The idea of flying to the heavens and getting rid of the earth has been in the human imagination for a long time. In mythology and very ancient narrations, this long-standing human desire is well observed. According to the books, one of the ancient Chinese emperors made a large dragon out of a special cloth and filled it with hot smoke and sent the dragon to the sky in front of the astonished eyes of his subjects.
In general, man has long dreamed of flying in the skies and has been thinking about the design of flying wings and always thinks of seeing the earth from the sky.
After the invention of the first aircraft by the Wright brothers, other scientists began to think about the development of this type of industry, and gradually the aviation industry became popular.
With the arrival of new generations of aircraft in their industrial family, aircraft today have defined the first letter of intercontinental transport. This has motivated some engineers to increase aircraft speed and transport speed.
When you think of the first airplane, who do you think about? Most people think about Orville and Wilbur Wright. And, December 17, 1903 is the day to remember. That was the day that Orville won the toss of the coin. He made the first successful powered flight in history! The place was Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wright Brothers’ dream of inventing a flying machine had come true.
It all started when Orville was 7 and Wilbur was 11 years old. Their father, Bishop Milton Wright, gave them a toy helicopter. It really flew. That toy made them dream of flying. Their parents helped them go after their dreams. Their mother, Susan K. Wright, was good with mechanical things. She went to college in Indiana. Very few women went to college at that time. She was very good in both math and science classes. Her boys learned a lot from her.
The boys still wanted to know about flight as they grew up. They read everything they could find about it. They studied what other people learned about flight. The Wright Brothers also went into the printing business. They even printed a four-page newspaper. Then, people started riding bicycles. So, the brothers opened a bicycle repair shop. Their shop opened in Dayton, Ohio. It wasn’t long before they were making their own bikes. But, they still wanted to fly.
By 1900, the Wright Brothers were ready to test their first glider. It was like a kite. They studied the best place to fly. They picked a sandy spot in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They camped out there. Between 1901 and 1903, they went back and forth between Dayton and Kitty Hawk. They were getting closer to flying. Finally, on December 17, 1903, the time had come.
That day, they flew four times. Orville flew the Wright Flyer the first time. That flight lasted 12 seconds. It went 120 feet. Their second and third flights went up about 175 feet each. Wilbur flew the fourth flight of the day. It went 859 feet. It took 59 seconds. After that last flight, the wind blew very hard. It blew the Flyer across the sand. The plane was too smashed up to fly again. They sent the good news about the flight to their father. They then packed their gear to head home in time for Christmas.
The Wright Brothers kept studying and testing new designs. They wanted to make their Flyer better. They began to teach others to fly. They even opened their own flying school. The brothers became rich and famous. Everything was going well for them. Sadly, in May 1912, Wilbur died from typhoid fever.
Orville was 77 when he died. He died while trying to fix his doorbell. Orville had led a good life. He had traveled all over the world to meet with famous people.
During his study of birds in flight, Leonardo Da Vinci realized humans cannot fly by attaching wings to our arms and flapping, as we are simply too weak, and too heavy. Thus, Da Vinci designed a flying machine to overcome this, but the drawings were only conceptual. He did not attempt to build the machine.
Another pair of brothers interested in aviation, Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, developed the first hot air balloon using smoke from a fire to blow hot air into a silk bag attached to a basket. On its first voyage carrying passengers, which consisted of several small-sized farm animals, the hot air balloon traveled more than a mile at a height of over 1,000 feet. Later that year, the brothers celebrated the craft’s first manned flight.
A scientific aerial investigator, George Cayley spent his life trying to discover how to achieve
flight and, over the course of 50 years, made numerous improvements to his glider designs. Cayley’s latest glider reportedly was the first gliding machine to make significant and reliable manned flights. Considered the “father of aviation,” Cayley laid the foundation for our understanding of flying. For example, he identified weight, lift, drag and thrust as the four forces that act upon flying machines, the elements of vertical flight, and the importance of cambered wings and a lightweight engine for sustained flights.
Inspired by the shape of an albatross, Jean-Marie Le-Bris’s glider was the first to fly higher than it’s departure point. It flew 330 ft high for a distance of about 660 feet.
Using methylated spirits to fuel its steam engine, Thomas Moy’s Aerial Steamer allegedly lifted 6 inches off the ground. Some credit it as being the first unmanned, steam-powered flying machine to leave the ground on its own. But others say it never stood a chance, because the aircraft could not reach the necessary speed for takeoff.
Capable of reaching a height of 200 feet, Charles Ritchel’s one-man dirigible was powered forward by a hand crank and a propellor. Turning could be accomplished using foot pedals that rotated the rudder to the left and right.
Although meant to be powered by a steam engine, Alexandre Goupil built his sesquiplane without one, and it still managed to leave the ground with two men onboard in 14 mph winds during its test flight.
Otto Lilienthal’s unpowered glider was the first that could repeatedly and reliably achieve manned flight over long distances. Because of his work, public and scientific audiences began to believe that flight was both possible and practical.
Samuel Langley built two successful steam-powered models of a flying machine he called an aerodrome. Aerodrome No. 5 flew 0.63 miles in May of 1896 and Aerodrome No. 6 flew three-quarters of a mile in November later that year. When Langley tried to scale up the next two aerodrome models to accommodate the weight of a man, the full sized aircraft were too heavy. They failed to launch successfully and crashed. He did not try to fly again after that.
