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.
SUMMARY OF EVENTS
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.
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
- 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:
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
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.
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:
3. International Aviation: The newly
invented balloon attracted international attention, and people went aloft in
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
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.
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.
1. Airship Development: Aircraft designers
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.
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.
1. Sir George Cayley: Sir George Cayley of
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
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.
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.
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;
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
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.
technology developed on both sides of the
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
3. Production: In 1905 Gabriel Voisin and
Ernest Archdeacon in
- 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.
Brothers: Horace, Albert, and Hugh Short established an airplane manufacturing
- Louis Blériot: The Blériot XI,
introduced in 1909, became the first airplane to fly across the
- 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:
1. Aerial Experiment Association: From 1907
into 1909 Alexander Graham Bell led a small team of aviators from the
- Curtiss Airplanes: Glenn H. Curtiss
participated in the Aerial Experiment Association and then, in 1909,
established the first airplane manufacturing company in the
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.
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
3. Newspaper Competitions: Newspapers in
4. Gordon Bennett Races: Gordon Bennett,
publisher of the New York Herald, sponsored international airplane races, which
started in 1909 at the
5. The Atlantic Crossing:
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
- 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
- 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
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
7. Commercial Aviation: Commercial
airplane service began as one-time and short-term charter operations, though a
short-lived regularly scheduled airline operated in
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.
World War I aviation was mostly a military and European activity, supported by
production and training in
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:
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.
1. Combatant Air Forces: All combatant nations entered the war with small air forces of a few hundred or less operational airplanes.
- 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.
outbreak of war in Europe,
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
- 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.
1. Production in General:
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.
- 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
- The Air Clauses: The Treaty of
Versailles contained several air clauses that prohibited
- 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.
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.
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
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.
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
4. Shenandoah: The United States Navy
built the ZR-1 Shenandoah at the Navy Aircraft Factory in
1. Gliding: Restricted by the Allies from
powered flight after
- The Allies
prohibited military aviation and restricted civil aviation in postwar
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
- Training in
2. Barnstorming: Barnstorming in
affordable war-surplus aircraft, like the Curtiss Jenny trainer, became the
passion of fliers and audiences in the
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
- The Route: The Army World fliers
- The Flight: Four planes departed
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.
2. Aerial Diplomacy: The Allies enforced
the prohibition against German military aviation and imposed restrictions on
German civil aviation, so
- 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,
- 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.
Lindbergh’s historic solo and nonstop flight across the
1. Orteig Prize: Raymond Orteig offered a
prize of $25,000 for the first nonstop airplane flight between
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
1. Dole’s Pacific Air Race: Only two
airplanes finished the Dole Pacific Air Race from
2. Atlantic Crossing: Italian pilot
Francesco de Pinedo flew across the South Atlantic Ocean, female pilot Amelia
Earhart flew solo nonstop across the
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
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.
MacPherson Robertson offered a ten-thousand-pound prize for the winner of an
airplane race from
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
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.
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
3. Deutsche Luft Hansa: The German
national airline Deutsche Luft Hansa participated in the rise of
- Transoceanic Routes: In the absence
of colonial posts to use as 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
- 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
- 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.
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
- Fascism: The rise of Benito
Mussolini’s Fascist dictatorship in
- Spanish Civil War:
- Sino-Japanese Conflict:
- 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.
World War II involved specialized aircraft produced in large numbers by various combatant nations, and many makes of familiar names domestically became known internationally.
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
- 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
- French Governments: After the fall
- Lend-Lease Act: The Lend-Lease Act
of March 1941 permitted the
- National Defense: National defense
of the neutral
6. Spreading War: As the Allies blocked
fascist expansion into the British Isles and in
- 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
- Ferry Routes: As the war continued,
7. A Pacific War: The Japanese attack on
the Hawaiian, Wake, Guam, and Midway islands and the Japanese invasion of the
8. Training: Training began as war preparedness with civil aspects and became a war emergency led by the military.
- Civilian Pilot Training: In the
- Commonwealth Air Training: The
British Commonwealth established over a hundred training centers in
- Soviet Women Pilots: After
- 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).
