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List of firsts in aviation

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Title: List of firsts in aviation  
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Subject: History of aviation, Ernest Archdeacon, List of Douglas DC-4 variants, Denise Moore, Yuan Huangtou
Collection: Aviation Pioneers, Aviation Records, Aviation-Related Lists, History of Aviation, Lists of Firsts, Number-Related Lists
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List of firsts in aviation

Stained glass window showing Eilmer of Malmesbury, installed in Malmesbury Abbey in 1920.

This is a list of firsts in aviation.


  • The forerunners 1
  • Heavier than air era 2
  • Notes and references 3
  • See also 4
  • Bibliography 5

The forerunners

Otto Lilienthal in mid-flight, c. 1895.

Heavier than air era

In 1999, Bertrand Piccard and Brian Jones achieved the first non-stop balloon circumnavigation in Breitling Orbiter 3.
The Swiss solar-powered aircraft Solar Impulse plan to make the first solar-powered aerial circumnavigation of the globe in 2015.
  • First flight in a powered airplane:
    • On October 9, 1890, Clément Ader flew uncontrolled for approximately 50 m (160 ft) in the steam-powered Éole.[21]
    • Gustave Whitehead claimed to have flown half a mile at a height of twenty to thirty feet in the spring of 1899, but there is little evidence to support this claim.[22] A second flight on August 14, 1901, was described in detail in a contemporary newspaper article.[23] Whitehead's claims are dismissed by many aviation historians.[24][25]
    • Richard Pearse is said to have flown a fixed-wing aircraft several hundred meters on March 31, 1903. Pearse himself later denied this claim.[26]
    • The Wright brothers are widely regarded as the inventors of the first fixed-wing aircraft to achieve sustained, controlled flight, the Wright Flyer. Orville Wright made the first successful flight in this aircraft on December 17, 1903, travelling 120 feet at a speed of 6.8 mph.[27] On September 20, 1904, Wilbur Wright made the first successful circular flight in a powered aircraft, covering 4,080 feet (1,244 m) in about a minute and a half.[28]
  • First heavier-than-air flight of more than 25 meters in Europe: On October 23, 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont, flew a distance of 60 meters in his 14-bis at the Chateau de Bagatelle, Paris, winning the Archdeacon Prize.[29]
  • First flight certified and registered by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI): On November 12, 1906, in the presence of official observers from the newly founded FAI, Alberto Santos Dumont flew his 14-bis a distance of 220 meters at the Chateau de Bagatelle, Paris.[30]
  • First airplane passenger:
  • First person to die in a crash of a powered airplane: Thomas Etholen Selfridge, a passenger on an aircraft piloted by Orville Wright which crashed at Fort Myer on September 17, 1908.[34] Wright was badly injured, and was hospitalised for seven weeks.
  • First ditching of an airplane in the sea: Hubert Latham, while attempting to complete the first powered flight across the English Channel on July 19, 1909, instead became the first person to perform a water landing when his aircraft suffered engine failure.[35]
  • First airplane flight across the English Channel: Louis Blériot crossed the Channel on July 25, 1909,[36] winning the Daily Mail prize of £1,000.[37]
  • First documented and witnessed seaplane flight under power from water's surface: Henri Fabre, piloting the Fabre Hydravion, at Martigues, France, on March 28, 1910.[38]
  • First mid-air collision between two airplanes: An Antoinette monoplane, piloted by Rene Thomas, rammed Bertram Dickson's Farman biplane on October 1, 1910.[39][40]
  • First shipboard take-off and landing by an airplane: Eugene Burton Ely, in a Curtiss pusher, took off from a temporary platform aboard light cruiser USS Birmingham on November 14, 1910.[41] Ely was also the first to land an airplane on a ship, touching down on a temporary platform aboard armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania on January 11, 1911.[42]
  • The first non-stop flight from London to Paris: Pierre Prier on 12 April 1911 in 3 hours and 56 minutes.[43]
  • First woman to die in a crash of a powered airplane: Denise Moore, on July 21, 1911.[44]
  • First flight across the Continental Divide of the Americas: Cromwell Dixon flew over the Rocky Mountains in a Curtiss pusher on September 30, 1911, reaching an altitude of 7,100 feet.[45]
  • First Chief of State to fly on an airplane: Ferdinand I of Bulgaria was a passenger in an aircraft flown by Jules de Laminne on July 15, 1910, during a visit in Belgium.[46]
  • First parachute jump from an airplane:
  • First woman to fly across the English Channel: Harriet Quimby flew from Dover to Hardelot-Plage on April 16, 1912.[50]
  • First take-off by an airplane from a moving ship: Commander Charles R. Samson took off from a temporary platform aboard battleship HMS Hibernia in a Short Improved S.27 No. 38, on May 9, 1912.[51]
  • First bombing attack against a surface ship: Didier Masson and Captain Joaquín Bauche Alcalde, flying for Mexican Revolutionist Venustiano Carranza, dropped dynamite bombs on Federalist gunboats at Guaymas, Mexico, on May 10, 1913.[52]
  • First air drop of propaganda leaflets: Didier Masson, flying for the Mexican Revolutionist Venustiano Carranza, post May 10, 1913.[52]
  • First pilot to fly a loop: Pyotr Nesterov in a Nieuport IV, on September 9, 1913.[53]
  • First flight across the Mediterranean Sea: Roland Garros flew from the South of France to Tunisia, on September 23, 1913.[54]
  • First dogfight: Dean Ivan Lamb (flying a Curtiss pusher) and Phil Rader (in a Christopherson biplane) fired pistol shots at each other while airborne, during the Siege of Naco, Mexico. This incident took place sometime around November/December 1913; the exact date is unknown.[55]
  • First scheduled commercial flight using winged aircraft: On January 1, 1914, Tony Jannus piloted the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, carrying former St. Petersburg mayor Abraham C. Pheill as its first paying passenger. The flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa took 23 minutes, and was repeated twice daily, six days a week, until May 5, 1914.[56]
  • First aircraft to shoot down another aircraft: A French Voisin III, piloted by Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault, engaged a German Aviatik B.II near Rheims on October 5, 1914. After expending all of his machine-gun ammunition, Quénault shot the German pilot (Wilhelm Schlichting) with his rifle, causing the Aviatik to crash.[57]
  • First female military pilot: Eugenie Mikhailovna Shakhovskaya was a reconnaissance pilot in the Imperial Russian Air Service, having been ordered to active service on November 19, 1914.[58]
The actual E.5/15 aircraft used by Wintgens in his pioneering aerial engagement on July 1, 1915, as it appeared at the time of the engagement.