After numerous experiments with various flying machines, Chanute concluded that several wings needed to be stacked in order to achieve extra lift without making the aircraft too heavy.
He also introduced the “strut-wire” braced wing structure, which was later used in powered biplanes. In the early 1900s, Chanute maintained close, encouraging correspondences with the Wright brothers and helped them publicize their work.
Short powered flights were performed in France by Romanian engineer Traian Vuia on 18 March and 19 August 1906 when he flew 12 and 24 meters, respectively, in a self-designed, fully self-propelled, fixed-wing aircraft, that possessed a fully wheeled undercarriage. He was followed by Jacob Ellehammer who built a monoplane which he tested with a tether in Denmark on 12 September 1906, flying 42 meters.
On 13 September 1906, a day after Ellehammer’s tethered flight and three years after the Wright Brothers’ flight, the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont made a public flight in Paris with the 14-bis, also known as Oiseau de proie (French for “bird of prey”). This was of canard configuration with pronounced wing dihedral, and covered a distance of 60 m (200 ft) on the grounds of the Chateau de Bagatelle in Paris’ Bois de Boulogne before a large crowd of witnesses. This well-documented event was the first flight verified by the Aéro-Club de France of a powered heavier-than-air machine in Europe and won the Deutsch-Archdeacon Prize for the first officially observed flight greater than 25 m (82 ft). On 12 November 1906, Santos-Dumont set the first world record recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale by flying 220 m (720 ft) in 21.5 seconds. Only one more brief flight was made by the 14-bis in March 1907, after which it was abandoned.
In March 1907, Gabriel Voisin flew the first example of his Voisin biplane. On 13 January 1908, a second example of the type was flown by Henri Farman to win the Deutsch-Archdeacon Grand Prix d’Aviation prize for a flight in which the aircraft flew a distance of more than a kilometer and landed at the point where it had taken off. The flight lasted 1 minute and 28 seconds.
Santos-Dumont later added ailerons between the wings in an effort to gain more lateral stability. His final design, first flown in 1907, was the series of Demoiselle monoplanes . The Demoiselle No 19 could be constructed in only 15 days and became the world’s first series production aircraft. The Demoiselle achieved 120 km/h. The fuselage consisted of three specially reinforced bamboo booms: the pilot sat in a seat between the main wheels of a conventional landing gear whose pair of wire-spoked mainwheels were located at the lower front of the airframe, with a tailskid half-way back beneath the rear fuselage structure. The Demoiselle was controlled in flight by a cruciform tail unit hinged on a form of universal joint at the aft end of the fuselage structure to function as elevator and rudder, with roll control provided through wing warping (No. 20), with the wings only warping “down”.In 1908, Wilbur Wright travelled to Europe, and starting in August gave a series of flight demonstrations at Le Mans in France. The first demonstration, made on 8 August, attracted an audience including most of the major French aviation experimenters, who were astonished by the clear superiority of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft, particularly its ability to make tight controlled turns.The importance of using roll control in making turns was recognised by almost all the European experimenters: Henri Farman fitted ailerons to his Voisin biplane and shortly afterwards set up his own aircraft construction business, whose first product was the influential Farman III biplane.
The following year saw the widespread recognition of powered flight as something other than the preserve of dreamers and eccentrics. On 25 July 1909, Louis Blériot won worldwide fame by winning a £1,000 prize offered by the British Daily Mail newspaper for a flight across the English Channel, and in August around half a million people, including the President of France Armand Fallières and David Lloyd George, attended one of the first aviation meetings, the Grande Semaine d’Aviation at Reims.
In 1914, pioneering aviator Tony Jannus captained the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, the world’s first commercial passenger airline.
It was not long before aircraft were shooting at each other, but the lack of any sort of steady point for the gun was a problem. The French solved this problem when, in late 1914, Roland Garros attached a fixed machine gun to the front of his plane, but while Adolphe Pegoud would become known as the first “ace”, getting credit for five victories before also becoming the first ace to die in action, it was German Luftstreitkräfte Leutnant Kurt Wintgens who, on 1 July 1915, scored the very first aerial victory by a purpose-built fighter plane, with a synchronized machine gun.
Aviators were styled as modern-day knights, doing individual combat with their enemies. Several pilots became famous for their air-to-air combat; the most well known is Manfred von Richthofen, better known as the “Red Baron”, who shot down 80 planes in air-to-air combat with several different planes, the most celebrated of which was the Fokker Dr.I. On the Allied side, René Paul Fonck is credited with the most all-time victories at 75, even when later wars are considered.
France, Britain, Germany, and Italy were the leading manufacturers of fighter planes that saw action during the war, with German aviation technologist Hugo Junkers showing the way to the future through his pioneering use of all-metal aircraft from late 1915.
