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Aviation History

Aviation History 




What Does a Historian Do?

Early Aviation (1783-1914)

The Invention of Aviation




Wright Brothers (1896-1914)      

Heavier than Air

Wright Brothers

Wright Patent

Wright Airplanes


Early Flight (1904-1914)  

Airplanes and Airmen in Europe

American Developments

Flying Competitions

Aviation Industry


World War I (1914-1919) 

Airships, Dirigibles, and Balloons

Military Airplanes

Aircraft Production

Armistice and Peace


Peacetime Aviation (1919-1927)  

Peacetime Distance Flying


Barnstorming and Competing

Airlines and Airmail


Golden Age (1927-1939)  

Charles Lindbergh

Adventure, Exploration, and Sport

Commercial Airlines and Airliners

Aviation Radio and Military Aviation


World War II (1939-1945)   

War Emergency and Response

Military R&D and Production

The Western Air War

The Pacific Air War


Cold War (1945-1958)        

Resumption of Civil Aviation

Commercial Aviation

Hot Spots

Rockets, Missiles, and Satellites


Space Age Aviation (1959-1989)     

Space Race

Cold War Continues

Jet Age

Private and General Aviation


Modern Aerospace (1990-Present) 

General and Commercial Aviation

Commercial Aviation

Military Aerospace

Space Exploration

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What was aviation? That is the central question addressed by Aviation History. What was aviation in different places and at different times? This textbook presents a chronological survey of information about aviation around the world based on the work of many historians who have carefully studied evidence pertaining to past events in aviation. The textbook presents a synthesis of what is known about the history of aviation. This coverage is comprehensive chronologically and geographically, yet selective and representative; it is neither encyclopedic nor definitive.

The arrangement is chronological by period, with themes discussed within each period and themes providing the transition between periods. Change and continuity are two issues behind the entire story and within each episode. What has changed? What has remained the same? Why? Asking and answering these questions are the essence of doing history.

Students in any history course become student historians. It is thus important for students to become familiar with what a historian does. Aviation History has students practice examining aviation from the historical perspective. How a historian approaches a topic is distinct from how a sociologist, anthropologist, engineer, or someone from another discipline studies the same topic, though a good historian takes advantages of the knowledge gleaned from other disciplines.


Like detectives, historians gather and analyze evidence about what happened. Historians use statements about the past as evidence of what aviation was at different times. This evidence may be in the form of written statements, oral statements, and even material statements. Throughout Aviation History “Historical Evidence” boxes provide information about specific sources of evidence relevant to the content of the text near the respective boxes.

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EARLY AVIATION (1783-1914)


This brief summary of events includes aviation events and historical events outside of aviation. The purpose is to give the student a chronological overview of what was happening in aviation and in the world during the period covered by the chapter.


What was aviation? This chapter mentions earliest aviation as ideas expressed in myths and proposals, covers the invention of aviation as ballooning in 1783, and discusses the development of lighter-than-air flight, including balloons, dirigibles, and airships.

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1. The Montgolfier Brothers: Joseph and Étienne Montgolfier invented the hot air balloon in 1873. This balloon was the first aircraft.

2. The First Balloon Ascension: On 4 June 1783 the Montgolfiers launched their balloon from Annonay, France. This was the first public demonstration of flight.

- Why was the Montgolfier paper strong enough to make balloons? The textbook does not explain, as its focus is aviation, not papermaking, but a student may ask this obvious question. Here is a brief explanation:

- Paper originated in China. In 105 A.D. Ts’ai Lun, a court official, discovered the new writing material. He made paper by shredding mulberry bark, mixing the shreds with scraps of linen and hemp, saturating the mixture, beating the wet mess, and thereby producing pulp. He inserted a mold into the pulp to form a sheet of paper, which was then dried in the sun. The Chinese produced paper in Lei-Yang for centuries. Papermaking gradually spread in China. Muslim invaders captured a papermill in Samarkand, China, in the year 751. There they learned how to make paper. The Muslims took papermaking to the Middle East and to Muslim Spain. According to Montgolfier family legend, the family inherited papermaking from a 12th-century crusader who on the Second Crusade to the Holy Land acquired the art of papermaking in Damascus. In late medieval Europe rag paper replaced the vellum and parchment then in use. During the 16th century papermaking became a major industry in Europe. The product was rag paper made of cotton and linen fibers, often made literally of rags. The Industrial Revolution of the late 18th and the early 19th centuries mechanized the production process. Joseph Montgolfier’s experimentation with the mechanics of heat and his invention of machinery were part of this Industrial Revolution. Not until about 1880 did papermakers began using wood, which has weaker fibers than rag, so the rag paper used on the Montgolfiers’ balloons was stronger than wood-pulp paper in routine use today.

3. Competition: J.A.C. Charles developed the hydrogen balloon and launched it on 27 August 1783. This hydrogen balloon was a technology in competition with the Montgolfiers’ hot air balloon, and Charles was a competing aircraft designer.

4. Hot Air Development: Very rapidly the Academy of Science and the French Government became supporters of aircraft development, and the Montgolfier brothers launched a balloon that carried live animals in demonstration of the feasibility of manned flight.

5. Manned Flight: Several individuals flew before the end of 1783—first Étienne Montgolfier in tethered test flights, then others in tethered flight, and finally on 21 November 1783 Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and François Laurent, the marquis d’Arlandes, in free flight of a Montgolfier balloon.

6. Hydrogen Balloon Development: After improving the method of producing hydrogen, M.N. Robert and J.A.C. Charles flew a hydrogen balloon in free flight on 1 December 1783.

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1. The Montgolfiers Continue: The Montgolfier brothers flew a large passenger-carrying balloon in January 1784 and collaborated on balloon development for months more, then turned their attention to other interests.

2. Military Aviation: France brought ballooning into its army, starting in 1794 when France created the first air force —a compagnie d’aerostiers (a company of balloonists).

3. International Aviation: The newly invented balloon attracted international attention, and people went aloft in balloons in Italy, Ireland, Scotland, England, and the United States in 1784.

- Ballooning in the United States: Unmanned balloons and tethered flights became popular in the young United States, and French balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard introduced manned free flight to the Americas in 1793.

4. Exhibition Flying: Nineteenth-century balloonists flew to exhibit flight and to reach distant locations, and in the process they developed balloons that cost less to purchase and operate and balloons that performed better; for example, Charles Green invented the dragline in the 1830s.

5. Military Aviation Developments: The armies of Austria, France, and the United States used balloons in 19th-century wars; Austria used balloons against Venice, France against the Prussians, and the United States against its Confederate rebels.

6. Exploration: Swedish aeronaut S.A. Andrée attempted to fly a balloon to the North Pole, to fly over geography so cold, icy, and harsh that it had foiled all surface attempts to date to reach the pole; Andrée’s 1897 flight similarly failed to reach the pole.

7. Turn of the Century: Ballooning expeditions and the expensive sport of ballooning were news headlines.

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1. Directional Control: Jean-Pierre Blanchard attempted to control the direction of flight using wings, oars, and fans; he failed to achieve directional control.

2. Dirigible Flight: Henri Giffard used a steam engine to power the first dirigible flight; the three-horsepower engine proved sufficient to enable the aircraft to be steered.

- Dirigible Development: Aircraft designers adapted the internal combustion engine and electric power to dirigible balloons, and Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe offered a cash prize to encourage dirigible flight, a prize won by Alberto Santos-Dumont.

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1. Airship Development: Aircraft designers in Austria-Hungary, France, Great Britain, Germany, Italy, and the United States developed dirigible balloons with semi-rigid and rigid frameworks (airships) around the turn of the century.

2. Exploration: Walter Wellman attempted to reach the North Pole in a semi-rigid airship in 1906, 1907, and again in 1909, but he failed despite his aircraft being equipped with power and control mechanisms.

3. Zeppelins: Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin built his first rigid airship in 1900, and the first commercial airline began service in 1910 using Zeppelin airships.


The development of aviation technology from the first balloons of 1783, to dirigible balloons in the 19th century, to dirigible balloons with framework—airships at the turn of the century, created three forms of lighter-than-air aircraft that flew into the twentieth century.

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This chapter covers the early development of heavier-than-air flight, the 19th-century attempts to make and fly an airplane, and the successful development of a practical airplane by Wilbur and Orville Wright.

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1. Sir George Cayley: Sir George Cayley of Great Britain conceived the idea of the modern airplane; identified the forces of lift, drag, and thrust as crucial to flight; built models and wrote articles; and even sent a man aloft in a glider.

2. Henson and Stringfellow: William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow built airplane models, and Stringfellow’s steam-powered model drop-launched from a wire may actually have flown.

3. Otto Lilienthal: The German aeronautical pioneer Otto Lilienthal thought an airplane would be an ornithopter with flapping bird-like wings, yet he accomplished influential work by designing, building, and flying fixed-wing gliders.

4. Octave Chanute: A French immigrant to the United States, Octave Chanute wrote a history of flying machines published in 1894, built man-carrying gliders and experimented with them in flight, and informed European colleagues about the work of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

5. Nineteenth-Century Aeronautics: People around the world explored the possibility of heavier-than-air flight during the 19th century, some in fantastic ways and others along practical lines.

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1. The Problem of Mechanical Flight: Wilbur and Orville Wright defined mechanical flight broadly as the plane and the pilot, stability and maneuverability, and based on this broad definition, they decided to build a relatively unstable airplane so that the pilot could control it in flight.

- Gliders: The Wright brothers initially built and flew gliders in order to obtain data about and experience with flight.

- Control: The brothers focused particularly on the problem of controlling an airplane about the three axes.

- Engine: Given the advances in internal combustion technology, the Wright brothers were confident that a powerful enough and lightweight enough engine could be built for their airplane, and local mechanic Charles Taylor built it for them.

2. Airplane Flight: The Wright Flyer flew four times on 17 December 1903, twice with Orville at the controls and twice with Wilbur there: these were the first sustained flights of a powered and manned airplane under the control of a pilot.

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1. Wright Flying Machine: Wilbur and Orville Wright applied for a patent in 1903—before the first flights of their Flyer, and the resulting patent (awarded in 1906) defined their “flying-machine.”

- Wings: The Wright patent described the airfoils or wings in great detail, including the control wires that could warp or twist the wings for banking and turning.

- Control: A pilot could warp the wings by moving the hip cradle connected via pulley and rope to the wings; wing warping was, in the words of the patent, “any construction whereby the angular relations of the lateral margins of the aeroplanes [wings] may be varied in the opposite directions with respect to the normal planes.”

2. Historical Evidence: The Wright brothers applied for foreign patents and obtained them; Belgium, France, and Great Britain awarded them patents before the United States did.

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1. Flyer No. 2: The Wrights’ second airplane had less camber and more horsepower than the first, and in this plane in 1904 the brothers experimented with flight and learned more how to fly an airplane.

2. Flyer No. 3: The brothers’ 1905 airplane incorporated improvements based on lessons learned with the earlier planes, and the brothers achieved their longest flights to date, in terms of both time and distance.

- Marketing Attempts: Wilbur and Orville Wright grounded themselves in the autumn of 1905 because they still did not have patent protection for their technology, yet they approached the United States government and British government about possible military sales of the airplane.

3. Refurbished Flyer No. 3: In 1908 the brothers resumed flying an improved Flyer No. 3, now equipped with a seat for the pilot and a second seat for a passenger, and they took a passenger for a safe ride before crashing the plane.

4. European Tour: With an army order in hand (the first airplane order from the United States Army), the Wright brothers built the two-seat Model A airplane, which Wilbur Wright demonstrated with great success in Europe in 1908-1909.

5. More Military Sales: Wilbur and Orville Wright soon sold Model B airplanes, equipped with wheels instead of the landing skids characteristic of their earlier planes, to the United States Army.

6. Wright Company: In late 1909 the Wright brothers founded the Wright Company to manufacture and sell airplanes.


Wilbur and Orville Wright developed heavier-than-air flight into a practical airplane through their glider flights of 1900, 1901, and 1902, and their Flyer of 1903, Flyer No. 2 of 1904, and Flyer No. 3 of 1905.

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EARLY FLIGHT (1904-1914)


Aviation technology developed on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean during the early years of the 20th century and produced a competitive industry, a growing technological infrastructure, and a romance with aviation.

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1. European Developments: Octave Chanute informed the European aviation community of the work of the Wright brothers, but early attempts to replicate that work without knowledge of the technological details failed and Europeans continued independent development of heavier-than-air machines.

2. First Airplane Flight in Europe: The Brazilian dirigible maker Alberto Santos-Dumont made the first officially recognized airplane flight in Europe on 12 November 1906; he flew an airplane of his own design, the 14-bis.

3. Production: In 1905 Gabriel Voisin and Ernest Archdeacon in France organized the Syndicat d’Aviation to build airplanes.

- Henry Farman: Henry Farman established the French firm Farman to manufacture airplanes, initially biplanes, and gained publicity for his new company at the Rhiems International Air Meet of 1909.

- Short Brothers: Horace, Albert, and Hugh Short established an airplane manufacturing business in Great Britain in 1908 and obtained a license from the Wright brothers to build Wright airplanes the next year.

- Louis Blériot: The Blériot XI, introduced in 1909, became the first airplane to fly across the English Channel, and that airplane and flight helped turned Louis Blériot’s little French company into a successful business.

- Igor I. Sikorsky: Russian aviation pioneer Igor I. Sikorsky built experimental helicopters and airplanes before becoming the airplane designer for the Baltic Railroad Car Company, for which he designed the four-engine Grand.

