off, but without sufficient flying speed, he crashes, suffering severe burns, spending two years in hospital.
  • 1944 – Death of Eugene Jules Emile Camplan, French WWI flying ace.
  • 1944 – Air Solomons (AirSols) begins a very successful series of photographic reconnaissance flights over the Mariana Islands. The missions continue into June.
  • 1943 – P-38 Lightnings intercepted Japanese aircraft and take down two Mitsubishi bombers over Bougainville, killing Admiral Yamamoto, Japan’s leading military strategist.
  • 1942 – First jet engine test in the United States: General Electric 1-A engine successfully tested in Lynn, Massachusetts.
  • 1930 – Death of Tommaso (Tomaso) Dal Molin, Italian pilot in the crash of his seaplane racer Savoia-Marchetti S.65 on Lake Garda.
  • 1929 – First flight of the Bourgois-Sénemaud AT 40, French two-seat, single-engine parasol wing monoplane tourer prototype
  • 1920 – Death of Albert René Chabrier, French WWI flying ace.
  • 1919 – CMA (Compagnie des Messageries Aériennes) commences a mail and freight service between Paris and Lille, using ex-military Breguet 14s.
  • 1918 – Birth of Frederick C. Bock, WWII pilot who took part in the atomic bombing of Nagasaki in 1945, flying the B-29 bomber 'The Great Artist'
  • 1917 – William E. Boeing’s Pacific Aero Products Company is renamed the “Boeing Airplane Company. ”
  • 1916 – Birth of Giorgio Savoja (Savoia), Italian WWII fighter pilot.
  • 1916 – The first all-American air squadron in Europe is formed at the French spa town of Luxevil-les-Bains. Nieuport Squadron Nº 124, unofficially known as the “Escadrille Américaine” (American Squadron), is composed of volunteers who will be under the command of a French captain, Georges Thénault.
  • 1913 – Birth of Wing Commander George Cecil Unwin DSO, DFM & Bar, British WWII fighter ace.
  • 1911 – Eugene B. Ely makes the first landing by an aircraft on a ship when he flies his Curtiss Model D pusher biplane from Selfridge Field near San Francisco to a specially prepared wooden deck on the stern of the armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania.
  • 1893 – Birth of Douglas Evan Cameron, British WWI flying ace.
  • 1893 – Birth of Dr. Wolfgang Benjamin Klemperer, German prominent aviation and aerospace scientist and engineer, who ranks among the pioneers of early aviation.
  • 1891 – Birth of Herbert Wilhelm Franz Knappe, German WWI flying ace
  • 1888 – Birth of Sir Thomas Octave Murdoch Sopwith, CBE, Hon FRAeS, English aviation pioneer, founder of the Sopwith Aviation Company and yachtman.
  • 1882 – Birth of Gaston Caudron, French aviation pioneer and aircraft designer along with his brother René.


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