To become the stuff of legends, one must first establish a new standard in flying. In honor of National Aviation History Month, here are some aviators that set the standard for all pilots to follow. These historical landmarks, from the first flight in history to the first woman to master the art of flight, are the reason you can sip that white zin in a first-class cabin.
the First Hot Air Balloon
Before winged containers were widespread or even conceivable, two French brothers named Joseph-Michel Montgolfier and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier discovered that their laundry would drift skyward when dried over a fire. To cut a long story short, the creative brothers wondered, “How can humans make use of this phenomenon?” Then they created a lovely hot air balloon prototype and did what any clever pilot would do in 1783: they put a duck, sheep, and rooster in the basket and flew it over Marie Antoinette’s palace in Versailles.
The First Zeppelin airship
Another landmark in aviation history occurred when German-born Ferdinand Adolf Heinrich August Graf von Zeppelin invented the airship. This flight accomplishment appeared to be a hot dog-shaped balloon, yet the stiff structure gave stability. In 1900, the aptly called Zeppelin LZ1 soared to the skies for the first trip with five passengers. After a staggering 17 minutes in the air, the airship ran into some problems and had to make an emergency landing. Nonetheless, this watershed moment in aviation inspired future engineers and pilots.
the First Airplane
On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made four brief flights at Kitty Hawk with their first powered aircraft. The Wright brothers had invented the first successful airplane. The impact of the airplane on the 20th century is beyond measure. The Wrights not only solved a long-studied technical problem but also helped create an entirely new world. Speculation on what that world would be like began with our first tentative leaps into the air.
the First Women in Flight
For some reason, when people talk about Thérèse Peltier and women in flight, they want to emphasize her role as the “first female to be an aircraft passenger.” That must have been a major thing at the time. Peltier cracked the glass ceiling wide open with a solo flight of a few hundred feet in 1908. Peltier went on to make additional successful flights before retiring, cementing her position as the first female pilot.
the First NYC to Paris Non-Stop Flight
Transatlantic flights have been feasible since 1927, but no one imagined being in New York one day and Paris the next. So, when Charles Lindbergh, a young United States Postal Service pilot, declared he could accomplish it, we can only imagine what others thought. What kind of magic was this? A nonstop flight of 3,500 miles? Trickery! In the face of suspicion, he strapped himself into his jet and proved everyone wrong.
Aviation has a long history, but what if it has just begun? Get over your fear of flying and start enjoying it!
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