4. German Airplanes: Germany entered aviation a bit later than the United States, France, and Great Britain, but obtained licenses to build foreign airplanes and established about 25 production companies before World War I.        

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1. Aerial Experiment Association: From 1907 into 1909 Alexander Graham Bell led a small team of aviators from the United States and Canada that built and flew experimental airplanes in an effort to develop a practical airplane.

- Curtiss Airplanes: Glenn H. Curtiss participated in the Aerial Experiment Association and then, in 1909, established the first airplane manufacturing company in the United States.

2. Exhibition and Stunt Flying: Both the Curtiss and Wright companies exhibited their airplanes in flight to promote sales, and their pilots and independent pilots added stunts to flying exhibitions in order to increase attendance and their income at their shows.

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1. Aero Clubs: Eight national aero clubs established the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (International Aeronautical Federation) in 1905, and that international body, in cooperation with the national clubs, began issuing pilot licenses to airplane pilots in 1910.

2. Air Shows: Starting in Rheims, France, in 1909, international air shows provided pilots the opportunity to compete in speed, distance, and duration races, and soon other categories like altitude and load.

3. Newspaper Competitions: Newspapers in the United States and Europe sponsored aviation competitions to encourage aviation and to generate news.

4. Gordon Bennett Races: Gordon Bennett, publisher of the New York Herald, sponsored international airplane races, which started in 1909 at the Rheims international air show and continued annually until interrupted by war.

5. The Atlantic Crossing: London’s Daily Mail newspaper in 1913 sponsored a prize for the first airplane to fly across the Atlantic Ocean; the prize was unclaimed when war began in Europe.

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1. Patent Wars Begin: Orville and Wilbur Wright began the patent wars in 1910 by going to court to prevent first one and then other airplane makers from infringing upon the broad Wright patent granted by the United States government in 1906.

- Curtiss Defense: Glenn Curtiss tried various defenses: he denied infringement, he claimed the Wright patent was invalid due to prior patents, and he argued that his aileron system differed in a major way from the Wrights’ wing-warping system of control.

- Other Patent Battles: The Wrights enforced their exclusive patents effectively in the United States, but less effectively in the highly competitive aviation market in Europe.

- Automatic Stability: Orville and Wilbur Wright refined their balance between stability and control with a automatic stability system tested on gliders in 1911 and patented in 1913, but Lawrence Sperry’s gyroscopic stabilizer of 1914 surpassed the Wrights’ stabilizing system.

2. Engine Production: Numerous companies in the United States and Europe began producing airplane engines; one of the first was the French company Société des Moteurs Gnôme.

3. Flight Schools: Early airplane makers taught their customers how to fly, and Louis Blériot and other airplane makers opened schools to train civilian pilots.

4. Airports: Early airfields were fields; they soon became improved fields that had been cleared, mowed, scraped, and equipped with hangars and, sometimes, lights.

5. Publications: Technical and popular literature, even aeronautical maps and international aerial laws, appeared in print to serve the growing aviation market.

6. Airmail: Pilots in various countries carried mail on single flights or short-lived routes, sometimes as private ventures like that of Hans Grade in Germany and sometimes as official airmail as for the Universal Postal Exhibition in India in 1911.

7. Commercial Aviation: Commercial airplane service began as one-time and short-term charter operations, though a short-lived regularly scheduled airline operated in Florida for several months in 1913-1914.

8. Military Air Forces: As various nations established small aviation units within their military forces, these aviation units promoted the development of military airplanes and equipment, like the aviation radio, mostly through purchases and service testing.


The United States led the world in aviation from 1903 through 1908, courtesy of the Wright brothers and their airplanes, but thereafter France held the leadership position in the more competitive European aviation environment.

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WORLD WAR I (1914-1919)


During World War I aviation was mostly a military and European activity, supported by production and training in Europe and elsewhere, that transformed the young industry from small-scale to large-scale production and transformed the production from general-purpose aircraft to specialized aircraft.

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1.  German Airships: During the war the German airship fleet began as a small Army collection of reconnaissance aircraft, became a large force of Army and Navy bombers that targeted civilian morale as well as military facilities, and ended as a Navy branch that effectively patrolled the coasts.

2. German Technology: The German airship makers improved both the process and product during the war and thereby increased not only the number, but also the size, power, and speed of airships, but in the end the war demonstrated the failure of the airship as a land bomber and its effectiveness as a naval reconnaissance craft.

3. French Dirigibles and Airships: As vulnerable during daylight and over land as German lighter-than-air craft, the French dirigibles and airships flew mostly at night and mostly over water where they protected ship convoys and the coasts by scouting for enemy vessels and mines.

4. British Dirigibles and Airships: Great Britain produced small and medium size dirigibles to protect its coasts and for export to allies during the war, copied several German airship designs, and ended the war with the largest fleet of lighter-than-air craft.

5. Drachen and Free Balloons: The Allied Powers and the Central Powers used tethered and free balloons during the war to direct artillery fire, to observe enemy positions and movements, to communicate range to battery positions, to verify damage, and to defend airways.

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1. Combatant Air Forces: All combatant nations entered the war with small air forces of a few hundred or less operational airplanes.

- Germany. Germany began the war with the largest military air force, divided among a large Army air branch and a small Navy air section, and with military flying schools in operation and military aircraft production underway in a growing German industry.

- Austria-Hungary: Austria-Hungary produced too few aircraft, though an adequate number of airplane engines, to meet its wartime needs, and relied upon its German ally to supply it military aircraft.

- France: France had the largest Allied air force at the start of the war and a centralized mechanism to coordinate the production and acquisition of military aircraft during the war.

- Great Britain: The British Royal Flying Corps flew its general-purpose aircraft to France to provide reconnaissance support for the Allied war effort, and the Royal Naval Air Service brought landplanes, seaplanes, and lighter-than-air craft into the conflict.

- Russia: The Russian Army and Navy began the war with aircraft of many different models, including the domestic Sikorsky aircraft as well as many foreign types, some built in Russia under license, but with few combat-ready airplanes.

- Italy: The Italian Aeronautical Corps entered the war with limited combat experience from the Italo-Turkish War, and both the Army and Navy expanded acquisition of military aircraft between the start of the war in Europe in 1914 and Italy’s joining the conflict in 1915.

- United States: The United States entered the war two years after Italy, but was still unprepared in terms of production and combat-ready aircraft.

- LaFayette Escadrille: Citizens of the United States enlisted in the French Foreign Legion, which even organized an American air squadron—the LaFayette Escadrille—before the United States entered the war.

JAPAN. At the beginning of 1910 imperial Japan had no airplanes. The Army sent officers to France and Germany to learn to fly and to buy airplanes. Captain Yoshitsohi Tokugawa returned from France with a Henry Farman biplane powered by a 50 horsepower Gnome engine—and with the first international pilot license held by a Japanese person. In the Farman he made the first airplane flight in Japan on 19 December 1910. Captain Kumazo Hino returned from Germany with a Hans Grade monoplane powered by a 24-horsepower Grade engine, and in this plane he made the second airplane flight in Japan, also on 19 December. The Army then purchased a Blériot monoplane and a German-made Wright biplane. The Navy followed the Army’s example in 1912 when it sent officers to the United States and France. These officers returned with two Curtiss and two Henri Farman seaplanes. In June 1914 the small but growing Japanese aviation community held its first civil flying meet, in which five pilots holding international pilot licenses competed; they flew four imported airplanes and one Japanese-made copy of a foreign plane. The Japanese Army then had 16 aircraft and the Navy 12 airplanes and a seaplane tender.

With the outbreak of war in Europe, Japan complied with the terms of an alliance agreement with Great Britain and declared war on Germany. The Japanese Navy sent the first aircraft against the enemy on 5 September 1914. That day Lieutenant Hideho Wada and Sub-Lieutenant Masaru Fujise flew Farman planes on reconnaissance flights over Chiao-chou Bay in a German-occupied area of China. They dropped bombs made from gun shells and sank a German torpedo-boat in the bay. Japanese Army aircraft entered the conflict on 21 September, when airmen dropped bombs from two Maurice Farman biplanes and a Nieuport monoplane on a German camp in China. The first aerial combat occurred in October when Army and Navy aircraft encountered a German Rumpler Taube in flight. The Taube escaped into the clouds. During World War I Japanese military airmen flew a total of 135 sorties —86 Army sorties and 49 Navy.

A history of early Japanese aviation appears in Robert C. Mikesh and Shorzoe Abe, Japanese Aircraft, 1910-1941 (London: Putnam and Annapolis, MD: Naval Institute Press, 1990).

2. Slowly Expanding Air Forces: The myth of a short war slowed the initial expansion and development of military programs, including aviation.

- Race to the Channel: Germany invaded Belgium and France as it raced Allied forces to the English Channel and its strategic ports, and during this early movement both sides relied upon aircraft mostly for reconnaissance, but naval aviators of both sides fought in the air and raided coastal installations.

- Airfields: Since airfields were still basically fields, the two sides used existing airfields and established hastily prepared fields as the ground forces changed positions until the front stabilized.

- Expansion: As the expected short war turned into a long war, the combatant nations expanded the numbers and capabilities of their aircraft and airmen.

3. Military Aviation Developments: Military aviation technology, techniques, and tactics developed while the combatant nations fought.

- Aerial Combat: Reconnaissance pilots quickly began carrying pistols and hand bombs, and they soon flew aircraft with installed machine guns for aerial combat.

- Bombing: Despite few and ineffective bombs early in the war, pilots increasingly in 1915 attacked enemy trains that carried troops and supplies to the front.

- Artillery: A 1915 innovation was artillery spotting, whereby personnel in aircraft communicated by radio with artillery forces on the ground, in order to guide the guns against enemy targets.

- Communications: The weight of radios initially prompted attempts at other means of air-to-ground communications, but the war effort supported development of the aviation radio and its increasing use in reconnaissance and artillery-spotting airplanes, and by war’s end the use of radio interception and direction finding.

- Forward Firing: French pilot Roland Garros had metal deflector plates attached to his propeller blades so he could fire a machine forward without destroying his propeller, and, inspired by that innovation, Dutch engineer Anthony Fokker devised for the Germans a machine gun synchronized with the propeller so that the gun fired between the blades. This synchronized forward firing was soon copied by other combatants.

- Gentleman’s Warfare: Pilots were officers and gentlemen, sportsmen too, who with forward firing could engage in one-on-one dog fights in the air, popularly conceived as sporting events, but increasingly deadly as planes and pilots adapted to combat roles.

- Fighter Planes: Aircraft makers responded to improvements in anti-aircraft guns and the synchronized machine gun by building airplanes that could fly higher, climb quicker, turn sharper, loop, circle, and dive, as well as shoot, strafe, and bomb: They designed the early fighter planes.

- Bombers: Caproni in Italy and Sikorsky in Russia led the development of multi-engine airplanes capable of carrying bomb loads, and gradually the combatant air forces shifted from using airships as their primary bombers to using airplanes.

- Flying Boats: Flying boats defined by hulls and seaplanes defined by floats patrolled and protected coasts, ports, and convoys, as well as pursued, torpedoed, and bombed enemy targets with such effectiveness that their development and production increased as the war continued year after year.

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1. Production in General: France led the world in airplane production before and during World War I, and Germany had a strong production program into 1916, by which time wartime shortages hampered production efforts.

2. British Production: The war stimulated British production, and the British government began to ration raw supplies to manufacturers and to control the distribution of supplies and laborers among the many private firms and the government aircraft factory.

3.  United States Production: Individual companies developed their respective production capabilities in a response to foreign orders during the first few years of the war, but the United States generally waited until it joined the Allies in the conflict in 1917 before the government coordinated expansion of the aviation production industry.

- Airplanes Made in the USA: The United States tried to limit the number of airplane models in production for the Army Air Service in order to standardize equipment for not only production but also training, combat, and maintenance, yet the resulting De Havilland D.H.4 airplanes reached the front too late and in too few numbers to affect the war.

- Spruce Production: To ensure an adequate supply of spruce for Allied production of airplanes, then largely made of wood, the United States Army established a Spruce Production Division and organized soldiers, loggers, and lumbermen in the Pacific Northwest for that purpose.

- Liberty Engine: The effort to standardize the airplane engine led to the Liberty engine, and the United States, mostly automobile engine makers rather than airplane engine makers, produced nearly 25,000 Liberty engines by the end of the war.

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Treaty of Versailles: The Treaty of Peace between the Allied and Associated Powers and Germany, negotiated at the Paris Peace Conference at Versailles Palace in 1919, and commonly known as the Treaty of Versailles, defined the terms of peace imposed upon Germany by the victorious Allies.

- The Air Clauses: The Treaty of Versailles contained several air clauses that prohibited Germany from having any naval or military air force of any kind and that required Germany to turn over existing aircraft to the Allies.

- Aerial Navigation Clauses: The peace treaty also placed German civil aviation under the direction of Allied and Associated Powers.


Aircraft became stronger, faster, more specialized, and more important tactically and strategically during the war as the aircraft industry in the various nations organized large-scale production, but the cancellation of contracts and the surplus of military equipment at the end of the war curtailed the industry.

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War veterans and war surplus equipment dominated the immediate postwar period of aviation, when civil and military aviators flew long-distance routes, airship construction resumed on a ship-by-ship basis, barnstorming and aerial competitions raised public awareness of aviation, and, as new postwar pilots and equipment became available in the mid-1920s, commercial airlines and airmail services established operations in many countries.

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1. Navy Flight across the Atlantic: The United States Navy sent three planes over the Atlantic Ocean in the spring of 1919, and one flew all the way to Europe: the Navy-Curtiss NC-4 (pronounced Nancy-four) flying boat, with a crew of five commanded by A.C. Read, made that first flight across the Atlantic Ocean, albeit with naval surface support en route and albeit in steps, starting 8 May and finishing 31 May 1919.