The years between World War I and World War II saw great advancements in aircraft technology. Airplanes evolved from low-powered biplanes made from wood and fabric to sleek, high-powered monoplanes made of aluminum, based primarily on the founding work of Hugo Junkers during the World War I period and its adoption by American designer William Bushnell Stout and Soviet designer Andrei Tupolev. The age of the great rigid airships came and went. The first successful rotorcraft appeared in the form of the autogyro, invented by Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva and first flown in 1919. In this design, the rotor is not powered but is spun like a windmill by its passage through the air. A separate powerplant is used to propel the aircraft forwards.
After World War I, experienced fighter pilots were eager to show off their skills. Many American pilots became barnstormers, flying into small towns across the country and showing off their flying abilities, as well as taking paying passengers for rides. Eventually, the barnstormers grouped into more organized displays. Air shows sprang up around the country, with air races, acrobatic stunts, and feats of air superiority. The air races drove engine and airframe development—the Schneider Trophy, for example, led to a series of ever faster and sleeker monoplane designs culminating in the Supermarine S.6B. With pilots competing for cash prizes, there was an incentive to go faster. Amelia Earhart was perhaps the most famous of those on the barnstorming/air show circuit. She was also the first female pilot to achieve records such as the crossing of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.
Other prizes, for distance and speed records, also drove development forwards. For example, on 14 June 1919, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown co-piloted a Vickers Vimy non-stop from St. John’s, Newfoundland to Clifden, Ireland, winning the £13,000 ($65,000) Northcliffe prize. The first flight across the South Atlantic and the first aerial crossing using astronomical navigation, was made by the naval aviators Gago Coutinho and Sacadura Cabral in 1922, from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, with only internal means of navigation, in an aircraft specifically fitted for himself with an artificial horizon for aeronautical use, an invention that revolutionized air navigation at the time (Gago Coutinho invented a type of sextant incorporating two spirit levels to provide an artificial horizon). Five years later Charles Lindbergh received the Orteig Prize of $25,000 for the first solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic. This caused what was known in aviation at the time as the “Lindbergh boom”, where the volume of mail moving by air increased 50 percent, applications for pilots’ licenses tripled, and the number of planes quadrupled all within six months of the flight.About three months after Lindbergh, Paul Redfern was the first to solo the Caribbean Sea and went missing flying over Venezuela.
Australian Sir Charles Kingsford Smith was the first to fly across the larger Pacific Ocean in the Southern Cross. His crew left Oakland, California to make the first trans-Pacific flight to Australia in three stages. The first (from Oakland to Hawaii) was 2,400 miles (3,900 km), took 27 hours 25 minutes, and was uneventful. They then flew to Suva, Fiji 3,100 miles (5,000 km) away, taking 34 hours 30 minutes. This was the toughest part of the journey as they flew through a massive lightning storm near the equator. They then flew on to Brisbane in 20 hours, where they landed on 9 June 1928 after approximately 7,400 miles (11,900 km) total flight. On arrival, Kingsford Smith was met by a huge crowd of 25,000 at Eagle Farm Airport in his hometown of Brisbane. Accompanying him were Australian aviator Charles Ulm as the relief pilot, and the Americans James Warner and Captain Harry Lyon (who were the radio operator, navigator and engineer). A week after they landed, Kingsford Smith and Ulm recorded a disc for Columbia talking about their trip. With Ulm, Kingsford Smith later continued his journey being the first in 1929 to circumnavigate the world, crossing the equator twice.
The first lighter-than-air crossings of the Atlantic were made by airship in July 1919 by His Majesty’s Airship R34 and crew when they flew from East Lothian, Scotland to Long Island, New York and then back to Pulham, England. By 1929, airship technology had advanced to the point that the first round-the-world flight was completed by the Graf Zeppelin in September and in October, the same aircraft inaugurated the first commercial transatlantic service. However, the age of the rigid airship ended following the destruction by fire of the zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg just before landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey on 6 May 1937, killing 35 of the 97 people aboard. Previous spectacular airship accidents, from the Wingfoot Express disaster (1919) to the loss of the R101 (1930), the Akron (1933) and the Macon (1935) had already cast doubt on airship safety, but with the disasters of the U.S. Navy’s rigids showing the importance of solely using helium as the lifting medium; following the destruction of the Hindenburg, the remaining airship making international flights, the Graf Zeppelin was retired (June 1937). Its replacement, the rigid airship Graf Zeppelin II, made a number of flights, primarily over Germany, from 1938 to 1939, but was grounded when Germany began World War II. Both remaining German zeppelins were scrapped in 1940 to supply metal for the German Luftwaffe; the last American rigid airship, the Los Angeles, which had not flown since 1932, was dismantled in late 1939.
Meanwhile, Germany, which was restricted by the Treaty of Versailles in its development of powered aircraft, developed gliding as a sport, especially at the Wasserkuppe, during the 1920s. In its various forms, in the 21st-century sailplane aviation now has over 400,000 participants. Fritz von Opel was instrumental in popularizing rockets as means of propulsion for vehicles and planes. In the 1920s, he initiated together with Max Valier, co-founder of the “Verein für Raumschiffahrt”, the world’s first rocket program, Opel-RAK, leading to speed records for automobiles, rail vehicles and the first manned rocket-powered flight in September 1929. To build the world’s first rocket glider, Opel and Valier collaborated with Wasserkuppe pioneers Lippisch, Stamer and Hatry. Months earlier in 1928, one of his rocket-powered ground prototypes, the Opel RAK2, reached piloted by von Opel himself at the AVUS speedway in Berlin a record speed of 238 km/h, watched by 3000 spectators and world media, among them Fritz Lang, director of Metropolis and Woman in the Moon, world boxing champion Max Schmeling and many more sports and show business celebrities. A world record for rail vehicles was reached with RAK3 and a top speed of 256 km/h. After these successes on land and successful glider tests at Wasserkuppe, on 30 September 1929, von Opel piloted the world’s first public rocket-powered flight using a dedicated Opel RAK.1 rocket plane designed by Julius Hatry.
