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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, parachutes, 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; then a largest 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 with the introduction of the jet which permitted a major form of transport throughout the world.

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A Ryanair Boeing 737 on the landing roll at Bristol Airport
Ryanair is an airline based in Ireland. It is Europe's largest low-cost carrier, operating 209 low-fare routes to 94 destinations across 17 European countries. Over the years it has evolved into the world's most profitable airline, running at remarkable margins by relentlessly driving costs down. Ryanair has been characterised by rapid and continuing expansion, enabled by the deregulation of the air industry in Europe in 1997. It operates a fleet of 74 Boeing 737s, and currently has firm orders for an additional 225 Boeing 737-800 airplanes by 2010, with options on a further 193. Ryanair is one of Europe's most controversial companies, praised and criticised in equal measure. Its supporters praise its commitment to exceptionally low fares, its radical management, its populism, and its willingness to challenge what Ryanair calls the 'establishment' within the airline industry. Critics, meanwhile, have attacked its labor union policies, and have charged that it practises deceptive advertising.

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Refueling a fire fighting helicopter Southern River, Western Australia.
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...Archive/Nominations [[|Read more...]]

Did you know

...that during the Winter War, a Swedish fundraising drive paid for the purchase of a Fokker F.VIII airliner for the Finnish Air Force?


...that the Battle of Britain Memorial Flight contains the world's oldest airworthy survivor of the Battle of Britain, alongside ten other historic aircraft - two of which fought over Normandy on D-Day?

... that when Lilian Bland built an aircraft in 1910, she used her aunt's ear-trumpet and a whisky bottle to feed petrol to the engine?

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A spitfire in flight

The Supermarine Spitfire was a single-seat fighter used by the RAF and many Allied countries in World War II.

Produced by Supermarine, the Spitfire was designed by R.J. Mitchell, who continued to refine it until his death from cancer in 1937. The elliptical wing had a thin cross-section, allowing a faster top speed than the Hurricane and other contemporary designs; it also resulted in a distinctive appearance. Much loved by its pilots, the Spitfire saw service during the whole of World War II, in all theatres of war, and in many different variants.

More than 20,300 examples of all variants were built, including two-seat trainers, with some Spitfires remaining in service well into the 1950s. It was the only fighter aircraft to be in continual production before, during and after the war.

The aircraft was dubbed Spitfire by Sir Robert MacLean, director of Vickers (the parent company of Supermarine) at the time, and on hearing this, Mitchell is reported to have said, "...sort of bloody silly name they would give it." The word dates from Elizabethan times and refers to a particularly fiery, ferocious type of person, usually a woman. The name had previously been used unofficially for Mitchell's earlier F.7/30 Type 224 design.

The prototype (K5054) first flew on March 5, 1936, from Eastleigh Aerodrome (later Southampton Airport). Testing continued until May 26, 1936, when Mutt Summers (Chief Test Pilot for Vickers (Aviation) Ltd.) flew K5054 to Martlesham and handed the aircraft over to Squadron Leader Anderson of the Aeroplane & Armament Experimental Establishment (A&AEE).

  • Length: 29 ft 11 in (9.12 m)
  • Wingspan: 36 ft 10 in (11.23 m)
  • Height: 12 ft 8 in (3.86 m)
  • Number Built: 20,351 (excluding Seafires)
  • Maximum speed: 330 knots (378 mph, 605 km/h)
  • Maiden flight: March 5, 1936
  • Powerplant: 1× Rolls-Royce Merlin 45 supercharged V12 engine, 1470 hp at 9250 ft (1096 kW at 2820 m)

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Bundesarchiv Bild 146-1986-013-04, Helmut Wick (cropped).jpg
Helmut Paul Emil Wick (5 August 1915 – 28 November 1940) was a German Luftwaffe ace and the fourth recipient of the Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross with Oak Leaves (German: Ritterkreuz des Eisernen Kreuzes mit Eichenlaub). The Knight's Cross of the Iron Cross and its higher grade, the Oak Leaves, was awarded by the Third Reich to recognise extreme bravery in battle or successful military leadership. It was Germany's highest military decoration at the time of its presentation to Helmut Wick.

Born in Mannheim, Wick joined the Luftwaffe in 1936 and was trained as a fighter pilot. He was assigned to Jagdgeschwader 2 "Richthofen" (JG 2—2nd Fighter Wing), and saw combat in the Battles of France and Britain. Promoted to Major in October 1940, he was given the position of Geschwaderkommodore (wing commander) of JG 2—the youngest in the Luftwaffe to hold this rank and position. He was shot down in the vicinity of the Isle of Wight on 28 November 1940 and posted as missing in action, presumed dead. By then he had been credited with destroying 56 enemy aircraft in aerial combat, making him the leading German fighter pilot at the time. Flying the Messerschmitt Bf 109, he claimed all of his victories against the Western Allies.