2. Alcock-Brown Crossing: The London Daily Mail again offered a prize for the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean, now to be completed within 72 consecutive hours: British war veterans John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown flew a modified Vickers Vimy (designed as a World War I bomber) to victory in that competition on 14-15 June 1919.

3. Airship Roundtrip: During the period 2-13 July 1919 the British-made rigid airship R-34, with Edward M. Maitland in command of the 30-man crew, became the first lighter-than-air craft to cross the Atlantic Ocean, the first aircraft of any type to cross the Atlantic east to west (against the prevailing winds), and the first aircraft to make a roundtrip flight over the Atlantic.

4. Australian Flight: Four Australians, led by brothers Ross and Keith Smith, flew a Vickers Vimy from England to Australia over a 28-day period in November-December 1919 and over a route of more than 11,000 miles (18,000 km); they won a prize offered for the feat, and they united distant parts of the British Empire by air.

5. Other Long-Distance Flights: H.N. Wrigley and A.W. Murphy flew the first transcontinental flight across Australia in late 1919, Pierre Van Rynekeld and C.J. Quintin Brand flew the first flight from England to South Africa in early 1920, and such flights united not only distant parts of the British empire, but also distant parts of the world.

6. Research and Development: Robert H. Goddard in the United States, Hermann Oberth in Germany, and Robert Esnault-Pelterie in France promoted space flight in the years following World War I—Goddard and Oberth by conducting research and developing rocket technology and Esnault-Pelterie by lecturing, and all three by publishing.

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1. Zeppelins: German airship technology heavily influenced postwar airship development, first with the construction and commercial flights of the LZ 120 Bodensee (Lake Constance) and LZ 121 Nordstern (North Star) in 1919 and then through the Allied confiscation and distribution of German airships, like the naval L 72 that became the French Dixmude.

2. R-38: Short Brothers began construction of the rigid R.38 at Cardington, but the British government completed the construction after nationalizing the Cardington plant into the Royal Airship Works; a test flight became the worst aerial disaster to date, when on 24 August 1921 the R.38 crashed and killed 44 airmen.

3. Roma: The United States Navy bought the Italian-made semi-rigid Roma and crashed it in February 1922, with a loss of 34 airmen. The R.38 and Roma crashes convinced airship interests in the United States to abandon the use of hydrogen in airships and to use the less-flammable helium in the future.

4. Shenandoah: The United States Navy built the ZR-1 Shenandoah at the Navy Aircraft Factory in Philadelphia—based on German technology. It was the first helium-filled airship, also the first rigid airship made in the United States, and when it crashed in 1925 it did not burn.

5.  Los Angeles: The Allies allowed Germany to construct the LZ 126 for the United States Navy, which named it the Los Angeles; the Navy converted this airship from hydrogen to helium.

6.  Germany: As soon as Allied restrictions on German airship production were lifted, the Zeppelin company built the LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin in 1926-1927.

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1. Gliding: Restricted by the Allies from powered flight after World War I, Germany revived gliding as an aeronautical activity and made it a major sport, as reflected by the gliding rallies held at Wasserkuppe from 1920 onward.

- The Allies prohibited military aviation and restricted civil aviation in postwar Germany. The Allied limitations did not apply to activities outside of Germany. As the textbook mentions, some German companies opened factories in foreign countries to avoid production bans. Claudius Dornier, for example, moved his design office to Pisa, Italy, and arranged for Dornier aircraft to be constructed in Altenrhein, Switzerland. Hugo Junkers, for a second example, opened branch factories in Denmark, the Soviet Union, Sweden, and Turkey, which produced Junkers aircraft. Other German airplane makers, like Heinkel, accepted orders from Allied countries, notably the United States and Japan, which then overlooked the production of the products in Germany.

- Allied restrictions also did not apply to aeronautical research, and there German engineers and scientists excelled at home—at universities like Göttingen and at research laboratories like the Deutsche Versuchasandstalt für Luftfahrt (DVL, German Aviation Experimental Establishment) in Berlin-Adlershoft. Organizations like the German Scientific Association for Aeronautics and, established in 1927, the Society of Space Navigation (Verein für Raumschiffahrt, VfR) encouraged these efforts. The research programs provided the foundation for the state-of-the-art aircraft Germany was able to produce after foreign interference in German aviation ended.

- Training in Germany occurred in the disguise of the Sportflug (Sports Flying, founded in 1923), Deutsche Verkehrsfliegerschule (German Commercial Flying School, established in 1925), and Deutsche Luftfahrt (German Aviation, established in 1926), as well as openly in the glider movement. Training also went beyond the country’s borders. Germany and the Soviet Union entered into an agreement whereby the Soviet training facility at Lipetsk trained German fighter pilots, mechanics, and observers from 1925 into 1933. The Lipetsk airfield also became a flight test center for German military aircraft built outside of Germany. When the National Socialists (Nazis) assumed power in Germany, Germany continued to hire Soviet personnel, facilities, and resources, like the Soviet service testing stations. These stations tested and developed equipment for the German Luftwaffe (Air Force). The Soviet support ended only when Germany invaded the Soviet Union in June 1941.

2. Barnstorming: Barnstorming in affordable war-surplus aircraft, like the Curtiss Jenny trainer, became the passion of fliers and audiences in the United States.       

3. Army World Flight: To improve the image and funding of military aviation, the United States Army’s Air Service competed for records in altitude, speed, endurance, and distance; for example, in 1924 it achieved the honor of sponsoring the first flight around the world.

- The Plan: The Army carefully planned the flight, from the construction of four specially made Douglas World Cruisers and the selection and training of the two-man crews, to the coordination of international cooperation and the creation of a surface-support infrastructure all along the route.

- The Competition: Teams from Argentina, France, Great Britain, Italy, and Portugal also sought to be the first to fly around the world, but only the team from the United States had the participation of its national government.

- The Route: The Army World fliers departed Seattle and flew west in order to cross the northern Pacific Ocean and northern Atlantic Ocean during periods known for good flying weather, and they went down the coast of Asia, crossed Southeast Asia and Persia and Europe, and later the continental United States.

- The Flight: Four planes departed Seattle on 6 April 1924; the Seattle crashed in Alaska, the Boston ditched in the Atlantic, and the Chicago and New Orleans flew all the way back to Seattle, landing in tandem on 28 September.

4. Billy Mitchell: William “Billy” Mitchell (1879-1936) actively promoted a strong air force independent of the other military services, but in 1925 an Army general court martial found him guilty of insubordination for his criticism of the War Department, specifically for blaming the War Department for the crash of the airship Shenandoah.

5. Speed: The speed record when World War I broke out was nearly 127 miles per hour (204 km/h) and after the war the record steadily climbed to nearly 298 miles per hour (480 km/h) in 1927; in addition to absolute speed, pilots raced at international meets, in national races, and at local air shows during this period.

6. Polar Flights: Two aerial teams reached the North Pole in 1926: the first on 9 May was the Richard E. Byrd Arctic Expedition consisting of Byrd and his pilot Floyd Bennett in the Fokker Trimotor Josephine Ford, and the second on 12 May was the Roald Amundsen-Lincoln Ellsworth Expedition in the Italian-made, semi-rigid airship N1 Norge (Norway), piloted by Umberto Nobile and carrying a total of 16 persons on the flight.

7. Research and Development: The de Havilland Moth biplane, Juan de la Cierva’s autogiro, helicopters of various inventors in several countries, the Wright patent for the split flap, and A.A. Griffith’s description of an axial-flow turbojet engine were among the products of postwar research and development.

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1. Latécoère: France re-established its leadership in the world of aviation after World War I, and Pierre-Georges Latécoère helped by establishing an airmail airline in 1918 with the plan to fly between France and territories on other continents; la Ligne (the Line) reached Africa in 1919 and from there later crossed over to South America.

2. Aerial Diplomacy: The Allies enforced the prohibition against German military aviation and imposed restrictions on German civil aviation, so Germany chose to enter into bilateral agreements regarding German airspace rather than join the multilateral and international convention for air navigation established by the Allies in 1919.

3.  Germany: Allied interference with German aviation influenced the postwar development of German airlines.

- Before Restrictions: In 1919, before the Allies imposed restriction upon German civil aviation, more than 50 German companies applied for airline licenses, Deutsche Luft-Reederei (D.L.R.) and a few others entered service, and the DELAG airship company flew passengers on board the Zeppelin Bodensee.

- With Restrictions: With Allied restrictions, the German airlines pooled and merged to serve continental destinations, and German aircraft makers established foreign plants to get around the restrictions placed on Germany.

- After Restrictions: As restrictions expired, Deutsche Luft Hansa (D.L.H.) formed in 1926.

4. Imperial Airways: Several conservative Brititsh airlines merged and established Imperial Airways in 1924, and that airline, as the name implied, concentrated service on routes between Great Britain and its imperial outposts, like India and South Africa, while ignoring continental Europe.

5. Africa, Asia, South America, and South Pacific: American, British, Dutch, French, German, and Russian airlines explored the globe in search of air routes because airlines provided communication with colonies, between trading nations, and in areas of potential influence and trade.

6.  United States: Far from the combat of World War I, the United States received no physical damage during the war, and after the war the U.S. released as surplus a vast amount of aviation equipment produced too late for shipment to the war in Europe.

- Airmail: The Army Air Service proved the feasibility of airmail service by carrying the mail from May to August 1918, then the Post Office Department’s Air Mail Service assumed responsibility for carrying mail, expanded the airmail routes, built airways along the air routes, and experimented with instruments, equipment, and techniques.

- Legislation: The Air Mail Act of 1925 (Kelly Act) and the Air Commerce Act of 1926 (Bingham Bill) provided for the privatization of airmail and for government subsidies to airlines that won airmail contracts.

- Airlines: Numerous companies formed to bid on the new federal airmail contracts, and those that won contracts—11 in 1926—carried the mail, often carried passengers too, and sometimes also carried cargo.


The postwar years were a period of transition from war status to peacetime practices, from war surplus to new products, and from government and military aviation to private and commercial aviation.

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GOLDEN AGE (1927-1939)


Charles Lindbergh’s historic solo and nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean opened the Golden Age of Aviation, and thereafter general aviation and commercial aviation—supported by newly installed radio and navigation aids—expanded around the globe.

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1. Orteig Prize: Raymond Orteig offered a prize of $25,000 for the first nonstop airplane flight between New York and Paris, and the competition for this prize proved deadly in several instances.

2. Nonstop Transatlantic Flight: On 20-21 May 1927 Charles Lindbergh flew a specially built Ryan monoplane named The Spirit of St. Louis across the Atlantic Ocean nonstop from New York to Paris.

3. Goodwill Tours: After becoming famous for flying the Atlantic, Lindbergh promoted aviation through goodwill flights around the United States (to all 48 states) and to Latin American countries; his transatlantic and goodwill flights demonstrated the reliability of airplanes and airplane engines developed after World War I.

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1. Dole’s Pacific Air Race: Only two airplanes finished the Dole Pacific Air Race from Oakland, California, to Honolulu in the United States territory of Hawaii. This race demonstrated the feasibility and expense of transpacific flight.

2. Atlantic Crossing: Italian pilot Francesco de Pinedo flew across the South Atlantic Ocean, female pilot Amelia Earhart flew solo nonstop across the North Atlantic, Scottish pilot James Allan Mollison flew the Atlantic east-to-west, and soon transatlantic flights became routine though still newsworthy events.

3. German Flights: German aviators and German aircraft (airplanes and airships) made newsworthy and record-setting flights during the Golden Age of Aviation, including transoceanic flights; Claude Dornier designed all-metal flying boats that opened many air routes.

4. Round the World: The 1929 circumnavigation of the globe by the airship Graf Zeppelin, Wolfgang von Gronau’s 1932 flight around the world in the Dornier Do X, Wiley Post’s 1931 and 1933 flights around the world in a Lockheed Vega, and Howard Hughes 1938 flight in a Lockheed 14 demonstrated the capabilities of aviation equipment on a global scale.

5. Polar Flights: Richard Byrd, who had organized the first aerial expeditions to reach the North Pole in 1926, also organized the first flight to reach the South Pole; that was in 1929. Airmen and explorers of various nations explored the polar regions during the 1930s.

6. Italian Distance Flights: Italo Balbo demonstrated the equipment and skill of Italian aviation by leading a squadron from Italy to the 1933 World’s Fair in Chicago.

7. MacRobertson Air Race: A British racer won the MacRobertson Air Race from England to Australia, but commercial airliners from the United States captured the world’s attention for placing second and third against specially made racing planes.

- Sir MacPherson Robertson offered a ten-thousand-pound prize for the winner of an airplane race from London, England, to Melbourne, Australia, and also a two-thousand-pound prize for the winner of a handicap race between the same points. The speed race was to be determined by the shortest time en route, and the route included certain control points ( Baghdad, Allahabad, Singapore, Darwin, and Charleville). The handicap race allowed time on the ground at control points and check points en route, and the winner would be determined by lowest time less the allowable handicap time. Teams in various countries prepared airplanes, usually building new or modifying existing aircraft, and surveyed air routes between the start and finish. Most countries identified the ascending aviation industry in the United States as the competitor to beat. Entries came from the United States (18), Great Britain (17), Australia and New Zealand (12), France (7), Netherlands (4), Denmark (1), Germany (1), Italy (1), and Portugal (1). Twenty-four airplanes were made in the United States, and 27 airplanes had engines made in the United States. Of the 74 total entrants, only 21 flew the race. The winning British team of C.W.A. Scott and T. Campbell Black were familiar with the route, and they flew a de Havilland DH 88 Comet racing plane. Second place went to the Dutch KLM airline team of K.D. Parmentier and J.J. Moll flying a Douglas DC-2 airliner; third place to the United States team of Roscoe Turner and Clyde Pangborn who flew a Boeing 247 airliner; and fourth to another British team (Cathcart Jones and Kenneth W. Waller) in another de Havilland Comet racer. The second and third place showings by United States-built airliners demonstrated to the world that better transport designs were coming from the North American industry. The DC-2, for example, had no special equipment installed for the race, and it carried passengers and mail during the race.

