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The Boeing 747, one of the most iconic aircraft in history.

Aviation, or air transport, refers to the activities surrounding mechanical flight and the aircraft industry. Aircraft includes fixed-wing and rotary-wing types, morphable wings, wing-less lifting bodies, as well as lighter-than-air craft such as balloons and airships.

Aviation began in the 18th century with the development of the hot air balloon, an apparatus capable of atmospheric displacement through buoyancy. Some of the most significant advancements in aviation technology came with the controlled gliding flying of Otto Lilienthal in 1896; then a large step in significance came with the construction of the first powered airplane by the Wright brothers in the early 1900s. Since that time, aviation has been technologically revolutionized by the introduction of the jet which permitted a major form of transport throughout the world.

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Rear view of CFM56-5
The CFM International CFM56 series is a family of high-bypass turbofan aircraft engines made by CFM International with a thrust range of 18,500 to 34,000 pound-force (lbf) (80 to 150 kilonewtons (kN)). CFMI is a 50-50 joint-owned company of SNECMA and GE Aviation. Both companies are responsible for producing components and each has its own final assembly line. The CFM56 first ran in 1974 and, despite initial political problems, is now one of the most prolific jet engine types in the world: more than 20,000 have been built in four major variants. It is most widely used on the Boeing 737 airliner and under military designation F108 replaced the Pratt & Whitney JT3D engines on many KC-135 Stratotankers in the 1980s, creating the KC-135R variant of this aircraft. It is also one of two engines used to power the Airbus A340, the other being the Rolls-Royce Trent. The engine is also fitted to Airbus A320 series aircraft. Several fan blade failure incidents were experienced during the CFM56's early service, including one failure that was noted as a cause of the Kegworth air disaster, and some variants of the engine experienced problems caused by flight through rain and hail. However, both these issues were resolved with engine modifications.

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Giant Plane Comparison.jpg
Credit: Clem Tillier

An overlay diagram showing four of the largest wide-body aircraft ever built, the Hughes H-4 Hercules (the "Spruce Goose", aircraft with the greatest wingspan), the Antonov An-225 Mriya (the largest freight aircraft), the Boeing 747-8 Intercontinental (soon to be the largest version of the Jumbojet), and the Airbus A380-800 (the largest passenger aircraft).

Did you know

...that a Fairchild C-119 Flying Boxcar was used in the 2004 film Flight of the Phoenix? ...that passengers aboard JetBlue Airways Flight 292 were able to watch their own malfunctioning aircraft circle Los Angeles International Airport on the satellite television screens at each seat until the flight crew disabled the system in preparation for the aircraft's successful emergency landing? ... that Jimmy Doolittle commanded a 22 plane demonstration celebrating the opening of Henderson, Kentucky's Audubon Memorial Bridge in 1932?

Selected Aircraft

XB-36 first flight.jpg
The Convair B-36 was a strategic bomber built by Convair for the United States Air Force, the first to have truly intercontinental range. Unofficially nicknamed the "Peacemaker", the B-36 was the first thermonuclear weapon delivery vehicle, the largest piston aircraft ever to be mass-produced, and the largest warplane of any kind.

The B-36 was the only American aircraft with the range and payload to carry such bombs from airfields on American soil to targets in the USSR, as storing nuclear weapons in foreign countries was diplomatically delicate. The nuclear deterrent the B-36 afforded may have kept the Soviet Army from fighting alongside the North Korean and Chinese armies during the Korean War. Convair touted the B-36 as an "aluminum overcast," a "long rifle" to give SAC a global reach. When General Curtis LeMay headed SAC (1949-57) and turned it into an effective nuclear delivery force, the B-36 formed the heart of his command. Its maximum payload was more than four times that of the B-29, even exceeding that of the B-52.

  • Span: 230 ft 0 in (70.10 m)
  • Length: 162 ft 1 in (49.40 m)
  • Height: 46 ft 9 in (14.25 m)
  • Engines: 6× Pratt & Whitney R-4360-53 "Wasp Major" radials, 3,800 hp (2,500 kW) each
  • Cruising Speed: 230 mph (200 kn, 380 km/h) with jets off
  • Range: 6,795 mi (5,905 nmi, 10,945 km) with 10,000 lb (4,535 kg) payload
  • First Flight: 8 August 1946

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Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes (December 24, 1905 - April 5, 1976) was a pioneering aviator, engineer, industrialist and film producer. He was widely known as a playboy and one of the wealthiest people in the world. He is famous for setting multiple world air-speed records; building the Hughes H-1 Racer and H-4 Hercules airplanes; producing Hell's Angels and The Outlaw; and, for his debilitating and eccentric behavior later in life. Hughes was born in Houston, Texas on December 24, 1905, although his exact birthdate is debated by some biographers. His parents were Allene Gano Hughes and Howard R. Hughes Sr., who patented the tri-cone roller bit, which allowed rotary drilling for oil in previously inaccessible places. Howard R. Hughes Sr. founded Hughes Tool Company in 1909 to commercialize this invention.

