Airplanes and Pilots

Updated: September 22, 2023
A pictorial history of the airplane and the men and women associated with flight featuring pilots, astronauts, inventors, explorers, and others.

Since the beginning of time, humans have wanted to fly. While this goal was sought in many ways from fashioning wings and wearing them, to hot air balloons and gliders, it wasn't until the beginning of the 20th century in 1903 that the modern concept of the airplane was successfully achieved by brothers Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright.

Following is a pictorial history of flight from the first planes, to military aircraft used during World War I, and the men and women associated with this history.

Flying fun facts:
  • KLM - Royal Dutch Airlines - is the oldest airline operating under its original name and still flying in the world. It was formed in 1919.

  • The Boeing 747's 195 ft wing-span is longer than the Wright Brothers' first flight - the Kitty Hawk flew 120 feet.

  • In the Fall of 1783 three passengers as well as a sheep, a rooster and a duck successfully flew in a hot air balloon.

  • English is used internationally in flight - all flight controllers and pilots must speak English if they are involved with flight between countries.

  • Harriet Quimby was the first woman licensed to pilot a plane in the U.S. - in 1911 then also became the first woman to fly across the English Channel in 1912.

  • Amelia Earhart was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean in 1932. Charles Lindbergh was the first man to fly solo, without stops, across the Atlantic in 1927.

  • Chuck Yeager was the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound in 1947.

  • Take heart: approximately 95.7% of people involved in a plane crash survive the crash.

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