8. Altitude Flights: Airplanes and balloons set altitude records in the 1930s, and Wiley Post designed a pressure suit for his planned flights in the stratosphere.

9. Speed Flights: In addition to speed races, pilots flew to establish absolute-speed records, which rose from 278 mph (448 km/h) in 1927 to 469 mph (755 km/h) in 1939.

10. French Raids: French raids began as exploration of air routes and became sporting and news events in which pilots raced for the fastest time between distant terminals.

11. Light Airplanes: The airplane production industry produced new light planes, like the British de Havilland D.H. 60 Moth and the American Taylor and Piper Cubs, for the emerging class of private pilots in addition to sportsmen and women.

12. Autogiros: Drawn forward by propellers powered by an engine and lifted by rotors turned by the forward movement, the autogiro—often a Cierva machine built under license—entered production in Europe and in the United States.

13. Homebuilt Aircraft: Homebuilding aircraft is as old as aviation, as the Montgolfier balloon of 1783 and the Wright Flyer of 1903. Plans facilitated homebuilding airplanes soon after the Wright brothers’ demonstration flights of 1908-1909, and special homebuilding kits became available in the 1920s.

- Flying Fleas: Henri Mignet built his own little airplanes and inspired a European homebuilding movement with his 8th and 14th designs, the HM.8 and HM.14, “fleas” of the sky.

- Homebuilt Movement: Largely based on plans published by Henry Mignet, the French organized the Réseau des Amateurs de l’Air and the British organized a Pou (or “Flea”) Club in the 1930s.

14. Gliding: Gliding became a German craze in the late 1920s and the 1930s, when Young Flier, Sturmvogel (Storm Bird), and other gliding groups sponsored the making and flying of gliders, and German pilots became pioneers in riding the thermals.

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1. Aéropostale: The French airline Compagnie Générale Aéropostale, successor of the airmail Ligne (line) of Latécoère, flew European, African, and South American routes in the late 1920s and early 1930s, but failed amidst an airmail scandal in 1931.

2. French Aviation: Air France, formed through the merger of five French airmail carriers in 1933, marked the nationalization of the French aviation industry and the beginning of France’s decline from world leadership in aviation.

3. Deutsche Luft Hansa: The German national airline Deutsche Luft Hansa participated in the rise of Germany’s aviation industry, which—with transport planes like the Junkers G24 and procedures like instrument flying—developed a European network of operations in the 1930s.

- Transoceanic Routes: In the absence of colonial posts to use as air bases, Germany experimented with ship-to-land and land-to-ship airmail service that utilized ocean liners, like the Bremen and Europa, for catapult launches of airplanes, or depot ships, like the Westfalen and Friesenland, as mobile air bases.

- International Cooperation: To further expand German aviation, Luft Hansa joined ventures with Spanish, South American, French, and even Chinese partners.

4. British Airlines: Continuing its conservative approach, the British national Imperial Airways carried up-scale passengers in luxury planes between distinguished points in the British Empire, while smaller carriers organized to serve the neglected domestic market and British Airways moved into the European market.

5.  United States: The privatization of airmail through the Air Mail Act of 1925 inspired the formation of many airlines in the United States, and these airlines as well as aviation equipment makers merged, consolidated, and realigned into the Big Four conglomerates of the early 1930s.

- Air Commerce Act: The Air Commerce Act of 1926 stimulated the development of airways, the mapping of airways, the aeronautical study of weather, and the implementation of air regulations by the Department of Commerce, the Weather Service, and the Coast and Geodetic Survey.

- Jeppesen: Elrey B. Jeppesen (1907-1996) in 1934 initiated an aviation publication business to provide pilots with aeronautical charts, landing procedures for various fields, and other flight-related information.

- Airmail Scandal: In 1934 President Franklin D. Roosevelt canceled all airmail contracts and ordered the Army to fly the mail amid a scandal over perceived excessive government subsidies; Congress investigated. Equipment operators (airlines) separated from equipment makers (manufacturers) in order to receive federal contracts.

- Pan American: Organized in 1927, Pan American Airways became the premier American airline operating internationally—fame cemented by its opening transpacific service in 1936 and transatlantic service in 1939.

6. Airships: The United States failed to develop commercial airships; and the British airship program, using airships derived from German designs, crashed with the R.101 in October 1930.

- German Airships: Graf Zeppelin rolled out of the construction hangar in 1927, flew around the world in 1929, and carried passengers on transatlantic flights in the 1930s, but it withdrew from service when the newer Hindenburg crashed in 1937 and destroyed public support for airships.

7. Commercial Aviation: Airlines dominated commercial aviation at the same time that aerial mapping, aerial photography, aerial tourism, air ambulance, bush flying, charter, crop dusting, flying physicians, forestry applications, and taxi service used small planes in commercial operation.

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1. Aviation Radio: The U.S. Army developed military radios, like the radio navigation system used by Lieutenant Jimmy Doolittle in his historic demonstration of instrument flight of 1929, but the U.S. Department of Commerce developed radio navigation and radio communication systems for commercial aviation.

2. Early Radios: The weight of early airplane radios limited their installation and applications initially to large military and commercial airplanes.

- Four-Course Radios: A radio beacon on the ground broadcast two Morse code signals (the letters A and N, dot dash and dash dot respectively) on four courses radiating out from the ground station or marker, and the pilot aligned the plane with the on-course signal of one of the radials; each radial was marked by a continuous hum where the sound of the two letters merged.

- Accidents: Accidents illustrated how the four-course radio navigation system worked and failed to worked, as in the 1933 Boeing 247 crash approaching Burbank’s Union Terminal that killed filmmaker Martin Johnson.

3. Pacific Radios: Pan American installed a new short-wave, high-frequency radio system in the Pacific that provided long-range aid to aerial navigation, as opposed to the short-range capabilities of the low-frequency four-course radio system, but confusion during the 1930s over the developing radio systems contributed to crashes—like that of Amelia Earhart in 1937.

4. Military Aviation: During the relative peace of the 1930s the airplane gradually acquired greater military interest.

- Chaco War: Both Bolivia and Paraguay used airplanes in their border dispute of 1932-1935.

- Fascism: The rise of Benito Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship in Italy, of Francisco Franco’s Falange movement and rebellion in Spain, and particularly Adolf Hitler’s National Socialist or Nazi Party in Germany threatened world peace.

- Abyssinia: Italy used airplanes to drop bombs and poison gas on Ethiopian natives in an effort to add Abyssinia to the Italian empire.

- Spanish Civil War: Germany and Italy supported Franco’s successful attempt to overthrow the government of Spain, which the Soviet Union, United States, and other nations supported in the civil war, during which 15,000 people died in air raids flown by combatants on both sides.

- Nazi Germany: Once Adolf Hitler assumed power in Germany in 1933, he began expanding military aviation and civil flight training programs, and he established an Air Defense League for civil defense.

- Sino-Japanese Conflict: Japan invaded China in 1931 and used airplanes in the invasion and the long Sino-Japanese war that followed; this disrupted commercial airline operations in Asia.

- Military Expansion: The major nations of the world expanded their military air forces in the late 1930s.


With accidents and airline scandals as exceptions, aviation experienced a Golden Age in the late 1920s and throughout the 1930s as the industry expanded domestically within many countries and grew internationally, as the designs and production of airplanes increased applications and safety, and as the infrastructure of air navigation and air regulations developed.

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WORLD WAR II (1939-1945)


World War II involved specialized aircraft produced in large numbers by various combatant nations, and many makes of familiar names domestically became known internationally.

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1.  Poland Falls: The German invasion of Poland began on 1 September 1939, concluded with Poland’s surrender a month later, and demonstrated Germany’s use of aircraft to destroy a country’s air combat capabilities early during an assault—a tactic Germany used repeatedly in its effort to make Europe German by capturing countries one by one.

2. The Phony War: The winter of 1939-1940 provided a lull in the fighting and grounded many aircraft.

- Winter War: The Soviet invasion of Finland and the subsequent Winter War between two neighbors of vastly different sizes demonstrated that attrition of a combatant’s resources, not absolute numbers of wins and losses, could determine the outcome of combat.

3. The Battle for France: Belgium and Holland were in Germany’s way around the northwestern end of France’s fortified Maginot Line, so the German Luftwaffe (Air Force) bombed Belgium and Dutch as well as French airfields and planes on the ground and German pilots fought particularly French and British aircraft in the air.

- Dunkirk: Pushed to the sea (the English Channel) by advancing German forces, the British Expeditionary Force and France’s Northern Army evacuated 300,000 men from Dunkirk to the safety of England across the channel—under the aerial protection of British Spitfires and other fighter planes.

- Mediterranean Region: Concurrent with the Battle for France, Germany launched a major paratroop attack against Crete, and Italy joined Germany in the fighting to conquer enemy lands in the Mediterranean region.

- French Governments: After the fall of France in June 1942, the French government became scattered governments: There was German-ruled “occupied France,” and south of that was authoritarian “ Vichy France,” and throughout France there was a “resistance” movement; also south of the Mediterranean Sea were “Free French” colonies in Africa led by General Charles de Gaulle from exile in Great Britain.

4.  Battle of Britain: The Battle of Britain was an air battle preliminary to a German invasion that never happened because the Royal Air Force escaped destruction on the ground and fought an effective defensive battle against Luftwaffe bombers, fighters, and blitz tactics.

- Battle of the Atlantic: The maritime battle of the Atlantic employed aircraft in reconnaissance, fighter, torpedo bomber, and other roles.

5.  U.S. Neutrality: While legally neutral, the United States supported countries resisting fascist invasion in 1939, 1940, and 1941, most notably by selling munitions and supplies on a cash-and-carry basis and later by lending or leasing war materials through the Lend-Lease program.

- Lend-Lease Act: The Lend-Lease Act of March 1941 permitted the United States to supply any nations fighting aggression and “vital” to the interests of the country.

- National Defense: National defense of the neutral United States justified developing airways and airfields and expanding federal administration to airport traffic control.

6. Spreading War: As the Allies blocked fascist expansion into the British Isles and in North Africa, Hitler turned east and attacked its Soviet partner in a non-aggression pact.

- Operation Barbarossa: The German invasion of the Soviet Union, known as Operation Barbarossa, opened on 22 June 1941 with air attacks on Soviet airfields and aircraft along a long front from the Baltic Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south, but the Soviets stopped the German advance late in the year.

- Ferry Routes: As the war continued, the United States expanded its Lend-Lease program to provide aid to more Allied countries fighting the Axis Powers, but particularly to Great Britain on Germany’s Western Front and the Soviet Union on Germany’s Eastern Front. That aid included ferrying airplanes across the North Atlantic to Great Britain, across the South Atlantic and Africa to Russia, and over Canada and Alaska to Siberia.

7. A Pacific War: The Japanese attack on the Hawaiian, Wake, Guam, and Midway islands and the Japanese invasion of the Philippines and Malaya in December 1941 opened a Pacific theater of the World War. There navies and naval aviation dominated.

8. Training: Training began as war preparedness with civil aspects and became a war emergency led by the military.

- Civilian Pilot Training: In the United States the Civilian Pilot Training Act of 1939 established the Civilian Pilot Training (CPT) program, which, after the United States joined the war, became the War Training Service. This program provided civilians basic ground and flight training.

- Commonwealth Air Training: The British Commonwealth established over a hundred training centers in Canada to prepare air crews for combat in the service of the British Royal Air Force, Royal Canadian Air Force and Fleet Air Arm, and Royal New Zealand Air Force.

- Tuskegee Airmen: The segregated United States Army trained black airmen at the Tuskegee Army Air Field in Alabama, beginning with a group of 12 in July 1941 and continuing through the war. During the war the Army opened a second training center for black airmen at Walterboro Air Base in South Carolina.

- Soviet Women Pilots: After Germany invaded the Soviet Union, the Red Air Force opened a flight training program for female military flight crews and ground crews at Engels, north of Stalingrad. The women trained separately and flew in all-female regiments, but flew in combat routinely from 1942 into 1945.

- WASPs, WAVES, Etc.: In the United States females supported military aviation by joining the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps (WAAC), the Aircraft Warning Service, the Air WACS (Women’s Army Corps air arm), the naval Women Appointed (later Accepted) for Volunteer Emergency Service (WAVES). Female pilots flew military, but not combat, missions through the Women’s Flying Training Detachment, Women’s Auxiliary Ferry Squadron, and the Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASPs).

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1. Helicopters: The European-invented helicopter was further developed and placed into production by the Sikorsky company in the United States during the war.

- Federal Aid: The 1938 Dorsey Bill offered the prospect of government contracts for the production of a helicopter that could meet military specifications.

- Sikorsky Helicopter: Russian émigré Igor I. Sikorsky experimented with his VS-300 prototype in 1939-1940, but lost the competition for the first Army contract awarded under the Dorsey Bill.

