History of Commercial Flight

23 Sep 11 One Comment

Today, I was going to write an involved analysis of an accident report that I’ve been reading this week.

Then, someone who was once considered a friend sent me this link: List of firsts in aviation – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

and the next thing I knew, the day had disappeared. Thanks a lot!

Seriously, this is just a Wikipedia list but it is a great read. The Forerunners all sound like fascinating people and when you get to Heavier than Air, it’s amazing to see how quickly things happened.

Some early highlights:

  • First flight in a powered airplane: Gustave Whitehead, August 14, 1901
  • First take-off by an airplane from a moving ship: Commander Charles R. Samson in Short Improved S.27 No. 38 from a temporary platform aboard battleship HMS Hibernia, May 1912
  • First pilot to fly a loop: Pyotr Nesterov in a Nieuport IV, September 9, 1913
  • First dogfight: Dean Ivan Lamb, flying a Curtiss Pusher vs Phil Rader in a Christopherson biplane during the Siege of Naco, Mexico, November 30, 1913
  • First non-stop trans-Atlantic flight: Alcock and Brown — St. John’s, Newfoundland to a bog near Clifden, Ireland, June 14-15, 1919

A real breakthrough for aircraft was finding a practical application for the average person: commercial flights for convenience.

The first scheduled airline flight took place in 1914. American pilot Tony Jannus ferried one passenger at a time across the Tampa Bay in Florida. The fare was five dollars and it was the first time that people could take advantage of point-to-point scheduled flights.

I also received this lovely graphic of the history of commercial flight which Holiday Extras have been kind enough to allow me to reproduce:


That first little plane on the left is the Benoist that Tony Jannus used to ferry people across the bay. The big beast on the right is the Airbus 380 which entered commercial service in 2007. Scanning the increases in size and fuel requirements and especially the range over that span of time is just fascinating.

Next week I’ll have that accident report finished, I promise.

Category: History,

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