In the news

Today in Aviation

December 18

  • 2006 – The Lockheed Martin Polecat UAV aircraft crashes due to an "irreversible unintentional failure in the flight termination ground equipment, which caused the aircraft's automatic fail-safe flight termination mode to activate", cited by Lockheed Martin.
  • 1995Trans Service Airlift was operating a Lockheed L-188C Electra for UNITA (Angola political party), crashed shortly after takeoff from Jamba Airport in Angola, killing 141, with 3 survivors. The crash was attributed to a cargo shift on departure.
  • 1986 – The ill-fated Nimrod Airborne Early Warning project was finally cancelled after numerous delays and setbacks. In its place, 6 (later changed to 7) Boeing E-3 Airborne Warning and Control System (AWACS) aircraft was ordered.
  • 1982Hans-Ulrich Rudel, German pilot, dies (b. 1916). Rudel was a Stuka dive-bomber pilot during World War II and is famous for being the most highly decorated German serviceman of the war. Hans-Ulrich Rudel was the only person to be awarded the Knight’s Cross with Golden Oak Leaves, Swords, and Diamonds.
  • 1977SA de Transport Aérien Flight 730, an SE-210 Caravelle registered HB-ICK crashed while on approach to Funchal, Portugal, killing 36 of the 47 on board. The pilots had failed to set the altimeter to 1014.0mb, and in when relying only on instruments, they came down into the sea.
  • 1972 – (18–25) Frustrated with a lack of progress in peace talks with North Vietnamese negotiators, the United States conducts Operation Linebacker II. Sometimes called “The December Raids” and “The Christmas Bombing”, it involves intense American bombing of North Vietnam, including heavy operations by U. S. Air Force B-52 Stratofortresses and the laying of naval mines in North Vietnamese harbors including Haiphong. On the first day, 86 Boeing B-52 Stratofortress's based at Guam strike Hanoi.
  • 1970Airbus Industries is formally established to develop the Airbus A300; it comprises Aérospatiale, Deutsche Airbus, Fokker and Hawker Siddeley.
  • 1969 – The England-Australia Commemorative Air Race is flown in commemoration of the 50th anniversary of the Smith brothers' flight. It is won by W. J. Bright and F. L. Buxton in a Britten-Norman Islander.
  • 1969Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird, 61-7953, Article 2004, crashes near Shoshone, California during test flight out of Edwards Air Force Base, California. Pilot Lt. Col. Joe Rogers and RSO Lt. Col. Gary Heidelbaugh eject safely.
  • 1953 – USAF Boeing TB-29 Superfortress, formerly Silverplate Boeing B-29-55-MO, 44-86382, of the 7th Radar Calibration Squadron, Sioux City Air Force Base, Iowa, destroyed by post-crash fire when pilot and co-pilot mistake Ogden Municipal Airport, Utah, for nearby Hill Air Force Base, put down on much shorter runway, overrun threshold, bounce across deep ditch, 10-foot-wide (3.0 m) canal, crosses highway, comes to rest in pieces, followed by immediate fire. One fatality on crew, two others injured.
  • 1944Typhoon Cobra (1944) strikes Task Force 38 as it operates in the Philippine Sea east of Luzon. In addition to the sinking of three destroyers, the loss of over 800 men, and damage to many ships, the task force loses 146 carrier aircraft and battleship and cruiser floatplanes. Plans for strikes on Luzon from December 19 to 21 are cancelled.
  • 1941 – A RAF Lockheed Hudson III, V9032, of 6 OTU, crashes onto the farmhouse of Quarry Farm at Ingleby Barwick near Thornaby, England, whilst on a training mission when aircraft stalls soon after takeoff. Plane and house destroyed in inferno. Of the occupants, a farmer, his wife and two of his children are killed, two other children, boys aged nine and eleven escape. The twenty-three year old pilot and five other crew members are KWF. The pilot's fiancee offers to adopt the surviving children. Killed are F/Sgt Albert G. Graves RAF, pilot, 23, of Ashford, Kent; Sgt Richard H. D. Palmer RAFVR, pilot, 27; P/O Michael B. Van Heerdan RAFVR, observer, 23, of Pretoria, Transvaal, South Africa; Sgt Leslie Hogg RAFVR, WOp/AG, 27, of West Croyden, Surrey; Sgt Harry W. G. Hewitt RAFVR, WOp/AG, 21, of Teddington; Mr. James R. Garbutt, 39; Mrs. Violet M. Garbutt, 41; Master Alick R. Garbutt, 8; and Master Charles R. Garbutt, 6, all of Quarry Farm, Ingleby Barwick
  • 1939 – The United Kingdom, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand institute the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan – known in some countries as the Empire Air Training Scheme – A massive joint military aircrew training program. South Africa participates via a parallel Joint Air Training Scheme agreement.
  • 1934 – Boeing Airplane Co. subsidiary Stearman Aircraft, located in Wichita, Kan., delivers its first Stearman Kaydet to the military. It will become the most common preliminary trainer in service, and 10,346 Kaydets will be built during World War II.
  • 1933 – First flight of the Northrop XFT, American prototype fighter aircraft, single engined low-winged monoplane, designed and built to meet a United States Navy order for an advanced carrier based fighter.
  • 1908Wilbur Wright at Camp d'Auvours, 11 kilometres (6.8 mi) east of Le Mans. flies 99.8 kilometres (62.0 mi) in 1 h 54 min 2/5 s. rising to 110 m (360 ft) – A new world record.


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