- Competition: Laurence Le Page, Haviland Platt, W. Wallace Kellett, Harold F. Pitcairn, Frank N. Piasecki, Arthur M. Young, and young Stanley Hiller, as well as Igor Sikorsky and others, developed helicopter concepts.

- Sikorsky Development: While Sikorsky continued experimenting with the VS-300, he developed the VS-316, better known as Army model XR-4, which entered production as the two-seat Army YR-4 in 1943.

- Sikorsky Production: The Sikorsky company, a division of United Aircraft Corporation, produced over a hundred R-4s, 65 larger R-5s, and some R-6s during World War II.

2. Jets: The war stimulated development of service jet engines, though the basic jet engine had been invented in Germany and in Great Britain prior to the war.

- Frank Whittle: Frank Whittle (1907-1996) developed a jet engine in Britain in the 1930s and demonstrated an operating jet engine in 1939.

- Hans von Ohain: Han von Ohain (1911-1998) developed a jet engine in Germany and built the flightworthy engine flown in a Heinkel HE 178 in 1939.

- Technology Transfer: Under attack by the German Luftwaffe, Great Britain transferred its jet engine technology to the United States, which assigned the technology to the General Electric company.

3. Rockets: Having worked on rocket power for airplanes before the war, Wernher von Braun in Germany led the major rocket development program of World War II.

- Peenemünde: Von Braun directed the German rocket research station at Peenemünde near the Baltic Sea.

- Vengeance Weapons: During the war the Germans developed, produced, and deployed the jet-powered V-1 flying bomb (a cruise missile) and the rocket-powered V-2 ballistic missile.

- V-2: The V-2 was a rocket-propelled guided missile first launched against London in September 1944, three months after the V-1 cruise missile had been deployed against England.

4. Radar: Radar was a defensive weapon the British called reflected direction finding and the Americans called radio direction and ranging (from which the acronym radar came); the British placed radar into operation in 1939.

5. Development Projects: Wartime research and development produced faster aircraft, improved automatic flight control systems (like the “formation stick”), and other technology.

- Deicing: Deicing equipment improved in response to wartime needs.

- LORAN: During the war the United States rushed the newly developed LORAN (long range aid to navigation) into operation for maritime and aviation use.

6. Production: The war demanded increased production in many countries, but the United States, geographically removed from the fighting, became the “arsenal of democracy” that supplied Lend-Lease equipment to Allies.

- Job Shop: The job shop or “European” method of production common in aviation before the war involved small-scale and intermittent production adequate for low-volume demand.

- Line Production: The mass-production techniques of the assembly and factory lines involved progressive and sequenced tasks and allowed wartime production on a large scale.

- Female Workers: As in World War I, female workers filled new and vacated jobs in factories short of male labor due to military service during the war.

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1. Introduction: The Western or European Theater of the war had a Western Front west of Germany, an Eastern Front east of Germany, and a Southern Front south of Germany.

2. Southern Front: The Southern Front dominated combat in 1942-1943 as the Allies tried to defend and retake North Africa and to defeat fascist Italy.

- Battle of North Africa: An extension of Italy’s prewar efforts to expand in Africa, the battle for North Africa pitted the German-led Afrika Korps of German and Italian troops against the Eighth Army of troops from throughout the British Empire.

- Malta: The maritime and air battle for the British island of Malta left the island in British control but with air and shipping facilities sufficiently damaged to disrupt supplying Allied forces in North Africa.

- El Alamein: In October and November 1942 the Allies, heavily supported from the air, inflicted heavy losses on Axis forces and prompted an Axis retreat in North Africa.

- Operation Torch: The United States invaded French North Africa in November 1942 in order to obtain control of airfields for use against Axis positions in southern Europe.

- Operation Sicily: Operation Sicily in July 1943 launched the Allied effort to win continental Europe from fascist control, and to pressure Germany’s periphery to the south.

- Italy: North Africa and Sicily became Allied bases for the invasion of the Italian peninsula, which became a long bloody drive up the peninsula.

3. Western Front: The Western Front encompassed the maritime battle for the North Atlantic, the Allied bombing of Germany, German air raids and vengeance-weapons against the island fortress of Britain, and eventually the Allied invasion of German-occupied territories.

- Battle of the Atlantic: German U-boats prompted the Allies to convoy war materials across the Atlantic Ocean, and aircraft supported both sides of the naval conflict.

- Bombing Germany: The British Royal Air Force and United States Army Air Forces based in Britain took the war to the German homeland by bombing German targets day and night, and the air raids became more effective as the range and number of United States fighter planes improved cover for the bombers.

- Vengeance: Germany sent about 8,000 V-1 jet-powered missiles with high-explosive warheads against London in the summer of 1944, and that fall Germany launched abut 1,000 V-2 rocket-powered guided missiles carrying warheads against London.

- D-Day: The Allied invasion of German-occupied western Europe began with a landing at Normandy, France, on 6 June 1944.

4. Eastern Front: Soviet resistance to the German invasion begun in 1941 stopped German expansion in Europe and thereby prevented Germany from fighting an isolated Britain, as the United States continued to supply Great Britain and now also provided war materials to Soviet forces.

- Battle of Kursk: A German general described the attrition and battle of Kursk: “It is true that Russian losses were much heavier than German; indeed, tactically the fighting had been indecisive. . . . But our Panzer divisions—in such splendid shape at the beginning of the battle—had been bled white, and with Anglo-American assistance the Russians could afford losses on this colossal scale.”

5. Closing the Ring: In 1945 the Allied nations closed the ring around Germany by advancing from the south, west, and east till occupying Germany.

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1. Introduction: Just as Germany and Italy wanted to establish a “New Order” in Europe, Japan sought to create a “New Order” in Asia, and just as Germany tried to destroy enemy air power on the ground during initial surprise attacks, Japan attacked opposing forces without warning in the opening battles of the Pacific War.

2. Surprise Attack: The surprise of 7 and 8 December 1941 was not that Japan attacked territory of western powers, but that Japan launched a three-prong attack against Pearl Harbor, the Philippines, and Malaya.

- Pearl Harbor: The Japanese naval air forces disabled the aerial defense capabilities in Hawaii by attacking aircraft at various airfields first, and the Japanese attackers sank and damaged many battleships, but they missed the oil storage facilities and the aircraft carriers which would prove crucial to the United States conduct of the war in the Pacific.

- Philippines: Despite news of the Japanese attack on the Hawaiian Islands, U.S. air forces were largely destroyed on the ground in the Philippines, which Japan invaded that December and occupied with the 6 May 1942 surrender of forces on Corregidor island.

- Malaya: The Japanese invasion down the Malayan peninsula culminated in the capture of the British port of Singapore in February 1942.

3. Changing Tide: Having destroyed most of the defensive aircraft in Hawaii, the Philippines, and Malaya early in the Japanese advance, the Japanese moved rapidly and relatively unhindered until the Allies established air transport routes to support Allied action in the Pacific.

- Doolittle’s Raid: General James H. “Jimmy” Doolittle led a squadron of raiders against Tokyo in April 1942 in a symbolic demonstration that the Japanese homeland was vulnerable and that the Allies intended to bring the Pacific war to Japan.

- Coral Sea: Aircraft from carriers of opposing navies fought this May 1942 battle which stopped the Japanese advance southward.

- Midway: Attacking the Aleutian Islands failed to divert United States naval forces from defending Midway Island; in fact, United States naval forces caught the Japanese fleet en route to Midway. Aircraft from carriers and from Midway fought the naval air battle of Midway to an Allied victory.

4. Allied Offensive: Having stopped the Japanese at the Coral Sea and Midway, the Allies went on the offensive at Guadalcanal in order to prevent the Japanese from completing an airfield there. In 1943 the United States launched drives from the south and from the east (two paths across the ocean) and British imperial forces and China provided an overland drive against Japanese forces.

- Divine Wind: Japan responded to its military reverses and declining conventional air forces by converting some forces to kamikaze (divine wind) units, and the Japanese launched unmanned balloons carrying fire bombs against North America.

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In 1947 the United States Navy issued a report published as U.S. Naval Aviation in the Pacific. 

The section on “Lesson Learned” lists:

1. Control of the air was prerequisite to control of the sea.

2. Control of the sea permitted the concentration of carrier air power to control the air, and the construction of bases necessary for continued local control of the air.

3. Local control of the sea permitted the landing, support, and supply of amphibious forces on hostile shores.

4. General control of the sea was decisive against an enemy dependent on ocean commerce for vital supplies.

5. Control of the sea, including the landing of military forces on a hostile shore, was properly a naval function achieved by air, surface, and submarine forces acting in concert.

6. Naval aviation was an integral part of the naval forces and, as such, possessed the especially designed planes and equipment and employed the special tactics necessary to fulfill its role.

7. With control of the sea gained and maintained by the Navy, it was possible for land forces to conduct large-scale offensive operations and for strategic bombing to destroy the enemy’s industrial potential at will.”

- These lessons are reprinted as “Naval Lessons in the Pacific” in The Impact of Air Power, National Security and World Politics, edited by Eugene M. Emme (Princeton: D. Van Nostrand Company, 1959).

5. Strategic Bombing: Like the Allied air war against Germany, the Allied air war against Japan relied upon strategic bombing: “The air attack on Japan was directed against the nation as a whole, not only against specific military targets, because of the contributions in numerous ways of the civilian population to the fighting strength of the enemy, and to speed the securing of unconditional surrender.”

- B-29 Bomber: The Boeing B-29 Superfortress was a high-altitude, high-speed, long-range heavy bomber readied for service in the Pacific in 1944, first from bases in China and later also from island bases.

- Firebombing: Like firebombing of German cities, the Allied firebombing of Japanese cities destroyed civil, industrial, and military targets effectively with only moderate Allied losses.

- Assessment: Strategic bombing burned more than 60 Japanese cities and lowered Japanese morale while also destroying property and disrupting production of war materials.

- Atomic Bomb: The United States Army Air Forces used the B-29 to carry and drop atomic bombs on Hiroshima on 6 August and on Nagasaki on 9 August 1945.

- Debating the Bomb: An unconditional surrender was apparently achievable soon without use of the atomic bombs, but the decision makers at the time believed using the atomic weapon could hasten the end of the war and save Allied, mostly American, lives.

6. Peace: Germany and Japan surrendered unconditionally, Germany on 7 May 1945 and Japan on 14 August 1945, the latter formalized on paper aboard the USS Missouri on 2 September 1945.


During World War II, Allied nations fought and won a war against aggressive imperialism, extreme militarism, and ultra nationalism of three authoritarian regimes, and aircraft were integral to the conduct of the war.

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COLD WAR (1945-1958)


World War II ended with the postwar rule of Germany undecided and with the Soviet Union and non-communistic Allied nations no longer bonded by a common enemy. The nations of the world aligned with one of the two superpowers or aligned with neither. The United States led the democratic or first-world side, and the Soviet Union led the communistic or second-world side, while nonaligned nations formed the Third World.

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1. International Aviation: International discussions regarding the options for postwar civil aviation covered proposals for internationalizing civil aviation, plans for imperial air networks, bilateral talks on landing rights, questions about monopoly versus competition, regulation by national governments or international organization, regional or global agreements, bilateral or multilateral treaties, open airspace or national sovereignty over airspace, who should operate airports, and reciprocal air rights versus exclusionist or protectionist policies.

- Chicago Conference: In November-December 1944, 52 Allied and associated nations met in Chicago to confer on civil aviation.

- Five Freedoms of the Air: The five rights were (1) the freedom to fly over foreign territory without landing; (2) the freedom to land for technical, non-traffic, non-commercial reasons; (3) the freedom to load passengers, mail, and cargo in the airline’s country of origin and disembark them in a foreign country; (4) the freedom to take on board passengers, mail, and cargo in a foreign country and to transport them to the airline’s country of origin; and (5) the freedom to transport passengers, mail, or cargo from one foreign country to another foreign country beyond the airline’s country.

- Air Transit Agreement: The Chicago Conference multilaterally agreed to the rights of overflight and technical landing (numbers one and two).

- Air Transport Agreement: The Chicago Conference failed to adopt the commercial clauses (three, four, and five) partly for fear of domination of commercial aviation by the United States or Great Britain; some nations reached bilateral agreements on these points.

- ICAO: The International Civil Aviation Organization recognized the need for international standardization for the cause of safe, efficient, and economical civil aviation.

- The Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed at Chicago on 7 December 1944, stated two goals: “that international civil aviation may be developed in a safe and orderly manner and that international air transport services may be established on the basis of equality of opportunity and operated soundly and economically.” As amended, the convention remains in force.

- In the first chapter, the convention covers general principles like sovereignty, territory, civil and state aircraft, and misuse of civil aircraft. The second chapter discusses flight over territory of contracting states, including right of non-scheduled flight, scheduled air services, cabotage, pilotless aircraft, prohibited areas, landing at customs airport, applicability of air regulations, rules of air, entry and clearance regulations, prevention of spread of disease, airport and similar charges, and search of aircraft. The nationality chapter covers nationality of aircraft, dual registration, national laws governing registration, display of marks, and report of registrations.

- To facilitate air navigation, the convention includes articles on the facilitation of formalities, customs and immigration procedures, customs duty, aircraft in distress, investigation of accidents, exemption from seizure on patent claims, and air navigation facilities and standard systems. Furthermore, the convention defines the conditions to be fulfilled with respect to aircraft, like documents carried in aircraft, aircraft radio equipment, certificates of airworthiness, licenses of personnel, recognition of certificates and licenses, journey log books, cargo restrictions, and photographic apparatus.

- The second part of the convention established the International Civil Aviation Organization and defines its objectives, the rules of the assembly and council, and general procedures.

