Adventure, excitement, and exploration. All three of these adjectives come to mind when describing the thrill of flying – from the adrenaline rush of takeoff to the final landing. Modern aviation has seen tremendous development over the past century, and mankind is still finding new ways to conquer the skies. With National Aviation Day around the corner on August 19, let’s take a look back at some of the pioneers in the aviation field and celebrate their achievements.
Wright Brothers’ First Flight
(Flickr: Photo credit to NASA on the Commons)
The Wright Brothers are credited with the official birth of modern aviation with sustaining an object heavier than air in flight for a prolonged amount of time. The first recorded flight on December 17, 1903 only covered 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds, but its occurrence led to the fact that it was possible to sustain an object heavier than air in flight, and led to the refinement of more sophisticated aircraft development.
Charles Lindbergh – Atlantic Orteig Prize
(Flickr: Photo credit to Scott Kraft)
Aviation technology quickly advanced from the Wright Brothers’ first flight in 1903 during the next couple decades. This prompted a New York resident named Raymond Orteig to put out an offer of $25,000 for any challenger willing to become the first pilot to complete a Trans-Atlantic flight from New York City to Paris. On May 20, 1927 Lindbergh emerged to win Orteig’s prize and completed his flight on ‘The Spirit of St. Louis’ airplane become the first person to ever complete a non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean.
Amelia Earhart Conquers the Atlantic and Pacific
(Flickr: Photo Credit by Network 355)
Amelia Earhart is renowned for pushing the limits of aviation to new heights. On May 20, 1932 she became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean from Newfoundland to Ireland. A few years later she was the first person to complete a flight across the Pacific Ocean from Oakland to Honolulu. Although Earhart came up short in her quest to become the first person to fly around the world, her bravery, ambition, and achievements will always be remembered.
Yuri Gagarin’s Spaceflight
(Flickr: Photo credit to Maria Kaplina)
By the second half of the 20th century, pilots were not looking just at completing flights through Earth’s atmosphere, but completing journeys into outer space as well. On April 12, 1961, Yuri Gagarin became the first human to journey into outer space and complete a successful orbit of Earth in the Vostok 1 capsule. Gagarin’s achievements paved the way for future space exploration to be possible, and this was seen just right years later when Neil Armstrong became the first person to walk on the moon.
Felix Baumgartner’s Jump
(Flickr: Photo Credit by Chickenhawk72)
Technically, this falls under the category of spacejumping and not flying, but Baumgartner’s achievement in 2012 ushered in a new flavor of creativity for human flight – literally. On October 14, 2012 he became the first human to break the sound barrier by skydiving to Earth from a helium balloon from 24 miles above Earth’s surface. Baumgartner’s speed on his descent topped out at 843.6 miles per hour which is faster than both the speed of sound and any commercial jetliner. To re-live the historic jump, click to see the video:
Honorable Mention: Soccer Paper Airplane Toss
Earlier this year, England was hosting Peru in a friendly soccer match to prepare for the World Cup. The most interesting part of this game did take place on the field, but it was not a goal. See the video below:
(Credit to David Attenbrah)
Not only is this arguably the greatest paper airplane toss of all time, but the accuracy to hit one of the players (without injuring them or interrupting play) from the upper bowl of Wembley Stadium is equally impressive.