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Flying Machines Timeline

  • Wright Flyer III

    Wright Flyer III
    (1905) The Wrights’ third plane was the world’s first practical airplane. It could fly until the fuel tank was empty and set a record of 241⁄2 miles (39.5 kilometers).
  • Period: to

    The Timespan of Flying Machines

    The timespan of which technology has upgraded flight.
  • Ex Vin Fiz

    Ex Vin Fiz
    (1911) This plane, built by the Wright Company and piloted by Cal Rodgers, made the first crossing of the U.S. Since the plane was financed by Armour Company, it advertised a new grape-flavored drink called Vin Fiz, made by Armour.
  • Curtiss JN–4D Jenny

    Curtiss JN–4D Jenny
    (1916) This was America’s most famous WWI plane and was used by more than 90% of America’s pilots for flight training. After WWI, hundreds were used by barnstormers, stunt plane pilots who also gave flights for a fee, in the 1920s and 30s. This was the first plane most Americans saw close up.
  • Fokker D.VII

    Fokker D.VII
    (1918) The Germans had air superiority over the British and the French pilots in WWI with the Fokker E, but they lost this advantage until the D.VII was built. The Fokker D.VII was considered the best fighter plane of WWI.
  • Douglas World Cruiser

    Douglas World Cruiser
    (1924) Two of these planes, in the U.S. Army Air Service, made the first trip around the world together.
  • Douglas DC-3

    Douglas DC-3
    (1935) This passenger plane popularized air travel in the U.S. With just one refueling stop, transcontinental flights across the U.S. became possible and quickly replaced trains as the favored means of travel.
  • Pan American Airways

    Pan American Airways
    (1939) This airline company flew the first transAtlantic passenger service.
  • Sikorsky VS–300

    Sikorsky VS–300
    (1939) This helicopter, built and flown by Igor Sikorsky, “The Father of the Helicopter,” made the first successful helicopter flight in the U.S.
  • Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero

    Mitsubishi A6M5 Zero
    (1941) This was the primary Japanese Naval fighter plane in WWII. These planes were used to attack Pearl Harbor and later in kamikaze attacks near the end of the war.
  • Messerschmitt 262

    Messerschmitt 262
    (1942) Built in Germany, this was the world’s first operational turbojet aircraft and was piloted by Fritz Wendel. In 1944, it became the first jet plane used in combat.
  • Bell XP–59A

    Bell XP–59A
    (1942) Built for testing purposes, this was America’s first turbojet aircraft powered by the first American jet engine, the General Electric I–A.
  • Bell X–1

    Bell X–1
    (1947) This was the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound. It was the first of the X planes, experimental aircraft designed for testing new technologies and usually kept highly secret. On October 14th, Chuck Yeager flew this rocket-powered plane about 660 mph (1,062 kilometers per hour) at 43,000 feet (13,106 meters) above California’s Mojave Desert.
  • B–52 Stratofortress

    B–52 Stratofortress
    (1954) The B–52 bomber, used in the Vietnam War and Operation Desert Storm, is capable of dropping or launching the widest array of weapons in the U.S. inventory. It can fly 8,800 miles (14,162 kilometers) without refueling, and the H model (1962) is still used by the Air Force. B–52s are also used to air-launch experimental vehicles.
  • Bell UH–1 “Huey”

    Bell UH–1 “Huey”
    (1956) This was the first mass- produced helicopter powered by a jet engine. It was widely used for transport, military, fire support, medical evacuation, search and rescue, and reconnaissance roles, and later reconfigured as an attack helicopter for the Vietnam War.
  • X–15

    (1959–1969) This rocket-powered plane made 199 flights and set records for the highest altitude of 67 miles (108 kilometers) in 1963 and for the fastest speed of Mach 6.7 (4,520 mph or 7,274 kilometers per hour) in 1967. NASA used it for scientific and technological studies that bridged the gap between manned flight in the atmosphere and spaceflight.
  • SR–71 Blackbird

    SR–71 Blackbird
    (1966) For 24 years, it remained the world’s fastest and highest-flying jet aircraft. It was a long-range reconnaissance aircraft and, from 80,000 feet (24,384 meters), could survey 100,000 square miles (259,000 square kilometers) of the Earth’s surface per hour.
  • Harrier Jet

    Harrier Jet
    This was the first airplane that could take off and fly like a regular airplane and also perform vertical take offs and landings and hover like a helicopter. Its nozzles point back for regular flight. For hovering or vertical take offs and landings, the nozzles are turned to point straight down.
  • Boeing 747

    Boeing 747
    (1970) This was the world’s first and largest commercial jumbo jet capable of carrying up to 600 people. Flying at speeds over 550 mph (885 kilometers per hour), it can travel around one-third of the globe without refueling.
  • Concorde

    (1976) The first supersonic (above Mach 1) transport, this was the only passenger plane to fly above the speed of sound. Built by the British and the French, it had a cruising speed of Mach 2.2 and a cruising altitude of 60,000 feet (18,288 meters). Service was discontinued in 2003.
  • Gossamer Condor