- IATA: Successor of the International Air Traffic Association, the International Air Transport Association formed in 1945 to establish traffic and fares standards for international airlines.

- Bermuda Agreement: The 1946 agreement reached at Hamilton, Bermuda, between the United States and Great Britain set a bilateral precedent for resolving commercial aviation questions on the international level.

2. Infrastructure: The expanded wartime participation of governments in civil aviation continued into the postwar period.

- Civil Aeronautics Administration: The Civil Aeronautics Administration decentralized by delegating tasks to regional offices and designees for factory standards, aircraft inspectors, and flight instructors.

- Phonetic Alphabet: Based on the wartime United Nations (allied and associated nations) phonetic alphabet, the International Civil Aviation Organization studied the existing phonetic alphabet and introduced changes in 1952 to standardize an international phonetic alphabet, which was lightly modified thereafter.

- Landing Systems: The military ground controlled approach (GCA) and the civil instrument landing system (ILS), as well as European landing systems, competed to become the postwar standard, but a combined system evolved.

- Navigation Aids: Like LORAN, the very-high-frequency omnidirectional range (VOR) navigation aid was developed into an operational technology during the war and adapted for civil use in the 1950s; but the civil distance measuring equipment (DME) system competed with the naval tactical air navigation (TACAN) system throughout the 1950s.

3. General Aviation: The United States dominated general aviation during the postwar period, though after an initial boom in sales of war surplus and light aircraft, the small plane industry experienced low production and low sales.

Home builders: The British Ultralight Aircraft Association, French Réseau du Sport de l’Air, and the American Experimental Aircraft Association represented the homebuilders during the postwar period.

- Agriculture: Evidence of the expanding use of aircraft by agriculture is the establishment of the Flying Farmers and Ranchers in the postwar 1940s.

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1.  United States: Grandfather rights for major airlines—like the “big five”: American, Eastern, Pan American, TWA, and United—plus the wartime experience supporting the war effort eased the transition to commercial airline operations during the postwar period.

- Competition: Major airlines competed for speed and service; nonscheduled airlines and freight lines utilized war surplus equipment; and local-service airlines became “feeders” to the larger airlines.

- Airways Crisis: The volume and type of air traffic overwhelmed the facilities and equipment installed along the federally maintained airways by the mid-1950s.

- Crisis Resolution: Lack of funds, competing technologies, and lack of agreement on a new and modern air navigation and traffic control system led to gradual upgrading of equipment and systems rather than a single solution to the crisis.

- Federal Aviation Agency: In 1958 Congress passed legislation creating a Federal Aviation Agency, to replace the existing Civil Aeronautics Administration, and this FAA became fully operational on 1 January 1959.

2. European Airlines: Postwar European airlines—national flag lines plus secondary airlines—initially bought U.S.-made equipment because the United States had the production capabilities from making wartime transports.

- British Airlines: British airlines purchased U.S.-made equipment while domestic efforts focused on designing a British transport for British production.

- Comet: The British de Havilland company produced the world’s first commercial jetliner—the Comet, a prototype of which first flew in 1949 and a service version inaugurated commercial jet service in 1952.

- Comet Crashes: Six Comets crashed in 1953-1954, and 111 people died in Comet accidents: this forced the grounding of the aircraft until studies revealed that metal fatigue was at fault, so the aircraft and inspection procedures were modified.

- British Leadership: Britain led the world in commercial jet operations and in air accident investigations as a result of experience with the Comet.

- French Airlines: Air France and other smaller airlines appeared shortly after the war; Air France placed the French-made Caravelle jetliner into commercial service in 1959.

- Soviet Airlines: Aeroflot placed the world’s second jetliner into service in 1956; it was the Tupolev Tu-104, but the national airline also used war-surplus Lisunov Li-2s (Soviet-made DC-3s).

- German Airlines: Postwar Germany divided into East and West, and each sector established a national airline called Deutsche Lufthansa, but the segregation provided by the iron curtain limited the confusion that two airlines with the same name might have otherwise caused.

- European Lines: European nations, except poor Algeria, established national airlines during the postwar period.

3. Latin American Airlines: The Allied war against the Axis Powers affected airlines with German investments, German managers, or German partners.

- Axis Influence: The United States in 1941 established an American Republics Aviation Division within the Defense Supplies Corporation in order to replace Axis influence in Latin American aviation.

- Argentina: A single national airline—FAMA (Flota Aérea Mercante Argentina) emerged as the main operator in Argentina.

- Colombia: AVIANCA (Aerovias Nacionales de Colombia) became the main airline in Colombia.

- Brazil: Multiple airlines formed and survived in Brazil, and United States investment declined.

- Mexico: Many airlines operated in Mexico.

4. Africa and Asia: Pan American, British Overseas, Air France, and KLM dominated air travel to imperial outposts in Africa and Asia, until independence movements and a decolonialization trend blew a “wind of change.”

- Japan: Occupation forces banned civil aviation, including any Japanese airline, in Japan for five years, after which time Japan organized the international Japanese Air Lines.

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1. Introduction: While the Soviet Union tried to extend the protective shield of satellite countries around the superpower, and to spread international communism, the United States pursued policies of containment (contain communism within Soviet-occupied lands) and deterrence (deter acts of aggression by threatening devastating nuclear retaliation).

2. Nuclear Weapons: U.S. President Harry Truman favored nuclear weapons and strategic bombing as “cheap alternatives” to fighting costly ground wars.

3.  Berlin Airlift: From late June 1948 to late September 1949, British and American pilots flew over 279,000 missions and carried over 2 million tons of cargo to West Berlin in defiance of a Soviet blockade of the city.

- Vittles: Operation Vittles, to the United States, and Operation Plainfare, to Great Britain, flew supply-laden transport planes from West Germany into West Berlin; the United States military flew the last leg of long supply routes, while the British also contracted with civil companies to fly cargo.

- West Berlin: Airlift planes landed at Tempelhof in the American sector of West Berlin, at Gatow Field in the British Sector, Tegel Field built in the French sector to relieve congestion at the other two fields, and on Havel Lake.

- Soviet Response: Soviet planes occasionally harassed the airlift transports, even shot down two British planes, but accidents due to fatigue, weather, inexperience, and aircraft operation limitations caused more deaths (75 fatalities during the entire airlift).

4. Korean War: Annexed by Japan in 1910, Korea became a spoils of war at the end of World War II, a spoils partitioned into a communist North and anti-communist South, but with nationalists in both parts wishing to unite the country under one rule or the other.

- Bombing: North Korea troops invaded South Korea on 25 June 1950. United States and South Korean forces pushed them back through the North to refuge in China, whereupon 300,00 Chinese joined the North’s cause; meanwhile U.S. B-29 bombers attacked the North. The Chinese used Soviet Tupolev Tu-2 bombers and other Soviet war surplus aviation equipment.

- Jet Fighters: The Korean air war included jet fighters on both sides: the Soviet-made Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 fighters versus American-made Boeing Lockheed F-80 Shooting Star, Republic F-84 Thunderjet, and North American F-86 Sabre fighter planes.

- Other Aircraft: The United Nations forces supporting South Korea used a variety of aircraft from the little Cessna L-19 Bird Dog to Bell and Hiller helicopters to support the war effort.

5. French Colonial Wars: After World War II France wanted to reestablish its rule of colonial territories in Asia and Africa, but the local populations sought independence from all imperial control.

- Vietnam: In Vietnam the end of World War II brought division, as the French moved back into the South and Ho Chi Minh declared independence in the North, and both sides used aircraft to support the jungle warfare that began in late 1945.

- American Aircraft: In 1949 the United States began selling aircraft to France for use against communist forces in Vietnam and thereafter the Douglas SBD-5 Dauntless dive bomber, Grumman F6F Hellcats and F8F Bearcats, Douglas B-26 bombers, Douglas C-47 transports, Curtiss SB2C Helldivers, Fairchild C-119 Packet (Flying Boxcar), and other American aircraft went into action there.

- Dien Bien Phu: The French plan to use the village of Dien Bien Phu as a honeypot, a lure, backfired when communist forces besieged the French paratroop battalions there from November 1953 to May 1954. That defeat prompted France’s withdrawal from Vietnam.

- Algeria: The Algerian National Liberation Front attacked police and troops in November 1954 and thereby fought a long Algerian war for independence, during which the helicopter was integrated into combat plans and actions.

6. Limited Wars: Korea, Vietnam, Algeria, also the Chinese civil war, the Pathet Lao resistance to France in Laos, Indonesia’s struggle for independence from the Netherlands, the 12-year Malayan Emergency, the nationalist Mau rebellion in Kenya, and the first and second Arab-Israeli conflicts illustrate what has been called the “bloody peace” of the Cold War.

7. Atoms for Peace: President Dwight D. Eisenhower proposed peaceful uses of atomic power in 1953.

8. Nuclear Plane: Atomic-powered airplanes attracted research and development funds in several countries, but failed to develop into operational aircraft.

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What was China doing during the post-World War period of the late 1940s and the 1950s?

- Throughout this period China obtained aviation equipment, personnel, training, and procedures from the Soviet Union. This Soviet-derived aviation was largely military. China imported parts and equipment and even flight crews. Yet China had more than ten schools with aeronautical engineering programs in the late 1940s. In 1949 China combined aeronautical departments from eight universities and three factory training schools into a new Peking (now Beijing) Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics. The other three university aeronautical programs in the nation at that time merged to establish the Northwestern Polytechnic Institute in Xian. Other aeronautical programs were established in the 1950s—like the Nanjing Aeronautical Institute and the Aerodynamic Research Institute in Shenyang. The few airplane and airplane engine factories of the period produced Soviet models. What China was doing during this period was constructing a domestic infrastructure on which later to build a domestic aerospace establishment. Information on the evolving postwar situation in China appears in Jerry Grey’s Aeronautics in China, an AIAA Report Based on an AIAA Visit to the People’s Republic of China, August 30 - September 18, 1980 (New York: American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, 1981).

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1. Introduction: Rockets, missiles, and satellites carried vacuum tubes and electronic components.

2. Air Defense: To defend the United States from attack by long-range aircraft, the Air Force employed the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to develop an electronic air defense system.

- SAGE: MIT developed the Semi-Automatic Ground Environment (SAGE) and expanded the digital Whirlwind computer then in development from simply a Navy airplane simulator to a machine that processed data like that from SAGE’s radar sensors in real time and that possessed the brand new magnetic flux core memory.

- Electronics: Transistors were smaller in size than vacuum tubes, and transistors were solid-state devices (with no moving parts), and the next generation of electronics technology—the integrated circuit—was also smaller than its predecessor.

- Bombers: While the United States developed an air defense system, the Strategic Air Command defended the nation with bombers rather than rockets or missiles.

3. Rockets and Missiles: The United States and the Soviet Union used captured German technology, particularly the V-2 rocket technology, including personnel, to develop rockets.

- Soviet Rocket Program: Sergei Korolov led the Soviet team working with captured German V-2 rockets, and the Soviet Union developed defensive missiles and installed them around Moscow.

- U.S. Rocket Program: Even more so than the Soviets, the United States military scientists and engineers—including German scientists and engineers brought to this country under Operation Paperclip—experimented with captured German V-2 rockets; there were 69 V-2 launches in the United States.

- U.S. Missile Programs: During the 1950s the Atlas program developed a large long-range intercontinental missile, while other programs developed medium- and short-range missiles.

- Soviet Missile Program: Like the United States, the Soviet Union developed a variety of missiles with different capabilities during the postwar Cold War, and Soviet leader Nikita Khrushchev decided to use nuclear missiles as a deterrent to discourage western imperialism.

- Satellites: The Soviet Union and United States announced plans to build, equip with scientific instruments, and launch satellites into orbit during the International Geophysical Year (IGY).

- Sputnik: On 4 October 1957, as a scheduled event of the International Geophysical Year, the Soviet Union successfully launched a man-made satellite called Sputnik (moon or companion) into orbit around Earth. This was the first artificial satellite.

- Vanguard: The United States effort to launch satellites during the International Geophysical Year began with Project Vanguard, named after the Navy’s rocket selected to carry a satellite to orbit, but the first attempted launch failed: Flopnik the press called it.

- Explorer I: The Explorer I satellite launched on board an Army Redstone rocket became the first U.S. satellite in orbit. That was 31 January 1959, four months after Sputnik.

- Geophysical Year: The Soviet Union achieved the first successful launch and two more satellites in orbit during the 18-month International Geophysical Year of 1957-1958, and the United States launched more satellites during that period.

4. Research Planes: Airplanes specially made for research helped the United States and the Soviet Union to investigate aspects of flight not adequately revealed through wind tunnel studies or computer simulations that were being developed concurrently with the flight test programs.

- Supersonic Flight: The United States military funded the construction, aeronautical companies employed on government contracts built the airplanes, and the National Advisory Committee on Aeronautics provided the research coordination for a series of research planes that included the Bell X-1 that Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager flew faster than the speed of sound on 14 October 1947.

“First of the Spacemen”: Air Force test pilot Iven “Kinch” Kincheloe flew the rocket-powered Bell X-2 to a record altitude of 126,200 feet on 7 September 1956.


 By the late 1950s aviation had expanded into aerospace—air and space.

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The Cold War tested military preparedness, military capabilities in limited wars, the propaganda skills of both sides, and each side’s ability to fund the space race, science and technology race, and arms race that were major campaigns in the ideological conflict.

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1. Satellites: Satellites led the way into space for many nations, first the Soviet Union, then the United States, and years later other nations.

