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18th and 19th Centuries
1. Who was the first human being to fly? The first person to fly, in a hot air balloon, was François Pilâtre de Rozier of France, who on October 15, 1783, rose to a height of 84 feet on a tether. The hot air was provided by a straw fire below the balloon. On November 21, 1783, de Rozier and Marquis d'Arlandes made the world's first free flight when their balloon flew 51/2 miles across Paris. They reached a maximum altitude of about 1000 feet in the 50-foot diameter Montgolfier balloon.
2. Who was the first woman to fly? The first woman to fly, in a hot air balloon, was the Countess de Montalembert, who made a tethered flight in a Montgolfier hot air balloon on May 20, 1784, in Paris.
3. Who was the first person to be killed in a balloon? The first person to be killed while ballooning was Pilâtre de Rozier on June 15, 1785. De Rozier was attempting to fly across the English Channel when his combination hot air and hydrogen balloon caught fire and crashed. The balloon crashed near Boulogne, also killing de Rozier's companion, Jules Romain.
4. Who made the first balloon flight in America? The first flight by a balloon in the United States was made on January 9, 1793, by the Frenchman Jean Pierre Blanchard. Blanchard rose in a hydrogen balloon from Philadelphia and landed in Gloucester, New Jersey, 46 minutes later.
5. Who was the first American aeronaut? The first American to fly in America was New Yorker Charles Durant. On September 9, 1830, he ascended from Castle Garden, New York, in his balloon, landing in South Amboy, New Jersey two hours later.
6. When was a balloon first used in warfare? The first military reconnaissance by a balloon was made by J. M. Coutelle for the French army at the Battle of Maubeuge on June 2, 1794. The balloon Entreprenant was also used for observations against the Austrians at the Battle of Fleurus on June 26, 1794.
7. When was the balloon first used for military purposes in America? The balloon was first used by the American military on October 1, 1861, during the Civil War, when the Federal Balloon Corps was formed with five balloons and fifty men under the command of Thaddeus Lowe. They were first used in combat on May 31, 1862 when a Union tethered balloon, piloted by T. S. Lowe, saved Union forces from defeat at the Battle of Fair Oaks, Virginia.
8. What was the first long-distance international balloon flight? The first long-distance international balloon flight was made by Charles Green of England in a gas balloon. In July 1836 he flew from London to Nassau, Germany—480 miles in 18 hours.
9. Who was the first person to make a parachute jump? The first ever parachute descent was made by the Frenchman André Garnerin, who jumped from a balloon at 3000 feet near Paris, on October 22, 1797.
10. Who made the first parachute jump in America? The first parachute descent from a balloon in America was made by Charles Guille on August 2, 1819. Guille jumped from a hydrogen balloon at 8000 feet over Brooklyn, New York.
11. Who was the first person to be carried aloft in a heavier-than-air craft? In 1853 an unknown ten-year-old boy became airborne in a glider constructed by Sir George Cayley near Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. The boy, son of one of Cayley's estate workers, became airborne in the glider after it was towed downhill by manpower into a breeze.
12. Who was the first person to fly a powered heavier-than-air craft (unmanned)? American professor Samuel P. Langley of the Smithsonian Institution became interested in aeronautics in the 1880s, and, in the 1890s built powered aircraft with 14-foot wingspans. With the help of Augustus Herring, Langley developed a tandem-monoplane steam-powered aircraft that first flew successfully when catapulted from a houseboat on the Potomac River in May, 1896. Langley's longest flights with this aircraft, Aerodrome #5, measured over ¾ mile and included controlled turns and stable climbing flight. This aircraft was built as a precursor to a full-sized, man-carrying aircraft, which failed miserably when launched in 1903.
13. When was the world's first powered airship built? The world's first powered, manned dirigible flew on September 24, 1852, when the Frenchman Henri Giffard flew his 144-foot long, steam-engine powered non-rigid airship from the Paris Hippodrome. The 17-mile flight to Trappes was made at an average speed of 5 mph. This flight was only tentative, but it marked the beginning of the practical airship.
14. What was the world's first successful rigid airship? The first flight in a rigid airship was made by Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin's LZ-1 on July 2, 1900. The 420-foot long, aluminum-framed airship carried five people on a 20-minute flight over Germany's Lake Constance, at a speed of 9 mph.
15. Who was the first person to attempt a flight across the Atlantic Ocean? On October 6, 1873, Washington H. Donaldson attempted the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean, in a gas balloon. Financed by the New York Daily Illustrated Graphic, the 600,000-cubic-foot balloon lifted off from the Capitoline Grounds, Brooklyn. Along with Donaldson was a navigator, Alfred Ford, and George Lunt, a reporter. After crossing Long Island and the Long Island Sound, the balloon ran into a severe thunderstorm over Connecticut and was forced down six hours later.
16. Who was the first person to make a controlled glider flight? The first person to make sustained, controlled gliding flights was Otto Lilienthal of Germany. Between 1891 and 1896, Lilienthal made over 2000 glides, some of them several hundred feet, down a large hill he had constructed near Berlin. His gliders were mostly monoplanes with fixed tails, and limited control was achieved by shifting the pilot's body weight. Unfortunately, Lilienthal was killed when one of his gliders was upset by a sudden gust of wind in 1896. Thus he also became the first person to be killed in an aircraft.