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Today in Aviation

October 20

  • 2012 - The Syrian Expatriates Organization claims that a combination of Syrian government airstrikes and a military blockade over the previous 130 days have destroyed 75 percent of the city of Deir ez-zor, Syria, killing over 3,000 people and causing 380,000 to flee the city.[1]
  • 1995 - Launch: Space Shuttle Columbia STS-73 at 9:53:00 am EDT. Mission highlights: Spacelab mission.
  • 1988 - Sheila Scott, English aviatrix died (b. 1922). Scott broke over 100 aviation records through her long distance flight endeavours, which included a 34,000 mile (54,400 km) "world and a half" flight 1971 on which she became the first person to fly over the North Pole in a small aircraft.
  • 1987 - USAF LTV A-7D-4-CV Corsair II, 69-6207, of the 4450th Tactical Group, Nellis AFB, Nevada, loses all power 15 miles S of Indianapolis, Indiana at 31,000 feet while en route from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, to Tinker AFB, Oklahoma. Pilot tries to dead-stick into Indianapolis International Airport but receives poor direction from air traffic controllers and crashes at ~0915 hrs. during late turn after aiming plane at a baseball field but fighter veers, striking bank branch roof and hitting center of Ramada Inn across the street, killing nine employees, injuring five others (one of whom died later as a result of the injuries sustained). Pilot Maj. Bruce L. Teagarden, 35, ejected, suffering bruises and muscle strain. He lands in parking lot of Ace Supply Company, four blocks from the hotel. Air Force pays out $50,427 in property claims damages, according to The New York Times on 26 October. This A-7D was part of the unit then secretly operating Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk stealth aircraft but this was successfully kept out of the media for several years.
  • 1983 - Japanese Air Self Defense Force McDonnell-Douglas F-15DJ Eagle, 12-8053, of the 202 Hiko-tai, crashes into the Pacific Ocean 110 miles E of Nyutubaru Air Base, Japan, during low altitude night flying training.
  • 1982 - A Swiss Air Force Hawker Hunter is shot down by another Hunter during an exercise at Cherroux near Payne, Switzerland.
  • 1977 - In the 1977 Convair CV-300 crash, the airliner chartered by the band Lynyrd Skynyrd runs out of fuel en route to Baton Rouge, Louisiana, crashing five miles (8 km) north of Gillsburg, Mississippi in a swampy pine forest while trying to reach an alternate airport; band members Ronnie Van Zant, Steve and Cassie Gaines, plus assistant road manager Dean Kilpatrick and the two pilots of the plane, are killed in the accident.
  • 1953 - Northrop YF-89D Scorpion, 49-2463, crashes at Edwards AFB, California, killing Northrop test pilot Walter P. Jones and Northrop radar operator Jack Collingsworth.
  • 1944 - Lockheed YP-80A-LO Shooting Star, 44-83025, c/n 080-1004, crashes at Burbank, California after main fuel pump failure, killing Lockheed test pilot Milo Burcham.
  • 1944 - U. S. forces invade Leyte in the Philippine Islands. U. S. Army Air Forces aircraft fly nearly 300 sorties in support.
  • 1943 - A U. S. Navy PBY Catalina flying boat and an Imperial Japanese Navy Mitsubishi G4 M (Allied reporting name "Betty") bomber exchange fire off Attu. It is the last air combat action in the Aleutian Islands.
  • 1941 - A Messerschmitt Bf 109F-2, Werk Nr. 12764, previously flown by Rolf Pingel (1 October 1913 - 4 April 2000), a German Luftwaffe ace and recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross, captured on 10 July 1941 when Pingel was forced to crash land in England near St. Margarets Bay after being hit by fire from a British Short Stirling bomber that he was pursuing, returned to flying condition by the RAF and allocated the serial ES906, crashes this date near Fowlmere, killing Polish pilot F/O J. Skalski.
  • 1937 - The Republican submarine C-6 is scuttled at Gijón, Spain, after suffering damage in an Nationalist air attack.
  • 1934 - (October 20-November 3) Sir Charles Kingsford Smith makes the first eastward crossing of the Pacific Ocean, from Brisbane, Australia to San Francisco, California, in the Lady Southern Cross. The Hawaii-to-San Francisco leg of his crossing on November 3 is the first eastward flight from Hawaii to North America.
  • 1929 - The airfield at Naval Air Station Glenview, located in Glenview, Illinois, is dedicated, and its hangar deemed the largest in the world.
  • 1924 - First recorded RCAF mercy flight took place from Vancouver BC to Norway House, Manitoba.
  • 1923 - First flight of the Tupolev ANT-7, a Soviet reconnaissance aircraft and escort fighter.
  • 1920 - Flying his Nieuport Delage, Sadi Lecointe set a world speed record when he flew 187.99 mph.
  • 1919 - The French pilot Bernard de Romanet, flying a Nieuport-Delage 29v, sets a new world speed record of 268.79 km/hr (166.92 mph).


  1. ^ "Syrian activist group says most of Deir ez-Zor city has been destroyed by Assad forces - Al Jazeera Blogs". Blogs.aljazeera.com. 2012-10-23. Retrieved .

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