- Communication Satellites: Providing relay of information, communication satellites began as experimental spacecraft, but soon led to the creation of national and international telecommunication networks, like the U.S. Comsat, Soviet Molniya, the West’s Intelsat, and the East’s Intersputnik.

- Observation Satellites: Satellites could observe the weather, the planet’s surface and surface activities such as floods, and subjects of defense interest.

2. Probing Space: Space probes went near, to the Moon, and far, to the planets near, like Mars and Venus.

- Moon Probes: The Soviet Union’s Luna series of probes achieved many firsts and the Zond spacecraft continued the Soviet exploration, while the Pioneer and Ranger probes took the United States to the Moon.

- Mars: The U.S. Mariner probes achieved the first flybys and first orbit of Mars, and both the Soviet Mars probes and U.S. Vikings made landings on the Red Planet.

- Venus: The Soviet Venera and Vega probes performed the first flybys and landings on Venus, and the U.S. Pioneer orbiters and atmospheric probes also reached the second planet from the Sun.

- Deep Space: The Space Race changed the scale of the term deep space from anything beyond the Earth’s gravitation field to space beyond the Solar System.

- Sun: Some lunar probes had also provided data on the Sun, and the U.S. sent Pioneer and Helios probes specifically to investigate solar topics.

- Planetary Probes: Pioneer and Voyager probes flew by Jupiter and Saturn, and Voyager 2 also reached Uranus and Neptune.

- Comets: The International Cometary Explorer (ICE) encountered the comets Giacobini-Zinner and Halley, and five other space probes also observed Halley’s return in 1986.

3. Manned Space Flight: The two superpowers raced to beat each other in achieving space feats.

4. Soviet Space Program: Sergei Pavlovich “SP” Korolev led the Soviet rocket and manned spaceflight programs for decades, and his R-7 rocket launched Sputnik, Vostok, and Voskhod flights.

- Vostok: The manned Vostok (East) spacecraft carried the first person—Yuri Gagarin, the first woman—Valentina Tereshkova, and other Soviets into space in the early 1960s.

- Voskhod: The Soviets launched the first multi-crew spacecraft, the two Voskhod (Rise) capsules in 1964 and in 1965, and on the latter flight performed the first extravehicular activity (EVA or spacewalk).

- Soyuz: The Soviet lunar program started late—in 1964, developed new spacecraft—the Soyuz, built new boosters—the oxygen-kerosene fueled NK-33, lost its program’s leader, SP Korolev, to death in 1966, witnessed the fatal landing of the first Soyuz astronaut, Vladimir Komarov, in 1967, and endured funding shortages and bureaucratic delays, until it was finally canceled in 1974.

- Salyut: The Soviets launched the world’s first space station, Salyut 1, in 1971, and continued the Salyut space station program through Salyut 7, which was in service from 1982 to 1986.

- Mir: The second generation of Soviet space station was Mir (Peace), launched in 1986, used for years, and finally abandoned in 2000.

- Buran: Buran (Snowstorm), the Soviet reusable spacecraft program, built one Buran spacecraft, which successfully passed the test launch of an unmanned spacecraft in 1988, but never reached operational status; Boris Yeltsin canceled the program after the collapse of the Soviet Union.

5.  United States: In 1961 President John F. Kennedy gave the U.S. manned space program a focus and “the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the earth.”

- Mercury: Begun in 1958, the Mercury Project took the first U.S. astronauts into space, starting with Alan Shepard, Jr., in 1961.

- Gemini: Like the Soviet Voskhod program, Gemini was a transitional program to send people into space during the interim between the Mercury and Apollo programs; the ten manned Gemini missions all landed in water.

- Apollo: The Apollo program tested spacecraft by orbiting the Earth and later orbiting the Moon, and then achieved its mission of landing men on the Moon six times starting with Apollo 11 in 1969 and concluding with Apollo 17 in 1972.

- Skylab: Launched by the U.S. in 1973, the experimental Skylab space station hosted three different three-man crews before breakup upon reentry in 1979.

- Space Shuttle: The Space Transportation System (STS) program built five reusable spacecraft, or space shuttles—Columbia, Challenger, Enterprise, Discovery, and Atlantis; the Columbia initiated shuttle flights in 1981, and the Challenger exploded shortly after launch on the 25th shuttle mission in 1986. (The sixth shuttle, the Endeavour, is discussed in chapter 10 of the textbook, in its chronological context.)

6.  China, Europe, and Beyond: The U.S. and U.S.S.R. led the way into space, but other nations also developed scientific and technological capabilities and space programs.

- China: China launched its first satellite in 1970 and continued an active satellite program thereafter, and its manned space program orbited a spacecraft with a single person aboard in 2003 and another with two people aboard in 2005.

- Europe: The nations of Europe created a technological base, launch capabilities, and satellites by cooperating first in the European Space Research Organization (ESRO, established in 1962) and the European Launcher Development Corporation (ELDO, founded in 1964) and then the European Space Agency (ESA, founded in 1975).

- Southern Space: African and South American nations, notably South Africa, Brazil, and Argentina, established missile and space launch programs as well as developed satellite technology.

- India: The Indian space program took flight initially in 1963 in the form of sounding rockets launched from the Thumba Equatorial Rocket Launching Station and expanded to satellites and satellite launch vehicles at the Sarabhai launch station.

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1. Deterrence: East and West relied upon deterrence—the threat of massive nuclear retaliation—to prevent the other from starting a war.

- Conventional Weapons: The United States developed a strategic bomber program that could deliver nuclear weapons, whereas the Soviet Union built relatively few bombers; both nations developed early warning and command-and-control (AWAC) aircraft and fighter planes, notably the Grumman F-14, McDonnell Douglas F-15, and General Dynamics F-16 for the U.S. military services and the Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-21 in Soviet service.

- Missiles: Both the Soviet Union and the United States placed intercontinental ballistic missiles into military service in 1959, and both further developed the technology subsequently; other nations also developed missile capabilities.

- Nuclear Weapon Tests: The Soviet Union and United States conducted hundreds of nuclear tests—in the atmosphere until the Moscow Treaty was signed in 1963, and thereafter underground (and a few underwater); the United Kingdom, China, France, and India also tested nuclear devices, China and France continuing atmospheric tests after other nations moved underground.

2. Hot Spots: The East and West challenged each other by air, near borders, and in limited wars.

- U-2 Incident: On 1 May 1960 a Soviet surface-to-air missile downed the Lockheed U-2 spy plane flown for the Central Intelligence Agency by Air Force pilot Francis Gary Powers; this proved that the United States was spying and that the Soviet Union had greater missile capabilities than was previously known.

- Bay of Pigs: The United States failed to provide adequate support for Cuban refugees invading Cuba at the Bay of Pigs, and Fidel Castro’s communist forces quickly quelled the invasion.

- Berlin Wall: East Germans fled East Germany by the thousands simply by walking from East Berlin to West Berlin when the city was open, so in August 1961 the Soviet-backed communists in the East began building a wall to stop the economic and intellectual drain caused by the defections.

- Cuban Missile Crisis: The U.S. and the U.S.S.R. came to the brink of war in October 1962 over the secret installation of Soviet missiles in Cuba near the U.S. border, but the leaders negotiated a peaceful solution in which the Soviet Union publicly removed missiles from Cuba and the U.S. secretly removed missiles that it had placed in Turkey near the Soviet border.

- Vietnam War: In an effort to contain communism, the U.S. fought a long war against Vietnamese communist nationalists; the U.S. initially provided advice and sprayed defoliant, then bombed heavily during Operation Rolling Thunder from early 1965 well into 1968 and also during Operation Linebacker in 1972. The U.S. increasingly flew missions to destroy radar that the enemy used to target U.S. aircraft, and greatly expanded the use of helicopters in combat.

- Middle East: Fighter planes were used heavily in the Six-Day War of 1967 and the Yom Kippur War of 1973—both occurring in the Middle East, where East and West competed for influence and where Palestinians and Israelis fought repeatedly over the division of Palestine that had resulted from the creation of the Israeli state.

3. Limited Wars: Limited wars on the Asian, African, and South American continents involved local issues as well as the Cold War competition between political and economic systems.

- Africa: During wars for independence and wars of insurgency, airplanes and helicopters transported personnel and materiel, flew reconnaissance, sprayed defoliants, and strafed and bombed, mostly in counter-insurgency campaigns.

- Afghanistan: The Soviet Union used Sukhoi Su-25 Frogfoot fighter-bombers to support ground units, Mil Mi-8 Hip helicopter transports, and Mil Mi-24 Hind helicopter gunships in Afghanistan—the “Russian Vietnam.”

- Latin America: Rebels movements in various Latin American nations prompted some nations to use U.S.-built aircraft, but often the conflicts used small aircraft such as the Cessna A-37 Dragonfly and helicopters.

4. Defense Systems: The superpowers developed defense systems in case deterrence failed.

- Early Warning: Radar and communication were the keys to identifying incoming enemy weapons.

- Anti-Ballistic Missiles: Both the Soviet Union and the United States developed anti-ballistic missile (ABM) systems that used missiles to intercept inbound missiles, and the Soviet system reached operational status prior to the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972, which halted further development.

- MRV and MIRV: To foil the Soviet anti-ballistic missile defense by making effective defense too expensive, the United States developed multiple reentry vehicles (MRVs) and later developed more complex multiple independent reentry vehicles (MIRVs) that would require the Soviets to built multiple interceptor missiles for each assault missile that the United States might launch.

- Strategic Defense Initiative: Rejecting mutually assured destruction as effective deterrence, and rejecting deterrence with the implied high loss that would result should deterrence fail, President Ronald Reagan launched a research and development program to enable the U.S. to install a space-based defense program.

5. The End: As the Berlin Wall came down in 1989, and as communist regimes in Eastern Europe collapsed, the financially bankrupt Soviet Union merely watched until it in turn collapsed in 1991.

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1. Engine Development: The jet engine provided an aerodynamic puzzle in place of the mechanical monster that the piston engine had become as size grew with power.

- Turbojet: The gas turbine engine brought a degree of simplicity to engine development.  It essentially consisted of a single shaft with a compressor at one end and a turbine at the other, with flame cans in between to create a jet of expanding gasses for thrust.

- Turbofan: The turbofan, also called fanjet or bypass jet, allowed some air to bypass the combustion section of the engine, which reduced heat and noise and increased efficiency.

- Turboprop: The turboprop engine combined gas turbine and propeller technology, which enabled it to operate at lower altitudes and on shorter airfields than the standard jet engine.

2.  U.S. Commercial Aviation: As the U.S. airframe industry consolidated, U.S. companies dominated jetliner production.

- Boeing: Boeing produced military jet aircraft prior to introducing the four-engine Boeing 707 jetliner that entered service in 1958. Boeing followed with the smaller three-engine 727, which entered service in 1964; the twin-engine 737, which entered service in 1968; the jumbo four-engine Boeing 747, which entered service in 1970; and the newer technology twin-engine 757 and 767, both of which entered service in 1982.

- Douglas and McDonnell: Douglas produced the DC-8 and -9 jetliners, introduced into service respectively in 1959 and 1965, before the merger with defense contractor McDonnell and the subsequent delivery of the DC-10, which entered service in 1971, and the redesignation of the DC-9 as the MD-80.

- Convair and Lockheed: Convair produced the Convair 880 and 990 jetliners and Lockheed the L-1011 jetliner, but, as makers of commercial airliners, these two companies failed to survive the transition into the Jet Age.

- Airline Deregulation: The Airline Deregulation Act of 1978 phased out the authority of the Civil Aeronautics Board and opened the airline industry to competitive forces that brought frequent flier programs, code sharing arrangements, and hub-and-spoke route systems to a shrinking number of large airlines but a growing number of local and regional airlines in the United States.

- Controllers Strike: When the Professional Air Traffic Controllers Organization, a labor union, went on strike in 1981, President Ronald Reagan fired over 11,000 striking controllers.

3. European Aircraft: In a commercial airline market dominated worldwide by Boeing, European companies tried to compete.

- France: Sud-Est Aviation made the 210 Caravelle, a jetliner that entered service in 1959.

- Soviet Union: The Tupolev design bureau made the Tu-104 jetliner, the Tu-114 turboprop, the Tu-124 short-haul jet, and the Tu-154 trijet; Ilyushin made the turboprop Il-18 and long-range Il-62; and Mil made the Mi-8 helicopter for use by the Soviet national airline Aeroflot, the largest airline in the world.

- Great Britain: Few British manufacturers survived the transition to the Jet Age; de Havilland survived by merging with Hawker Siddeley in 1962, and the British Aircraft Company (BAC) became British Aerospace.

4. Supersonic Transports: Three major efforts began in the 1960s to develop and produce a supersonic civil transport, and two produced aircraft that went into service.

- SST: The United States established the Supersonic Transport (SST) program under NASA in 1960, but canceled the program short of an aircraft in 1971 due to environmental and economic concerns.

- Concorde: The British and French cooperatively designed and produced the Concorde, which entered service in 1976, but never achieved commercial success beyond the New York - Paris and New York - London routes. The Concorde retired from service in 2003.

- Tu-144: The Tupolev firm began work on a supersonic transport in 1961, first flew the prototype in 1968, first flew at supersonic speed in 1969, and placed the aircraft into mail and cargo service in 1975 and passenger service in 1977; Aeroflot withdrew the Tu-144 from service in 1984.

5. Terrorism: Terrorism threatened air travelers and airlines with hijackings and bombings, notably the bombing that destroyed Pan American flight of a Boeing 747 over Lockerbie, Scotland, in 1988.

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1. Private Aircraft: Often following the lead of homebuilt planes, private aircraft incorporated new composite and alloy materials.