The Pioneers: 1902–1913
17. Who made the first powered flights in the United States? The first powered flights in the United States were made by Leo Stevens and Edward Boice in two small airships over Brooklyn, New York, on September 30, 1902. Stevens flew an airship of his own design, while Boice was flying the Santos-Dumont Number 6. Equipped with 10 horsepower gasoline engines, both airships made flights of about 45 minutes in front of thousands of spectators.
18. Who built the first successful man-carrying powered aircraft? The first heavier-than-air craft to achieve manned, powered, controlled flight was unquestionably the Wright Flyer of 1903. Built by Wilbur and Orville Wright of Dayton, Ohio, the Flyer evolved from several successful gliders built over a three-year period. In order to build a successful aircraft, the Wrights first had to develop a wing shape that would give them sufficient lift, a powerful gasoline engine, efficient propellers, and a revolutionary three-axis control system. The Wright Flyer first flew on December 17, 1903, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina. Four flights were made that first day, the longest covering about 852 feet in 59 seconds. When the Wrights finally gave public demonstration flights in 1908, they electrified the world and gave great impetus to the newborn aviation industry. Several others claim to have flown successfully prior to the Wrights' first flights, most notably Gustave Whitehead of Bridgeport, Connecticut in 1901. There is no documentary evidence to prove these claims, however.
19. Who was the first person killed in a powered aircraft? The first fatality of an airplane crash was Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge of the U.S. Army on September 17, 1908. The accident occurred at Fort Myer, Virginia, when a Wright biplane piloted by Orville Wright crashed, killing its passenger. The accident occurred during army acceptance trials of the new flying machine when a control wire broke or was cut by a propeller, causing the machine to crash from about 75 feet.
20. What was the world's first aircraft manufacturing company? The world's first aircraft manufacturing company was Voisin Frères, established in Billancourt, France in November 1906 by Gabriel and Charles Voisin. The company originally had two employees. Their first order, received in December 1906, was for an ornithopter that never flew. Their first successful aircraft was a box kite-like biplane, built for Léon Delagrange, which flew in Bagatelle in March 1907.
21. Who built the world's first helicopter? The first helicopter to lift a man from the ground was built by the Bréguet brothers in France in 1907. Although this lifted a man from the ground on September 29 of that year, it was not free flight, as four men on the ground steadied the craft. However on November 13, 1907, a man-carrying helicopter built by Paul Cornu successfully flew near Lisieux, France. The twin-rotor free flying helicopter was powered by a 24-hp Antoinette engine.
22. What was the first official flight in Europe of at least one kilometer? The first official flight in Europe of at least one kilometer was made by Henri Farman on January 13, 1908. Flying a Voisin biplane, he flew just over one kilometer, in front of many witnesses, at Issy-les-Moulineaux.
23. Who made the first "cross-country" flight in an airplane? The first "cross-country" flight was made by Henri Farman on October 30, 1908. He flew from Bouy, France, to Rheims—14 miles in 20 minutes.
24. Who made the first flight in France? The first flight in France was made on November 12, 1906, by the Brazilian-born builder and pilot Alberto Santos-Dumont, in Paris. He flew his 14 bis 722 feet in 21 seconds. Basically the plane was a man-carrying box kite powered by a 50-hp Antoinette engine. This flight won him the French Aero Club's prize for the first flight of more than 100 meters.
25. Who made the first flight in Italy? The first flight in Italy was made by the French sculptor and aviator Léon Delagrange in Voisin in October 1907. Delagrange was killed flying a Blériot in 1910.
26. Who made the first flight in Germany? The first flight in Germany was made by the Dane, J. C. Ellehammer in a triplane of his own design at Kiel, in June 1907. A later version of this triplane was flown by the first German pilot, Hans Grade, at Magdeburg in October 1907.
27. Who made the first flight in Austria? The first flight in Austria was made by the Frenchman, G. Legagneaux at Vienna in April 1908 in a Voisin. The first Austrian to fly was Igo Etrich in a Taube in November 1908.
28. Who made the first flight in Russia? The first flight in Russia was made by V. Schkrouff in a Voisin at Odessa in July 1908.
29. Who made the first flight in Sweden? The first flight in Sweden was made by the Frenchman G. Legagneaux at Stockholm in his Voisin in July 1908.
30. Who made the first flight in Rumania? The first flight in Rumania was made by Louis Blériot in his monoplane at Bucharest in October 1908.
31. Who made the first flight in England? The first flight in England was made by the American Samuel F. Cody in his British Army Aeroplane No. 1 on October 16, 1908. The 1390-foot flight was made at Farnborough and ended in a crash landing.
32. Who made the first flight in Canada? The first flight in Canada was made by the Canadian J. A. D. McCurdy on February 23, 1909 over Baddeck Bay, Nova Scotia in the Silver Dart.
