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

Aviation is 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 hot air 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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A Zeppelin is a type of rigid airship pioneered by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin in the early 20th century. Due to the outstanding success of the Zeppelin design, the term zeppelin in casual use came to refer to all rigid airships. The German defeat in World War I halted the business temporarily, but under the guidance of Hugo Eckener, the successor of the deceased count, civilian Zeppelins experienced a renaissance in the 1920s. They reached their zenith in the 1930s, when the airships LZ127 "Graf Zeppelin" and LZ129 "Hindenburg" profitably operated regular transatlantic passenger flights. The Hindenburg disaster in 1937 triggered the fall of the "giants of the air", though other factors, including political issues, contributed to the demise.

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Schematic diagram of a V-2 rocket.
Credit: Image credit: Fastfission

A schematic of the V-2 rocket, the first ballistic missile, the first man-made object to achieve sub-orbital spaceflight, and the progenitor of all modern rockets. Developed by Wernher von Braun on behalf of Nazi Germany, and based on work by Robert H. Goddard, over 3,000 V-2s were launched during World War II against Allied targets, resulting in the death of an estimated 7,250 military personnel and civilians. An estimated 20,000 inmates at Mittelbau-Dora died constructing V-2s, making the V-2 perhaps the only weapon system to have more deaths caused by its production than its deployment.

Did you know

...that after the Red Baron, French ace René Fonck had the most confirmed World War I aerial victories? ...that on May 3, 2002 a military MiG-21bis aircraft crashed into the Bank of Rajasthan in India, killing eight? ...that the Pterodactyl Ascender (pictured) has been one of the most influential designs in ultralight aviation?

Selected Aircraft

AN-225 with the Soviet Space Shuttle, Buran.

The Antonov An-225 Mriya (? -225 ?, NATO reporting name: Cossack) is a strategic airlift transport aircraft built by Antonov, and is the world's largest powered aircraft. Mriya (?) means "dream" (inspiration) in Ukrainian.

With a maximum gross weight of 640,000 kg (1,400,000 lb), the An-225 is the world's heaviest aircraft. Although its wingspan is less than that of the Hughes H-4 "Spruce Goose", the latter never went beyond a single short low-altitude test flight, making the An-225 the largest aircraft in the world to take off more than once. Both the An-124 and An-225 are larger than the C-5 Galaxy, the largest aircraft in the U.S. inventory. The An-225 is also larger than the Airbus A380.

  • Span: 88.40 m (291 ft 2 in)
  • Length: 75.30 m n(246 ft 11 in)
  • Height: 18.1 m (59.3 ft)
  • Engines: 6× ZMKB Progress D-18 turbofans, 229 kN (51,600 lbf) each
  • Cruising Speed: 750 km/h (400 knots, 465 mph)
  • First Flight: December 21, 1988

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Selected biography

Sophie Blanchard
Sophie Blanchard (25 March 1778 - 6 July 1819) was a French aeronaut and the wife of ballooning pioneer Jean-Pierre Blanchard. Blanchard was the first woman to work as a professional balloonist, and after her husband's death she continued ballooning, making more than 60 ascents. Known throughout Europe for her ballooning exploits, Blanchard entertained Napoleon Bonaparte, who promoted her to the role of "Aeronaut of the Official Festivals", replacing André-Jacques Garnerin. On the restoration of the monarchy in 1814 she performed for Louis XVIII, who named her "Official Aeronaut of the Restoration".

Ballooning was a risky business for the pioneers. Blanchard lost consciousness on a few occasions, endured freezing temperatures and almost drowned when her balloon crashed in a marsh. In 1819, she became the first woman to be killed in an aviation accident when, during an exhibition in the Tivoli Gardens in Paris, she launched fireworks that ignited the gas in her balloon. Her craft crashed on the roof of a house and she fell to her death. She is commonly referred to as Madame Blanchard and is also known by many combinations of her maiden and married names, including Madeleine-Sophie Blanchard, Marie Madeleine-Sophie Blanchard, Marie Sophie Armant and Madeleine-Sophie Armant Blanchard.