Notes and references

  1. ^ Zizhi Tongjian 167. "(永定三年)使元黄头与诸囚自金凤台各乘纸鸱以飞,黄头独能至紫陌乃堕,仍付御史中丞毕义云饿杀之。" (Rendering: In the 3rd year of Yongding, 559, Gao Yang conducted an experiment by having Yuan Huangtou and a few prisoners launch themselves from a tower in Ye, capital of the Northern Qi. Yuan Huangtou was the only one who survived from this flight, as he glided over the city-wall and fell at Zimo [western segment of Ye] safely, but he was later executed.)
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  5. ^ Oborne, Michael W. (1998). A History of the Château de la Muette. OECD Publishing. pp. 86–7.  
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  20. ^ Manawatu Times, Volume XXVII, Issue 7526, 11 September 1902, Page 3
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See also


  • Conquistadors of the Sky: A History of Aviation in Latin America. Dan Hagedorn. University Press of Florida, 2008. ISBN 0-8130-3249-0, ISBN 978-0-8130-3249-8.
  • Leave No Man Behind: The Saga of Combat Search and Rescue. George Galdorisi, Thomas Phillips. MBI Publishing Company, 2009. ISBN 0-7603-2392-5, ISBN 978-0-7603-2392-2.
  • Interpretive History of Flight. M.J.B Davy. Science Museum, London, 1937.
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