1. Helicopters: The European-invented
helicopter was further developed and placed into production by the Sikorsky
company in the
- 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
- Frank Whittle: Frank Whittle
(1907-1996) developed a jet engine in
- Hans von Ohain: Han von Ohain
(1911-1998) developed a jet engine in
- Technology Transfer: Under attack by
the German Luftwaffe,
3. Rockets: Having worked on rocket power
for airplanes before the war, Wernher von Braun in
- Peenemünde: Von Braun directed the
German rocket research station at Peenemünde near the
- 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
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
6. Production: The war demanded increased
production in many countries, but the
- 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.
1. Introduction: The Western or European
Theater of the war had a Western Front west of
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
- 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
- Operation Torch: The
3. Western Front: The Western Front
encompassed the maritime battle for the North Atlantic, the Allied bombing of
- 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
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.
5. Closing the Ring: In 1945 the Allied
nations closed the ring around
1. Introduction: Just as
2. Surprise Attack: The surprise of 7 and
8 December 1941 was not that
- Pearl Harbor: The Japanese naval air
forces disabled the aerial defense capabilities in
- Malaya: The Japanese invasion down
the Malayan peninsula culminated in the capture of the British
3. Changing Tide: Having destroyed most of
the defensive aircraft in
- Doolittle’s Raid: General James H.
“Jimmy” Doolittle led a squadron of raiders against
- Midway: Attacking the Aleutian
Islands failed to divert
4. Allied Offensive: Having stopped the
Japanese at the Coral Sea and Midway, the Allies went on the offensive at
- Divine Wind:
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
- 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
- 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.
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.
II ended with the postwar rule of
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.
- 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
- ICAO: The International Civil Aviation Organization recognized the need for international standardization for the cause of safe, efficient, and economical civil aviation.
Convention on International Civil Aviation, signed at
- 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
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
- 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.
- 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
- 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:
- French Airlines: Air
- 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
- European Lines: European nations,
3. Latin American Airlines: The Allied war against the Axis Powers affected airlines with German investments, German managers, or German partners.
- Axis Influence: The
4. Africa and Asia: Pan American, British
Overseas, Air France, and KLM dominated air travel to imperial outposts in
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.
- Vittles: Operation Vittles, to the
- 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
- 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.
- 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
5. French Colonial Wars: After World War
- American Aircraft: In 1949 the
- Dien Bien Phu: The French plan to
6. Limited Wars:
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.
1. Introduction: Rockets, missiles, and satellites carried vacuum tubes and electronic components.
2. Air Defense: To defend the
- 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
3. Rockets and Missiles: The United States
- 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
- Soviet Missile Program: Like the
- Satellites: The Soviet Union and
- Sputnik: On 4 October 1957, as a
scheduled event of the International Geophysical Year, the
- Vanguard: The
- Explorer I: The Explorer I satellite
launched on board an Army Redstone rocket became the first
- 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
4. Research Planes: Airplanes specially
made for research helped the
- Supersonic Flight: The
“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.
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.
1. Satellites: Satellites led the way into
space for many nations, first the Soviet Union, then the
- 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.
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
- 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
- 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 (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
Begun in 1958, the Mercury Project took the first
- 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.
Launched by the
- 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.)
- Europe: The
Space: African and South American nations, notably
1. Deterrence: East and West relied upon deterrence—the threat of massive nuclear retaliation—to prevent the other from starting a war.
- Conventional Weapons:
- 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
- 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
- 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
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.
- 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.”
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
- 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
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.
- 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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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
- Concorde: The British
and French cooperatively designed and produced the Concorde, which entered
service in 1976, but never achieved commercial success beyond the
- 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
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.
- 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,
- 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
- 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
4. Pilot Training: After the postwar slump
of the 1950s, student starts in the
5. Air Shows: The Experimental Aircraft
Association’s air show in
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.
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
- 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
- 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
3. Flight Records: Pilots and equipment makers still sought records for the first, the fastest, the farthest, or the highest.
- 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.
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
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.
3. Terrorism: Growing terrorist activity around the world included attacks against airlines.
11, 2001: Despite previous attempts by people to hijack airliners for the purpose
of crashing them into buildings, the terrorist attacks against the
- 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.
1. Manufacturers: Lockheed Martin, Boeing,
Raytheon, Northrop Grumman, and General Dynamics emerged as the big five in
- 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.
2. War Experience: Wars tested equipment, personnel, and policies.
- Israel-Lebanon War:
After a brief conventional war in 1982 drove the PLO from southern
- Gulf War: After
- Bosnian War: The ethnic
war on the
- 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.
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:
- 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
- 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.
- 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
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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