33. Who made the first flight in Ireland? The first flight in Ireland was made by H. G. Ferguson of Belfast in December 1909 in an airplane of his own design that resembled a Blériot.
34. Who made the first flight in Thailand (Siam)? The first flight in Thailand was made by Major Luang Sakdi Salyavudh of the Royal Siamese Army in December 1913 in a Nieuport.
35. Who made the first flight in Egypt? The first flight in Egypt was made by G. W. Dawes in a British-built Blériot at Heliopolis in January 1910.
36. Who made the first flight in Australia? The first flight in Australia was made by Colin Defries in an imported Wright biplane at Sydney in January 1910.
37. Who made the first flight in New Zealand? The first flight in New Zealand was made by the Frenchman Henri Pequet on February 18, 1911, in a Humber biplane, from Allahabad to Naini Junction—a distance of five miles.
38. Who was the first woman to fly in an airplane? The first woman to fly in an airplane was Frenchwoman Madame Thérèse Peltier, who was taken aloft by Léon Delagrange in a Voisin on July 8, 1908.
39. Who was the first pilot to be killed flying an airplane? The first pilot of a powered airplane to die while flying was Eugène Lefèbvre of France. He was killed while flying a Wright Model A in Port Juvisy, France on September 7, 1909.
40. Who was the first American woman to be killed in an airplane? The first American woman to be killed in a plane crash was Julie Clark of Denver, Colorado. On June 17, 1912, her Curtiss Model D struck a tree at Springfield, Illinois.
41. What was the world's first international air meet? The world's first international air meet was held in Rheims, France between August 22 and 29, 1909. Thirty-five aircraft competed for prizes for speed, altitude, endurance, and distance. Henri Farman of France established new records for duration and distance by flying 112 miles in 3 hours, 4 minutes. Glenn Curtiss took top honors for speed with a high of 45 mph.
42. What was the first international air meet in America? The first international air meet in America was at Belmont Park, Long Island, New York between October 22, and 31, 1910. Some 40 American and European aviators and aircraft participated, and crowds of 100,000 viewed the events daily. New altitude, endurance, and speed records were set. Perhaps the most exciting, and dangerous, race was from Belmont Park to the Statue of Liberty and back. The contest was won by American John Moisant in a very close, and disputed, finish over Englishman Claude Graham White.
43. What was America's first airport? Although there is some question as to what can be called an airport, or airfield (as opposed to just a place where one plane was test flown), America's first public flying field was most likely the one in Mineola, New York. Glenn Curtiss first brought his Golden Flyer there, in June, 1909, because he admired the flat, wide open spaces of Long Island's Hempstead Plains. By the end of July, the New York Aeronautic Society set up its headquarters there, and almost immediately there were a wide variety of airplanes on the field, either under construction, flying, or attempting to fly. Charles Willard took flying instructions from Glenn Curtiss in Mineola in July 1909, and by September, Henry Walden built his first successful monoplane on the field.
44. Who made the first public demonstration flights in an airplane in America? The first public demonstration of an airplane in America was made in Hammondsport, New York, on July 4, 1908. Glenn Curtiss, flying the June Bug, made a flight of over one mile in 1 minute 42 seconds, before a large crowd, to win the Scientific American trophy for the first flight of one kilometer.
45. Who was the first American to have a pilot's license? The first American to hold a pilot's license was Glenn Curtiss. On October 7, 1909, Curtiss was awarded an FAI (Fédération Aéronautique Internationale) certificate; he was given Aero Club of France Certificate #2.
46. Who was the first military pilot to solo? The first American Army pilot to solo was Lieutenant Frederic Humphreys, on October 26, 1909, at College Park, Maryland. He made two circuits of the field in three minutes. He was followed by Lieutenant Frank Lahm who flew six times around the field, remaining aloft for 13 minutes.
47. Who was the first American President to fly? The first American President to fly, although a former president, was Theodore Roosevelt on October 11, 1910. Roosevelt flew as a passenger with Arch Hoxsey in a Wright Model B at an air meet in St. Louis.
48. Who was the first aviator to fly a mile high? The first aviator to fly to a height of at least one mile was Walter Brookins on July 9, 1910. Brookins reached 6175 feet in his Wright Model B over Atlantic City, New Jersey.
49. Who made the first two-way radio communication between an airplane in flight and the ground? The first radio communication between an airplane in flight and the ground was made by Elmo Pickerill on August 4, 1910. Flying a Wright Model B from Mineola, Long Island, New York, Pickerill established communication with a ground station while over Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn.
50. Who was the first airplane passenger? The first passenger ever to be carried in an airplane was Charles Furnas, who was carried aloft by Wilbur Wright on May 14, 1908. The flight covered about ½ mile in 30 seconds. Later the same day Wright flew Furnas for about 2.5 miles in 4 minutes, 2 seconds. Furnas sat on top of the lower wing, next to Wilbur Wright, holding on to a strut.
Excerpted from AVIATION FIRSTS by Joshua Stoff. Copyright © 2000 Dover Publications, Inc.. Excerpted by permission of Dover Publications, Inc..
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