    Gossamer Condor
    (1977) Flown by bycyclist Bryan Allen, it was the first aircraft to demonstrate sustained, maneuverable, human-powered flight, flying 1.3 miles (2 kilometers) in just under 8 minutes. In 1979, Allen powered (pedaled) the Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel.
  • F-15 Eagle

    F-15 Eagle
    (1977) It is a small highly maneuverable jet plane designed to fly combat missions in all weather conditions. Its primary mission is to maintain air superiority. This jet was the U.S.’s answer to the Soviet Union’s MiG–25, which at the time, was superior to the U.S. fighter jet, the F–4 Phantom, at the time. The F–15 has a perfect combat record with over 100 victories and zero defeats.
  • F–16 Falcon

    F–16 Falcon
    (1979) This was the first production military aircraft to incorporate a fly-by-wire flight control system.
  • F/A–18 Hornet

    F/A–18 Hornet
    1983) The U.S.’s first strike fighter used by the Navy and the Marines is a multi-mission fighter/ attack aircraft that can operate from either aircraft carriers or land bases. It was one of the first military planes to use a digital fly-by-wire (DFBW) system, which is an electronic flight control system teamed with a digital computer. Most new aircraft, as well as all of NASA’s space shuttles, are equipped with DFBW systems.
  • X–29

    (1984) This experimental plane was built to test the design of the forward swept wing and its very thin airfoil. It could fly at 50,000 feet (15,240 meters) at Mach 1.6, but it depended on an advanced computer system (fly-by-wire), which adjusted the control surfaces with up to 40 commands each second. It also tested advanced composite materials, which were very strong and lightweight. Only two were built and tested through 1992, but the design did not catch on for future aircraft.
  • Voyager

    This was the first plane to fly non-stop around the world, 25,000 miles (40,000 kilometers), without refueling. Flown by Burt Rutan and Jeanna Yeager, the trip took 9 days.
  • Aircraft of the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm)

    Aircraft of the Persian Gulf War (Operation Desert Storm)
    (1991) This was the first war fought and won almost completely by air power. The C–130 Hercules, C–141 Starlifter, and C–5A Galaxy aircraft transported combat and support troops and tons of equipment. F–117 stealth fighters launched the attack to begin the war. F–15C Eagles and F–14 Tomcats maintained air superiority, while F–16 Falcons, F–18 Hornets, and British and French Jaguars attacked enemy air defense installations. B–52G bombers pounded enemy front-line troops and U.S. Coalition ground t
  • B–2

    (1993) This was the first stealth bomber. It is a long- range bomber that can respond from a base in the U.S. to conflicts anywhere in the world within hours. Its design looks like one big wing and it uses a fly-by-wire system. It has the ability to fly undetected through enemy airspace by hiding from radar, flying quietly, and letting out very little exhaust. (The F–117 was the first stealth fighter.)
  • C–17 Globemaster III

    C–17 Globemaster III
    (1995) This military airlift aircraft (cargo plane) is capable of carrying up to 170,900 pounds. The cargo section is large enough to transport large-wheeled and tracked vehicles, tanks, helicopters, artillery, and weapons such as the Patriot Missile System. Able to airdrop paratroopers and cargo, it can also provide rapid positioning of forces.
  • Breitling Orbiter 3 Gondola

    Breitling Orbiter 3 Gondola
    (1999) This balloon made the first non-stop flight around the world by balloon.
  • Spirit of Freedom

    Spirit of Freedom
    (2002) This balloon carried Steve Fossett on the first solo round the world non-stop balloon flight. The balloon was launched in Australia and landed there 15 days later. Spirit of Freedom was 140 feet tall and 60 feet wide (43 meters wide and 18 meters tall). Using a combination of hot air and helium, the balloon traveled 20,385 miles (32,806 kilometers) and flew as high as 34,000 ft (10,363 meters). At times, it flew at more than 100 mph (161 kilometers per hour) and once reached a speed of 2
  • X–43

    (2004) In March, the Hyper-X Program success- fully air-launched this 12-foot, unmanned test vehicle to demonstrate the capability of its scramjet engine, which propelled the plane to fly just under Mach 7 (7 times the speed of sound, about 5,000 mph or 8,047 kilometers
    per hour). This was the first air-breathing (not a rocket- powered) vehicle to fly at hypersonic (above Mach 5) speeds. In November, the X–43 flew at just under Mach 10 (10 times the speed of sound, about 7,000 mph or 11,265 kilo
  • F–22 Raptor

    F–22 Raptor
    (2005) This stealth, fighter/attack plane built for the U.S. Air Force flies faster than the speed
  • F–35 Joint Strike Fighter

    F–35 Joint Strike Fighter
    (Expected 2008) This plane, currently being built for the U.S. Air Force, Marines, and Navy, as well as the British Royal Navy, is a supersonic, stealth fighter. The U.S. Marine version and the Royal Navy version have Short Takeoff and Vertical Landing (STOVL) capabilities.