The maiden flight of an aircraft is the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground under its own power. This is similar to a ship's maiden voyage.
The first flight of a new aircraft type is always a historic occasion for the type. It is also one of the most dangerous, because the exact handling characteristics of the aircraft are generally unknown. The first flight of a new type is almost invariably flown by a highly experienced test pilot. First flights are usually accompanied by a chase plane, to verify items like altitude, airspeed, and general airworthiness.
A first flight is only one stage in the development of an aircraft type. Unless the type is a pure research aircraft (such as the X-15), the aircraft must be tested extensively to ensure that it delivers the desired performance with an acceptable margin of safety. In the case of civilian aircraft, a new type must be certified by a governing agency (such as the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States) before it can enter operation.
Notable first flights
An incomplete list of first flights of notable aircraft types, organized by date, follows.
- June, 1875 – Thomas Moy's Aerial Steamer, London, England (no pilot and attache)
- October 9, 1890 – Clément Ader From Gretz-Armainvilliers, Ouest of Paris, France
- August 14, 1901 – Gustave Whitehead From Leutershausen, Bavaria
- May 15, 1902 – Lyman Gilmore From Grass Valley, California
- March 31, 1903 – Richard Pearse From Waitohi Flat, Temuka, South Island, New Zealand
- December 17, 1903 – Wright brothers Wright Flyer.
- March 18, 1906 – Traian Vuia, a Romanian engineer, flew in Montesson near Paris, France.
- October 23, 1906 – Alberto Santos-Dumont 14-bis flight, in Bagatelle park, Paris, France
- July 4, 1908 - Glenn Curtiss flew the first pre-announced public flight of a heavier-than-air flying machine. He flew 5,080 feet, to win the Scientific American Trophy and its $2,500 purse. Curtiss later received U.S. Pilot's license #1 from the Aero Club of America.
- July 28, 1935 – Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress.
- December 17, 1935 – Douglas DC-3.
- December 29, 1939 – Consolidated B-24.
- November 2, 1947 – Hughes H-4 Hercules. The only flight of this oversized flying boat.
- July 27, 1949 – de Havilland Comet. First jet airliner.
- August 23, 1954 – Lockheed C-130 Hercules. Military transport.
- May 27, 1955 – Sud Aviation Caravelle, first jet airliner with engines mounted in the tail.
- April 25, 1962 – Lockheed A-12 Blackbird. Supersonic spyplane.
- June 29, 1962 -Vickers VC10. First airliner with 4 engines mounted in the tail.
- April 9, 1967 – Boeing 737. Medium-range airliner.
- October 4, 1968 – Tupolev 154. Soviet/Russian airliner, still in operation.
- December 31, 1968 – Tupolev Tu-144. Soviet supersonic airliner.
- February 9, 1969 – Boeing 747. First widebody airliner.
- March 2, 1969 – Anglo-French Concorde. Supersonic airliner.
- September 19, 1969 – Mil Mi-24 Russian/Soviet-made helicopter used by many countries to this day.
- February 22, 1987 – Airbus A320 airliner, the first civil aircraft to have an all-digital fly-by-wire system.
- December 21, 1988 – Antonov An-225 Mriya. The jet with the longest fuselage and wingspan and overall heaviest aircraft.
- June 12, 1994 – Boeing 777. Long-range airliner with the most powerful jet engines ever made.
- April 27, 2005 – Airbus A380, doubledecker jetairliner, currently largest capacity in the world, took off from Toulouse–Blagnac Airport.
- December 15, 2006 – F-35 Lightning II – fifth-generation, stealth multirole fighter.
- December 11, 2009 – Airbus A400M Airbus first propeller plane.
- December 15, 2009 – Boeing 787 Dreamliner, the first major widebody airliner to use non-metal composite materials for most of its construction.
- January 29, 2010 – Sukhoi PAK FA, first Russian fifth generation fighter aircraft.
- February 8, 2010 – 747-8 first flight of freighter version of the stretched version of the Boeing 747.
- January 11, 2011 – Chengdu J-20, first flight of Chinese 5th generation fighter aircraft.
- March 20, 2011– 747-8, first flight of the intercontinental version of the stretched version of the Boeing 747.
- June 14, 2013 - Airbus A350 XWB first flight, took off from Airbus facilities at Toulouse–Blagnac Airport.
- September 16, 2013 - CS100 first flight taking off from Montreal-Mirabel Airport. Bombardier promises will be larger, quieter and more fuel efficient than anything in its commercial fleet.
- September 17, 2013 - Boeing 787-9 first flight taking off from Paine Field in Seattle, Washington.
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