In the news

Today in Aviation

August 11

  • 2009 - Airlines PNG Flight 4684, a de Havilland Canada DHC-6 Twin Otter carrying 11 passengers and 2 crew crashes into a mountain at Isurava, Papua New Guinea whilst attempting a go around at Kokoda Airport, Papua New Guinea; all passengers and crew perished in the accident.
  • 2004 -CH-53E Super Stallion 164782 from HMM-166 (Reinforced) crashes in the Al-Anbar province, killing two Marines and wounding three others.
  • 2002 - U. S. Airways filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
  • 1993 - 11-14 - Two B-1 Lancers complete a round-the-world trip in 47 hours.
  • 1991 - Space Shuttle Atlantis lands after completing mission STS-43.
  • 1986 - A modified Westland Lynx sets a new helicopter world speed record of 249 mph (401 km/h)
  • 1985 - Space Shuttle Challenger is flown to Kennedy Space Center via Davis-Monthan AFB, Ariz.
  • 1984 - President Ronald Reagan jokes during a radio sound check that he had "signed legislation that would outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in 5 min. " The joke is not broadcast live (contrary to some accounts) but when word of it spreads, the Soviet Army is put on high alert for about 30 min.
  • 1982 - A bomb explodes in a seat cushion aboard Pan Am Flight 830, killing 16-year-old Toru Ozawa and injuring 15 others. The plane, a 747-100 (Clipper Ocean Rover, N754 PA), makes an emergency landing in Honolulu and is repaired. The perpetrator, Mohammed Rashed, is arrested in Greece seven years later and convicted of murder, but freed eight years later. Rashed has also been indicted in the US, and is currently on the FBI's most wanted list.
  • 1972 - NATO signs a development contract for the MRCA (Multi-Role Combat Aircraft) programme, which will eventually result in the Panavia Tornado
  • 1962 - The Soviet Union launched cosmonaut Andrian Nikolayev on a 94-hour flight.
  • 1955 - First flight of the Bell XV-3 (Bell 200), American tilt rotor aircraft (the three-bladed rotors replaced by two-bladed rotors)
  • 1955 - Two United States Air Force C-119 Flying Boxcars collide near Stuttgart, Germany, killing 66.
  • 1952 - British Overseas Airways Corporation (BOAC) inaugurates its new weekly service between London and Colombo, the capital of Ceylon (now Sri Lanka).
  • 1945 - First of only two Nakajima Kikka twin-jet fighters, completed on 25 June, first flown 7 August for eleven minutes by Lt. Cdr. Sasumu Tanaoka out of Kisarazu Naval Air Base, crashes on second flight this date. Second unflown Kikka is shipped to the U.S. after the Japanese capitulation.
  • 1943 - Eight German Focke Wulf Fw 190 s attack USS Philadelphia and two American destroyers off Brolo, Sicily; they score no hits. Philadelphia shoots down five of them and destroyer USS Ludlow (DD-438) and a U. S. Army Air Forces fighter shoot down one each. Allied aircraft break up a German counterattack against U. S. Army forces at Brolo, but seven U. S. Army Air Forces A-36 bombers mistakenly attack the American positions, destroying the command post and four artillery pieces.
  • 1943 - Nine U. S. Army Air Forces B-24 Liberators of the Eleventh Air Force make the second raid of World War II against the Kurile Islands, again attacking the Japanese base at Paramushiro, causing noteworthy damage. Japanese fighters shoot down one B-24 and damage the other eight; the B-24 s shoot down 13 Japanese fighters. The Eleventh Air Force decides not to raid the Kuriles again without fighter escort of its bombers.
  • 1942 - Axis opposition to Operation Pedestal - An Allied resupply convoy to Malta escorted by the British aircraft carriers HMS Victorious, HMS Indomitable, and HMS Eagle, against which 1,000 Axis aircraft have gathered in Sicily and Sardinia - begins when the German submarine U-73 hits Eagle with four torpedoes in the Mediterranean Sea about 141 kilometres (88 mi) north of Algiers. Eagle sinks in eight minutes, with the loss of 131 of her crew and 16 Sea Hurricane fighters. German torpedo planes launch ineffectuve attacks on the convoys, and a strike by Royal Air Force Beaufighters destroys five and damages 14 of the German aircraft on the ground after they return to base
  • 1941 - (11-12) The Soviet Air Force makes its first raid on Berlin, as 11 Petlyakov Pe-8 s arrack the city. German defenses shoot down five Pe-8 s, and Soviet antiaircraft artillery mistakenly shoots down another as it returns to base.
  • 1921 - The 1921 Schneider Trophy race is flown at Venice, Italy. In an all-Italian field, Giovanni De Briganti wins the race in a Macchi M.7 with an average speed of 189.7 kilometres per hour (117.9 mph).
  • 1918 - Royal Air Force Flight Sub-Lieutenant Stuart Culley shoots down Zeppelin L 53 after taking off from a barge towed behind the destroyer HMS Redoubt.
  • 1918 - The first use of a parachute from a combat aircraft occurs when a German pilot escapes his burning Pfalz D.III after being attacked by a pilot from No. 19 Squadron RAF.
  • 1915 - The U. S. Naval Observatory asks Eastman Kodak to develop a special aerial reconnaissance camera that could be used from an airplane flying at heights of 3,000 feet (910 m) to 6,000 feet (1,800 m).
  • 1909 - The first flight of the Baddeck No. 1, a Canadian-built aircraft, by the Canadian Aeroplane Company, took place at Petawawa, Ontario.
  • 1906 - Mrs. C. J. S. Miller becomes the first woman passenger in an airship. The 40-hp craft is owned and operated by her husband, Major Miller.


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