1929 also saw the first flight of by far the largest plane ever built until then: the Dornier Do X with a wingspan of 48 m. On its 70th test flight on 21 October 1929, there were 169 people on board, a record that was not broken for 20 years.
Less than a decade after the development of the first practical rotorcraft of any type with the autogyro, in the Soviet Union, Boris N. Yuriev and Alexei M. Cheremukhin, two aeronautical engineers working at the Tsentralniy Aerogidrodinamicheskiy Institut, constructed and flew the TsAGI 1-EA single rotor helicopter, which used an open tubing framework, a four-blade main rotor, and twin sets of 1.8-meter (5.9 ft) diameter anti-torque rotors; one set of two at the nose and one set of two at the tail. Powered by two M-2 powerplants, up-rated copies of the Gnome Monosoupape rotary radial engine of World War I, the TsAGI 1-EA made several successful low altitude flights. By 14 August 1932, Cheremukhin managed to get the 1-EA up to an unofficial altitude of 605 meters (1,985 feet) with what is likely to be the first successful single-lift rotor helicopter design ever tested and flown.
Only five years after the German Dornier Do-X had flown, Tupolev designed the largest aircraft of the 1930s era, the Maksim Gorky in the Soviet Union by 1934, as the largest aircraft ever built using the Junkers methods of metal aircraft construction.
In the 1930s, development of the jet engine began in Germany and in Britain – both countries would go on to develop jet aircraft by the end of World War II.
After enrolling in the Military Aviation Academy in Eskisehir in 1936 and undertaking training at the First Aircraft Regiment, Sabiha Gökçen, flew fighter and bomber planes becoming the first Turkish, female aviator and the world’s first, female, combat pilot. During her flying career, she achieved some 8,000 hours, 32 of which were combat missions.
World War II saw a great increase in the pace of development and production, not only of aircraft but also the associated flight-based weapon delivery systems. Air combat tactics and doctrines took advantage. Large-scale strategic bombing campaigns were launched, fighter escorts introduced and the more flexible aircraft and weapons allowed precise attacks on small targets with dive bombers, fighter-bombers, and ground-attack aircraft. New technologies like radar also allowed more coordinated and controlled deployment of air defense.
The first jet aircraft to fly was the Heinkel He 178 (Germany), flown by Erich Warsitz in 1939, followed by the world’s first operational jet aircraft, the Me 262, in July 1942 and world’s first jet-powered bomber, the Arado Ar 234, in June 1943. British developments, like the Gloster Meteor, followed afterwards, but saw only brief use in World War II. The first cruise missile (V-1), the first ballistic missile (V-2), the first (and to date only) operational rocket-powered combat aircraft Me 163—with attained velocities of up to 1,130 km/h (700 mph) in test flights—and the first vertical take-off manned point-defense interceptor, the Bachem Ba 349 Natter, were also developed by Germany. However, jet and rocket aircraft had only limited impact due to their late introduction, fuel shortages, the lack of experienced pilots and the declining war industry of Germany.
Not only airplanes, but also helicopters saw rapid development in the Second World War, with the introduction of the Focke Achgelis Fa 223, the Flettner Fl 282 synchropter in 1941 in Germany and the Sikorsky R-4 in 1942 in the USA.
After World War II, commercial aviation grew rapidly, using mostly ex-military aircraft to transport people and cargo. This growth was accelerated by the glut of heavy and super-heavy bomber airframes like the B-29 and Lancaster that could be converted into commercial aircraft. The DC-3 also made for easier and longer commercial flights. The first commercial jet airliner to fly was the British de Havilland Comet. By 1952, the British state airline BOAC had introduced the Comet into scheduled service. While a technical achievement, the plane suffered a series of highly public failures, as the shape of the windows led to cracks due to metal fatigue. The fatigue was caused by cycles of pressurization and depressurization of the cabin and eventually led to catastrophic failure of the plane’s fuselage. By the time the problems were overcome, other jet airliner designs had already taken to the skies.
USSR’s Aeroflot became the first airline in the world to operate sustained regular jet services on 15 September 1956 with the Tupolev Tu-104. The Boeing 707 and DC-8 which established new levels of comfort, safety and passenger expectations, ushered in the age of mass commercial air travel, dubbed the Jet Age.
In October 1947, Chuck Yeager took the rocket-powered Bell X-1 through the sound barrier. Although anecdotal evidence exists that some fighter pilots may have done so while dive-bombing ground targets during the war, this was the first controlled, level flight to exceed the speed of sound. Further barriers of distance fell in 1948 and 1952 with the first jet crossing of the Atlantic and the first nonstop flight to Australia.