- Homebuilts and Experimentals: Designers such as Pitts, Christen, Bede, and Van Grunsven provided affordable access to aviation, supplying plans, parts, and kits to help individuals build their own aircraft.

- Sports Planes Extraordinaire: Burt Rutan and Paul MacCready designed and built innovative state-of-the-art aircraft such as Rutan’s VariEze, Long-EZ, and Voyager, and MacCready’s Gossamer Condor, Gossamer Albatross, and Solar Challenger.

- Gliding and Soaring: Gliding became popular again in the 1970s, and gliding and soaring adopted new materials and construction techniques.

- Airships and Balloons: Advertising, atmospheric research, and sports flying dominated ballooning and airship activities around the world, as the U.S. Navy discontinued airship use in 1962 and various commercial proposals, like airship logging, failed to attract many customers.

- Helicopters: Helicopters entered air taxi and charter service, as well as personal use.

2.  U.S. Airplane Makers: U.S. manufacturers dominated the general aviation industry during the 1960s and 1970s, when new models made of new materials and by new techniques came on the market.

- Grumman and Gulfstream: Grumman made the turboprop Gulfstream I and jet Gulfstream II or G-II for private use before merging in 1978 with American Jet into Gulfstream American and producing the G-III and G-IV.

- Learjet: Bill Lear developed the Learjet line of corporate jets, starting with the Lear 23 that entered service in 1963; Lear merged with Gates Rubber into Gates Learjet in 1969 and continued developing and producing Learjets.

- Cessna: Cessna made private aircraft, such as the Cessna 172, 182, and 150 models, and business planes, such as the Cessna 300 and 400 and the Citation series, all of which sold well on the world market.

- Piper: Piper made the light and popular Super Cub until 1982, dedicated the PA-25 Pawnee to agricultural spraying, and added turbocharged aircraft, such as the Piper Arrow, to its line of products, but the product liability crisis of the 1980s dealt the company a hard blow.

- Beech: Beech made proven products such as the Model 18 Twin Beech and the Model 35 Bonanza and, in 1959, introduced the Model 33 Debonair, in 1968 the Model 36 Bonanza, in the 1960s the popular Travel Air and Baron series, and in 1970 the King Air 90; in 1981 Beech became a subsidiary of Raytheon.

3. Competing Manufacturers: Like U.S.-made aircraft, aircraft made in Europe, Brazil, India, and Japan also sold on the world market.

- Dassault: Avions Marcel Dassault began manufacturing business planes in the 1960s with the Fan Jet Falcon, and the Falcon 20/200, added the larger Falcon 30 in the early 1970s and the intercontinental Falcon 50 in 1976, and thereby became the preeminent business aircraft maker in Europe.

- De Havilland Canada: Long since independent of the British de Havilland company, the Canadian namesake joined Bombardier and later, in 1986, Boeing; it developed and introduced the Turbo Beaver and the Twin Otter bush transports in the 1960s and the DHC-7 or Dash Seven in the 1970s.

- Morane-Saulnier and Socata: Morane-Saulnier of France produced the popular Rallye three-seat plane, but in 1962 filed for bankruptcy. Socata formed in 1966 and thereafter produced the Tarbes line of corporate aircraft.

- Israel Aircraft Industries: Israel Aircraft Industries, founded in 1954, bought the Jet Commander line in the late 1960s and introduced the Astra in 1969 and the Westwind in 1972.

4. Pilot Training: After the postwar slump of the 1950s, student starts in the United States gradually rose to a peak in 1977 and thereafter declined; the U.S. led the world in numbers of private and general aviation pilots, whereas private flying did not exist on the eastern side of the Iron Curtain.

5. Air Shows: The Experimental Aircraft Association’s air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, became the air show par excellence for private pilots; the Paris and Farnborough shows featured commercial and military aircraft and included general and private aviation products as well.

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Aviation and aerospace became increasingly international as manufacturers shared costs, risks, and markets, as commercial airlines joined international networks from code-sharing to industry associations, as private and business pilots flew across borders, and as military forces and space programs of various nations cooperated on large missions.

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The general aviation industry had been in decline since a peak in the late 1970s. For example, the number of planes shipped dropped from 17,877 in 1978 to less than a thousand planes (928, to be specific) in 1994. Then the industry began to recover.

1. Revitalization: Addressing the product liability crisis in the United States, the General Aviation Revitalization Act of 1994 established an 18-year statute of repose on manufacturer’s liability for general aviation, including private aircraft with 19 or fewer seats. The general aviation industry began a gradual recovery—until the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 sent the entire aviation industry into a slump.

- Planes: As the industry began a recovery, shipments of general aviation aircraft gradually rose from fewer than a thousand in 1994 to 2,816 planes in 2000. Shipments consisted mostly of single-engine piston-powered planes, but also included a growing number of turboprops and jets.

- Pilots: In the United States, the nation with by far the highest level of general aviation activity, the number of student pilots and the number of private pilots declined after 1990, while the average age of pilots increased.

- Research and Development: NASA’s Advanced General Aviation Transport Experiments (AGATE) and Small Aircraft Transportation System (SATS) and the Federal Aviation Administration’s Capstone program developed technologies and the infrastructure to help support the development of general aviation aircraft.

2. International Production: The United States dominated general aviation production and operated the most general aviation aircraft. In other countries, companies such as Airbus, Bombardier, Dassault, Piaggio, Pilatus, and Socata also produced general aviation aircraft.

3. Flight Records: Pilots and equipment makers still sought records for the first, the fastest, the farthest, or the highest.

- Reno Races: Begun in 1964, the Reno National Championship Air Races continued to attract pilots and audiences interested in technical challenges and racing skills. The races included various classes such as biplane, Formula One, T-6 or Harvard, unlimited, sports, and jet classes.

- Balloon Race: The last great balloon challenge was a flight around the world, which attracted numerous teams—at least seven in late 1998; Bertrand Piccard of Switzerland and Brian Jones of England won in the Breitling Orbiter 3 in March 1999.

- High Flight: AeroVironment, Paul MacCready’s company, designed and flew high-altitude aircraft, notably the manned Solar Challenger and the unmanned Pathfinder and Helios.

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1. Airliners: Airbus successfully challenged Boeing’s long-held dominance in airliner production and sales, and Boeing acquired McDonnell Douglas in a merger that left Boeing as the sole U.S. manufacturer of airliners, aside from commuter-size aircraft.

2. Airlines: Bilateral and multilateral agreements shaped the internationalism growing in the commercial aviation industry.

- Air Afrique: The 11-state Air Afrique failed in 2002.

- United Airlines: As United Airlines expanded in the 1990s from a national airline to an international airline, the company became financially troubled. It entered bankruptcy protection in 2002.

- China: China decentralized its national airline and thereby created several airlines. These airlines needed airliners and bought western-made airliners.

3. Terrorism: Growing terrorist activity around the world included attacks against airlines.

- September 11, 2001: Despite previous attempts by people to hijack airliners for the purpose of crashing them into buildings, the terrorist attacks against the United States surprised the world because the terrorists successfully hijacked four airliners and crashed two into the World Trade Center and one into the Pentagon. The fourth crashed as passengers tried to thwart the hijackers.

- Missiles: Portable, shoulder-launched, surface-to-air missiles threatened the safety of air travel and the operations of airlines.

- Recovery: After the events commonly called September 11, security became a key to airline recovery.

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1. Manufacturers: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics emerged as the big five in U.S. aerospace, and European Aeronautic, Defense and Space (EADS) became the largest aerospace firm in Europe, while British Aerospace, Stork, and Saab also acquired other companies.

- Fighters: The Joint Strike Fighter in the United States and the Eurofighter in Europe demonstrated the consolidating aerospace industry, but the military market remained competitive as illustrated by the McDonnell Douglas (now Boeing) F/A-18E/F Super Hornet that was introduced into service in 1997, the Boeing F-22 that remains under development as Aviation History goes to press, the Saab Gripen that became operational in 1995, Dassault’s Rafale and Mirage, and various MiG and Sukhoi fighters.

- European Self-Sufficiency: European nations cooperated through the 1990s to develop a European airlifter, a turboprop military transport that became designated A400M. In 1999 the program moved to the newly formed Airbus Military Company.

- Helicopters: European manufacturers cooperated on a number of Eurocopters, including the NH90, BO105, AS532 Cougar, and AS-565 Panther.

- Missiles: China continued the proliferation of missile technology by transferring technology to rogue states like Iran, North Korea, and Pakistan. In order to build a missile defense shield without violating a current treaty, President George W. Bush in December 2001 unilaterally withdrew the United States from the 1972 Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty.

2. War Experience: Wars tested equipment, personnel, and policies.

- Israel-Lebanon War: After a brief conventional war in 1982 drove the PLO from southern Lebanon, the Hezbollah (the Islamic Party of God) fought a protracted campaign against Israeli troops. Because Hezbollah fighters hid among civilians in southern Lebanon, the Israelis refrained from massive bombing, strafing, and missile attacks, but helicopters and unmanned aerial vehicles proved effective as counter-insurgency weapons; still, casualties included civilians.

- Gulf War: After Iraq invaded Kuwait in 1990 on the pretext that Kuwait was stealing oil from near the border between the countries, a United States-led coalition attacked Iraqi forces with fighter planes, including the stealth F-117As, and unmanned aerial vehicles; the U.S. directed much of the successful aerial effort to suppressing Iraqi radar.

- Bosnian War: The ethnic war on the Bosnian Peninsula in 1992-1995 prompted NATO to bomb Bosnia-Herzegovina to peace.

- Kosovo Conflict: The United States conducted many air raids against Serbian targets, but the civilian fatalities were high and the strikes less effective than planned.

- Afghanistan: The United States-led coalition against the Taliban regime in Afghanistan used overwhelming force led by air strikes, heavy bombing, and unmanned aerial vehicles such as the Predator, but peace proved difficult to maintain.

- Second Iraq War: When Iraq refused access to United Nations weapons inspectors and when President Bush accused Iraq of harboring weapons of mass destruction, the United States used missiles, bombing, and unmanned aerial vehicles in a preemptive strike that toppled the regime of dictator Saddam Hussein.

- Space Defense: Satellite intelligence, communication, and navigation were important factors in the many wars.

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1. Exploration: Planetary and lunar probes and space observatories explored the mysteries of space.

- Mars: Russian and American probes failed and succeeded in missions of the 1990s; ESA and NASA sent probes to Mars to coincide with the Red Planet’s close encounter with Earth in 2003, the closest in over 50,000 years.

- Galileo: Launched in 1989, Galileo became the first spacecraft to encounter an asteroid, and also the second spacecraft to encounter an asteroid; it achieved Jovian orbit and surveyed Jupiter and its moons till 2003.

- Space Probes: Examples include Magellan’s exploration of Venus, the international studies of Jupiter conducted by Ulysses, two Japanese probes that explored the lunar environment, and the European Space Agency’s SMART-1 (Small Missions for Advanced Research in Technology 1) lunar mission launched in 2003.

- Observatories: The Hubble Space Telescope, launched in 1990, was the first high-powered observatory placed into space, but others followed to observe different parts of the spectrum of space for astronomical study.

2. Satellites: Many nations pursued satellite technology and satellite launch capabilities, particularly for communication, intelligence, and Earth observation.

3. Space Programs: China joined Russia and the United States as nations that have successfully sent people to space, and the European Space Agency built a broad infrastructure and impressive launch capability.

- Mir: The Soviet and then Russian space station Mir remained operational from the launching of the core in 1986 until the station was abandoned in 2000.

- Space Shuttle: At the end of the 1980s the space shuttle had completed 32 launches and suffered one catastrophic loss (the Challenger in 1986), and by early 2003 the space shuttle had launched a total of 107 times and suffered a second catastrophic loss (the Columbia in 2003). The shuttles were grounded from the February 2003 loss of the Columbia until Discovery flew in July 2005.

- Columbia Accident: The Columbia Accident Investigation Board concluded that a piece of insulating foam broken off an external fuel tank during launch was the physical cause of the accident, but that history and culture of the manned space program contributed to the accident.

- European Space Agency: Formed out of the merger of European space programs in 1975 and representing 15 nations, the European Space Agency developed the Ariane launch vehicles. Ariane 4 was in use from 1984 to 2003, and Ariane 5 entered use in 2001. These vehicles launched many satellites for paying customers as well as member states, and one launched the SMART-1 lunar probe in 2003.

- China: In 1992 China resumed development of a manned spaceflight program that successfully launched the “taikonaut” Yang Liwei in Shenzhou 5 into orbit in 2003, and China thereby became the third nation to achieve manned spaceflight. China sent two astronauts into orbit in 2005 as part of a continuing effort to reach the Moon.

- Commercial Space Flight: The X Prize Foundation offered a monetary prize for the first privately funded venture to place a manned spacecraft at least 62 miles above Earth and return the person safely twice within a 14-day period. Paul Allen’s Mojave Aerospace Ventures team, led by designer Burt Rutan, won the international competition in 2004.

- International Space Station: The United States, Japan, Europe, and Canada formed the initial space station partnership in 1985, and Russia joined the team in 1993. The first modules were launched in 1998. The space station remained under construction as the 2006 edition of Aviation History went to press.

- Spaceplanes: Russia, and the Soviet predecessor, had launched 1,682 Soyuz launch vehicles by August 2003, and the United States had performed 107 space shuttle launches, but both were old technologies, so proposals and designs for a new spaceplane emerged in various places.

4. The Future? The future is the domain of forecasters, policy analysts, strategic planners, corporate executives, and government officials, but not historians who specialize in the evidence and analysis of past events.

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 By YoubulkSmart

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