The 1945 invention of nuclear bombs briefly increased the strategic importance of military aircraft in the Cold War between East and West. Even a moderate fleet of long-range bombers could deliver a deadly blow to the enemy, so great efforts were made to develop countermeasures. At first, the supersonic interceptor aircraft were produced in considerable numbers. By 1955, most development efforts shifted to guided surface-to-air missiles. However, the approach diametrically changed when a new type of nuclear-carrying platform appeared that could not be stopped in any feasible way: intercontinental ballistic missiles. The possibility of these was demonstrated in 1957 with the launch of Sputnik 1 by the Soviet Union. This action started the Space Race between the nations.
In 1961, the sky was no longer the limit for manned flight, as Yuri Gagarin orbited once around the planet within 108 minutes, and then used the descent module of Vostok I to safely reenter the atmosphere and reduce speed from Mach 25 using friction and converting the kinetic energy of the velocity into heat. The United States responded by launching Alan Shepard into space on a suborbital flight in a Mercury space capsule. With the launch of the Alouette I in 1963, Canada became the third country to send a satellite into space. The space race between the United States and the Soviet Union would ultimately lead to the landing of men on the Moon in 1969.
In 1967, the X-15 set the air speed record for an aircraft at 4,534 mph (7,297 km/h) or Mach 6.1. Aside from vehicles designed to fly in outer space, this record was renewed by X-43 in the 21st century.
The Harrier Jump Jet, often referred to as just “Harrier” or “the Jump Jet”, is a British designed military jet aircraft capable of Vertical/Short Takeoff and Landing (V/STOL) via thrust vectoring. It first flew in 1969, the same year that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin set foot on the moon, and Boeing unveiled the Boeing 747 and the Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde supersonic passenger airliner had its maiden flight. The Boeing 747 was the largest commercial passenger aircraft ever to fly, and still carries millions of passengers each year, though it has been superseded by the Airbus A380, which is capable of carrying up to 853 passengers. In 1975, Aeroflot started regular service on the Tu-144—the first supersonic passenger plane. In 1976, British Airways and Air France began supersonic service across the Atlantic, with Concorde. A few years earlier the SR-71 Blackbird had set the record for crossing the Atlantic in under 2 hours, and Concorde followed in its footsteps.
In 1979, the Gossamer Albatross became the first human-powered aircraft to cross the English channel. This achievement finally saw the realization of centuries of dreams of human flight.
Concorde, G-BOAB, in storage at London Heathrow Airport following the end of all Concorde flying. This aircraft flew for 22,296 hours between its first flight in 1976 and final flight in 2000.
The last quarter of the 20th century saw a change of emphasis. No longer was revolutionary progress made in flight speeds, distances and materials technology. This part of the century instead saw the spreading of the digital revolution both in flight avionics and in aircraft design and manufacturing techniques.
In 1986, Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew an aircraft, the Rutan Voyager, around the world unrefuelled, and without landing. In 1999, Bertrand Piccard became the first person to circle the earth in a balloon.
Digital fly-by-wire systems allow an aircraft to be designed with relaxed static stability. Initially used to increase the manoeuvrability of military aircraft such as the General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon, this is now being used to reduce drag on commercial airliners.
The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission was established in 1999 to encourage the broadest national and international participation in the celebration of 100 years of powered flight. It publicized and encouraged a number of programs, projects and events intended to educate people about the history of aviation.
21st-century aviation has seen increasing interest in fuel savings and fuel diversification, as well as low cost airlines and facilities. Additionally, much of the developing world that did not have good access to air transport has been steadily adding aircraft and facilities, though severe congestion remains a problem in many up and coming nations. Around 20,000 city pairs[ are served by commercial aviation, up from less than 10,000 as recently as 1996.
There appears to be newfound interest in returning to the supersonic era whereby waning demand in the turn of the 20th century made flights unprofitable, as well as the final commercial stoppage of the Concorde due to reduced demand following a fatal accident and rising costs.
At the beginning of the 21st century, digital technology allowed subsonic military aviation to begin eliminating the pilot in favor of remotely operated or completely autonomous unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs). In April 2001 the unmanned aircraft Global Hawk flew from Edwards AFB in the US to Australia non-stop and unrefuelled. This is the longest point-to-point flight ever undertaken by an unmanned aircraft and took 23 hours and 23 minutes. In October 2003, the first totally autonomous flight across the Atlantic by a computer-controlled model aircraft occurred. UAVs are now an established feature of modern warfare, carrying out pinpoint attacks under the control of a remote operator.
Major disruptions to air travel in the 21st century included the closing of U.S. airspace due to the September 11 attacks, and the closing of most of European airspace after the 2010 eruption of Eyjafjallajökull.
In 2015, André Borschberg and Bertrand Piccard flew a record distance of 4,481 miles (7,211 km) from Nagoya, Japan to Honolulu, Hawaii in a solar-powered plane, Solar Impulse 2. The flight took nearly five days; during the nights the aircraft used its batteries and the potential energy gained during the day.
On 14 July 2019, Frenchman Franky Zapata attracted worldwide attention when he participated at the Bastille Day military parade riding his invention, a jet-powered Flyboard Air. He subsequently succeeded in crossing the English Channel on his device on 4 August 2019, covering the 35-kilometre (22 mi) journey from Sangatte in northern France to St Margaret’s Bay in Kent, UK, in 22 minutes, with a midpoint fueling stop included.
24 July 2019 was the busiest day in aviation, for Flightradar24 recorded a total of over 225,000 flights that day. It includes helicopters, private jets, gliders, sight-seeing flights, as well as personal aircraft. The website has been tracking flights since 2006.
On 10 June 2020, the Pipistrel Velis Electro became the first electric aeroplane to secure a type certificate from EASA.
In the early 21st Century, the first fifth-generation military fighters were produced, starting with the F-22 Raptor and currently Russia, America and China have 5th gen aircraft (2019).
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the aviation industry due to the resulting travel restrictions as well as slump in demand among travelers, and may also affect the future of air travel. For example, the mandatory use of face masks on airplanes has become a common feature of flying since 2020.
1. High Speed:
It is the fast speed means of transport. Passengers and goods can be transported easily from one place to the other.
2. Minimum Cost:
Unlike railways and road transport, there is no need to spend money on the construction of any track or road, only airports have to be constructed.
3. Strategic Importance:
An airway has great strategic importance. It can be used for internal and external security.
4. Easy transport of costly and light goods:
It is quite convenient to send costly, light and perishable goods through air transport.
5. Free from physical barriers:
Air transport is free from physical barriers like river, mountains and valleys etc.
6. Useful for Agriculture:
Air transport is useful for aerial spray on pests and insects which cause harm to crops.
7. Useful in natural calamities:
During earth quake, flood, accidents and famine air transport is used for rescue operations.
1. High Costs:
Air transport is a costly service. Its operational costs are too high. Middle class and poor people can not affect its cash.
2. More Risks:
Air transport is prone to accidents. A small mistake can be very dangerous for passengers. Hijacking of planes is easily possible.
3. Huge Investments:
For creating aviation facilities, huge investments are required. The cost of aero planes, construction and maintenance of aerodromes and control mechanism needs a capital expenditure.
Lockheed Martin, the aviation giant, is probably in first place because of their huge revenue.
In 2020, they had revenue of about $ 65.4 billion. Despite the epidemic, this is still their biggest income year to date.
Lockheed Martin is an aerospace and technology company that specializes in military-grade security in addition to aircraft, and about 78 percent of its annual revenue comes from US military contracts.
They do not build commercial aircraft – only military and security aircraft.
The most prominent of these models is the Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, in partnership with NASA and the F22 Raptor, which is used exclusively by the US Air Force.
The SR-71 is one of the most widely flown aircraft ever built – meaning it can fly at much higher altitudes than standard military aircraft. They also built the first “stealth” aircraft, the F117, also known as the “nighthawk”.
The company will have approximately 114,000 employees by 2021 and will deliver approximately 500 aircraft per year to customers.
One of its most popular models, the F-16, has an average lifespan of about 8,000 to 10,000 flying hours.
After winning a $ 2.5 billion contract in June 2021, Lockheed Martin plans to expand production of the F-35, one of its most popular models in 2021, despite complaints that it is expensive to maintain. The Air Force provides services to 13 countries.
irbus SE is a European company and the world’s biggest airliner manufacturer. They also manufacture military aircraft and helicopters, though the vast majority of their business dealings are in commercial airliner manufacturing.
They began exclusively as an airliner company, though began to manufacture military-grade aircraft in the 1990s.
For a long time, Boeing was the biggest company manufacturing airliners, but Airbus SE has overtaken them in recent years.
The company is largely based in France, though also has offices and production lines all across the world, including in Canada and The U.S.
The first-ever digital fly by wire airliner plane was manufactured and sold by Airbus, hence why they are one of the best-renowned companies now for making airliners.
Fly by wire means having an electronic interface for the pilot instead of manual controls.
Airbus made approximately $78.9 billion in revenue in 2020, though some of these sales are expected to have dropped off slightly in 2021 due to the lack of airliner requirements during the pandemic.
In 1972, Airbus released the A300, which was the first aircraft to have the digital fly-by-wire interface, as well as a double engine and double aisle within the aircraft.
The A320 was built shortly after using a similar design, and this model is still one of the world’s most popular airliner aircraft to this day!
This model has an approximate lifespan of around 120,000 flight hours. It is also considered to be one of the safest models of airliner in the world, given its long and reliable history of flying.
Other models of theirs which have 0 recorded passenger fatalities are the A350 and the Airbus A380.
As of 2020, Airbus SE have approximately 131,000 employees across the world. Their 12,000th aircraft to ever be manufactured was given to the American airline Delta Airlines in 2019, and they average at around 20 aircraft per month currently, largely due to the pandemic.
Perhaps one of the most recognizable names in the aircraft manufacturing industry, Boeing is an American corporation that sell commercial airliner aircraft as well as weapons systems, satellites, and rockets.
In 2020, Boeing had a revenue of approximately $58.16 billion, and has over 143,000 employees across all locations.
They began in Seattle by William Boeing in 1916, and quickly became one of the biggest airliner companies around.
In 2018, it was the second largest defence contractor on the planet. It also exports more than any other company in the United States.
Boeing is well known for their 747, 737, and other Dreamliner models, which are among some of the most popular airliner models in existence.
Unfortunately, in 2017, the 737 models were all grounded as a result of two fatal crashes. They have since fixed the issues with this model and are now flying again.
Since then, the company hasn’t been on top of the airliner industry in the same way they used to be. Despite the crashes, they do have other models which have had zero passenger fatalities – the ever-popular 747, and the 787 Dreamliner, for instance.
Sadly, in 2021, the company began to slow the production of the 787 due to forensic investigations into the quality of the planes. There have been multiple reported issues with the model, such as electrical problems and gaps around the forward pressure bulkhead.
Despite this, the company continues to push on in other areas in order to maximize revenue in 2021. They have just sold a new fleet of 737 aircraft to the British airline company, Ryanair, after a few months of delay.
Another US based aerospace and military defence company, Raytheon, is based in Massachusetts. In 2020, the company merged with United Technologies. Their 2020 revenue was $56.68 billion.
It has approximately 180,000 employees, one of the highest among any of the aircraft manufacturers mentioned in this article. According to reports, over 60,000 of these employees are engineers, which is set to see them grow potentially bigger than some of the other companies on this list.
Its most prominent customer, like many of the aircraft manufacturing companies on this list, is the US military. The company manufactures a variety of goods including military aircraft, cybersecurity methods after their acquisition of Websense, components for weapons, and much more.
One of Raytheon’s most interesting and notable qualities isn’t actually the aircraft that they manufacture, but their unparalleled diversity training.
Following the Black Lives Matter protests in 2020, Raytheon Technologies implemented a strict training for all employees which relied on critical race theory and educated employees on how to check their privilege.
In a radical move, it also saw them support the defunding of the police in America and reparations for slavery.
Following the merger of Raytheon Company and United Technologies, the Raytheon Technologies company no longer makes entire aircraft.
Most of its role, however, does involve engineering systems and engines to develop aircraft, particularly in a military setting.
At the minute, this mostly focuses on making aircraft more sustainable, as air travel is currently one of the most heavily polluting industries on Earth.
The company is currently pouring its efforts into creating GTF engines with better fuel economy, as well as the creation of a hybrid engine plane which uses half electricity and half fuel to travel.
They’re also working on creating an efficient ‘sustainable aviation fuel’, a form of biofuel which will be used exclusively for powering aircraft. This is particularly pressing in the commercial air travel industry, as the huge airliners require an incredible amount of fuel.
Northrop Grumman is a well established military aircraft manufacturer based in Virginia, United States, and sells both aircraft and weapons.
The company operates multinationally and sells to over 25 allied militaries worldwide. In 2020, the company had a revenue of $36.7 billion. Typically, they average around $30 billion per year.
Northrop has over 90,000 employees, falling a little short compared to the giants such as Boeing and Lockheed Martin.
On eight separate occasions, they have been the recipient of the Collier Trophy, which is presented by the National Aeronautic Association for achievements in aeronautics and aircraft. This is an impressive feat considering the company was only founded in 1994!
One of these was for the Grumman X-47B, the first unmanned and autonomous aerial vehicle to be used in the US Navy.
The most exciting project on Northrop’s horizon at the minute is the development of the B-21 Raider, in association with the US Air Force. It is a heavy bomber vehicle which will be able to drop bombs from long range.
It is also anticipated to be able to carry nuclear weapons as well as standard bombs.
GE Aviation is based near Cincinnati, Ohio, and boasts a small 48,000 employees. It is a part of the General Electric family, which is also known for making cars and home appliances.
In the 2020 financial year, GE Aviation made a revenue of $22.04 billion USD. General Electric Aviation do not make their own aircraft, however, they do supply engines, computers, and much more to the big aircraft manufacturers.
This means that their customers include many of the other companies on this list – Lockheed Martin, for instance, and Airbus.
The vast majority of their revenue is derived from making engines for commercial airliner planes. One of their most notable inventions is the GEnx, a commercial engine designed specifically for the Boeing Dreamliner range (the 747 and 787). It is also their fastest selling engine ever designed!
Other popular models of engine by General Electric Aviation include the GP7200, built in collaboration with Raytheon Technologies, which provides the Airbus A380 with the most fuel efficient engine currently available on the market.
They are also heavily present in the military side of aviation, however. Similar to their work on commercial engines, they manufacture jet engines to be fitted into military aircraft.
Some of their latest and best work includes the invention of the Adaptive Cycle engine, which allows military aircraft to travel further, quicker, and longer. The airflow within the engine changes automatically according to the pilot’s flight style at any given moment.
In a similar way to their competitor Raytheon Technologies, General Electric Aviation is also looking to fix the issue of a lack of sustainability within the commercial airline industry. They are currently looking to develop their own sustainable aviation fuel.
Safran is a French company whose revenue in 2021 thus far has been $19 billion. This is a little smaller than most of the other competitors in this list, though Safran have still done pretty well for themselves, standing up to the potentially oversaturated American market.
The company is the result of a merger between SNECMA, an aircraft manufacturer, and SAGEM, a security firm, in 2005. They now no longer manufacture their own aircraft frames, but instead focus on engines, avionics, airplane interiors, electrical systems, and much more.
Safran SA is considered a world leader of navigation systems for both commercial airliners and military aircraft.
The company employs around 81,000 people, making it a fairly mid-range company on this list.
Most recently, Safran won a contract with Singapore Airlines to outfit their fleet of Boeing 777-9 fleet with carbon brakes and wheels. The French army currently uses 390 of Safran’s unique M88 engines.
One of the most interesting things about Safran is that they are specialists in interiors as well as engine and systems components, unlike many of the other companies on this list.
For instance, the Boeing 777-200LR which is currently being used by Crystal AirCruises, has an interior entirely designed by Safran SA, right down to the in-flight entertainment systems!
Leonardo Company hails from Italy, and in 2020, had a revenue of 13.4 billion Euros. They are a multinational company, though remain mostly based in Italy.
In 2018, Leonardo was the eighth largest military contractor in the world. Founded in 1948, making them one of the oldest corporations on our list of top 10 aircraft manufacturers, the company has around 50,000 employees to date.
This company designs and manufactures commercial and military aircraft, as well as helicopters.
The company built the Eurofighter Typhoon, a military fighter jet, in collaboration with Airbus and BAE systems. As of 2020, there were just over 500 of them in the world. They are used primarily by European militaries such as the British Army, though also have some customers in the Middle East, including the armies of Kuwait and Saudi Arabia.
They also specialize in cyber security, working with governments and high-level corporations to install security equipment, computers, control panels, etc.
Leonardo even provides exclusive flight training for both their Eurofighter and helicopters – this is something which specifically sets them apart from their competitors.
Bombardier is perhaps one of the most well-known names in aviation and aerospace, despite operating at a much lower revenue than the majority of the other companies listed in this article.
The company’s revenue totalled $6.5 billion in 2020. They are a Canadian company who formerly manufactured a wide variety of transportation, such as trains and commercial airliner aircraft.
However, the company now primarily focuses on building business/private jets, making them a unique company in comparison to their peers who mainly focus on military or commercial aircraft design.
Strangely, Bombardier started life as a snowmobile manufacturer, and gradually worked their way up until they began designing and producing buses, trains, airliner planes, and military ground vehicles.
In recent years, one of their most prominent aircraft efforts has been the C-series commercial airliner plane. The aircraft had a rocky few years, however, failing to meet demand and being accused of selling below market price due to Canadian government subsidies.
Following this, Airbus took on the design after acquiring a 50.01% stake in the model, and they now own the aircraft. It has been renamed the Airbus A220.
The company’s efforts now lay primarily in their private jet business. They have three main jet ‘families’ – the Global, Learjet, and Challenger, all of which are top sellers in the private jet industry.
Perhaps the most controversial airline manufacturer on this list is the United Aircraft Corporation, a state-owned Russian firm that produces military and commercial aircraft.
In 2018, their reported revenue was $6 billion. There have not since been any figures released, though it is suspected that they are still a giant within the world of aviation and aerospace.
The company has 100,000 employees, and the vast majority of its military aircraft are made exclusively for the Russian military. However, they do also supply to the Chinese army.
Their first commercial plane to ever fly was the Sukhoi Superjet 100, which was a joint project with Boeing and Sukhoi.
In July 2021, the company teased a new military aircraft via their Twitter account, which is said to be a major international competitor. Strangely, the corporation announced it via a ‘meme’ which involved an image from the TV show The X Files.
Reportedly, with the backing of funds from a UAE investment firm, they are also working rapidly to develop a supersonic commercial airplane which will rival the original Concorde. They’ll have to develop it fast, though, as there’s hot competition from competing companies such as Virgin Galactic.
Most aircraft are built to be sold to large numbers of customers. The process of designing a small aircraft, including security tests, can take up to four years, and longer for large aircraft. It is during these processes that aircraft goals and design progress. Aircraft companies, for example, use simulated aircraft drawings and models to test its resistance to wind as well as to predict its movements in different conditions. These experiments are all performed by special computers designed solely for this purpose. Also, in order to check the aerodynamics of the aircraft, reduced models of it are placed in wind tunnels.
Once the aircraft design went through these steps, the company began producing a limited number of prototype aircraft to test on the ground. The first of these tests is often performed by representatives of government agencies involved in air transportation. In this way, flight tests continue to meet all the needs of a safe flight. Representatives of the State Air Transport Authority then allow the manufacturer to mass-produce the aircraft.
There are a limited number of large aircraft manufacturers in the world. However, the process of building an airplane is visual, involving dozens or hundreds of large and small companies. For example, one company can produce landing gear while another is in charge of its radar. And the production of various parts limited to a specific city or even country so that in large companies these parts can be exported from all over the world. These parts are then ordered and built to the city where the main assembly line of the aircraft is located. After completing these steps, the aircraft will be tested several times by the inspectors of the aviation government agencies to eliminate its hidden flaws and defects. Once the flight certificate of an aircraft is issued, the manufacturer begins the final tests. In these tests, the aircraft is used for decades by professional and experienced pilots, and it is after this stage that the aircraft is designed, including paint, seats, etc., to be ready for delivery to the customer.
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