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The Aviation Portal

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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.

Selected article

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.

Selected picture

Ejector seat
Credit: U.S. Air Force

The first ejector seats were developed during the war by Heinkel. Early models were powered by compressed air and the first aircraft to be fitted with such a system was the Heinkel He 280 prototype jet fighter in 1941. One of the He 280 test pilots, Dipl.-Ing. Rudolf Schenk, flying for Argus, became the first person to escape from a stricken aircraft with an ejector seat on January 13, 1942. During a flight with the still engine-less V-1 towed by a Heinkel He 111 he had to leave his airplane because he could not release the towing cable due to icing of the coupling. By December 2003, Martin-Baker ejector seats had saved 7028 lives. The total figure for all types of seat is unknown but must be considerably higher.

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Did you know

...that Astro Flight, Incorporated of Marina del Rey, California created the world's first practical electric-powered radio controlled model airplane and the world's first full-scale solar-powered airplane?

...that Berlin Airlift "Candy Bomber" Gail Halvorsen would wiggle the wings of his plane to identify himself to children below?

... that former USAF officer David P. Cooley who was the chief test pilot for the F-117 Nighthawk died in March 2009 while testing the F-22 Raptor?

Selected Aircraft

B-17 on bomb run.jpg

The Boeing B-17 Flying Fortress is an American four-engine heavy bomber aircraft developed for the U.S. Army Air Corps (USAAC). Competing against Douglas and Martin for a contract to build 200 planes, the airplane outperformed both the other entries and the Air Corps' expectations. Although losing the contract due to an accident, the Air Corps was so in favor of the B-17 that they ordered 13 B-17s regardless. Evolving through numerous design stages, from B-17A to G, the Flying Fortress is considered the first truly mass-produced large aircraft. From its pre-war inception, the USAAC touted the aircraft as a strategic weapon; it was a high-flying, long-ranging potent bomber capable of defending itself. With the ability to return home despite extensive battle damage, its durability, especially in belly-landings and ditchings, quickly took on mythical proportions.

The B-17 was primarily involved in the daylight precision strategic bombing campaign of World War II against German industrial targets. The United States Eighth Air Force based in England and the Fifteenth Air Force based in Italy complemented the RAF Bomber Command's night-time area bombing in Operation Pointblank, which helped secure air superiority over the cities, factories and battlefields of Western Europe in preparation for Operation Overlord. The B-17 also participated, to a lesser extent, in the War in the Pacific.

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Selected biography

William Lendrum Mitchell (full shot).jpg
Billy Mitchell (1879–1936) was an early aviation pioneer who rose to become a chief of the U.S. Army Air Service. Mitchell was born in Nice, France and raised on his family estate near Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He attended George Washington University before enlisting in the Army at age 18 during the Spanish–American War. Due to his family connection he quickly received a commission Signal Corps where he had the opportunity to witness a flight demonstration by the Wright brothers in 1908. In 1916 he took private flight lessons and was transferred to the Aeronautical Division.

Mitchell deployed to France in 1917 when the United States entered World War I. While there he was promoted to brigadier general and placed in command American combat air units in France. After the war Mitchell was appointed the deputy director of the Air Service became a passionate advocate of air power. In 1921 he set up a demonstration to show the capability of airpower against naval vessels. During the course of the demonstrations aircraft successfully sank a captured German destroyer, the light crusier Frankfurt, and the battleship Ostfriesland.

Mitchell regularly sparred with his superiors over the role of airpower in the military. In 1925 he was reverted to his permanent rank of colonel and was transferred to San Antonio, Texas. Later that year, after a series of aviation accidents he accused Army and Navy leadership of incompetence and "almost treasonable administration of the national defense." In response he was court-martialed for insubordination, found guilty, and sentenced to a five-year suspension from active duty. Mitchell resigned on 1 February 1926 in lieu of serving the sentence. He continued to advocate airpower as a civilian until his death in 1936. In 1942 President Franklin Roosevelt posthumously promoted Mitchell to major general in recognition of his contributions to air power.

In the news

Today in Aviation

June 24

  • 2004 – AH-1W SuperCobra 163939 shot down in Fallujah; pilots safe.[2]
  • 19941994 Fairchild Air Force Base B-52 crash: Czar 52, a USAF Boeing B-52H-170-BW Stratofortress, 61-0026, crashes during an airshow practice at Fairchild AFB. After having rehearsed the maneuvers profile that in itself was dangerous to fly in a B-52, the aircraft came into land. Due to a KC-135 Stratotanker still being on the runway, the aircraft was required to make a 'go around'. After beginning a 360-degree turn left, the aircraft exceeded 90 degrees angle of bank, stalled and crashed into the ground. All four aircrew members were killed in the crash.
  • 1987 – RAF SEPECAT Jaguar GR.1A, XZ386, '05', of 226 OCU, suffers loss of control/controlled flight into terrain three miles (5 km.) SE of Builth Wells, Powys, Wales. Pilot KWF.
  • 1983 – Landed: Space shuttle Challenger STS-7 at 13:56:59 UTC Edwards Air Force Base. Mission highlights: First US woman in space Sally Ride; Multiple comsat deployments; First deployment and retrieval of a satellite SPAS.
  • 1982British Airways Flight 9, a Boeing 747-200, flies through a cloud of volcanic ash south of Java; all engines fail in flight, forcing the plane to glide; the crew is able to restart the engines and make a safe landing.
  • 1982 – First Frenchman launches into orbit, as part of Soviet mission.
  • 1975Eastern Air Lines Flight 66, a Boeing 727, encounters wind shear on final approach and strikes approach lights at John F. Kennedy International Airport, killing 112 of 124 people on board.
  • 1972Prinair Flight 191, a De Havilland Heron, over-rotates because of pilot error and crashes in Ponce, Puerto Rico, killing 5 of 20 people on board.
  • 1966 – Bombay-NY Air India flight crashes into Mont Blanc (Switz), 117 die.
  • 1956 – In the 1956 BOAC Argonaut accident, a Canadair C-4 Argonaut, G-ALHE, crashes shortly after taking off from Kano Airport, Nigeria into a thunderstorm, killing 32 of the 38 passengers and 3 of the seven crew.
  • 1955 – Soviet MIG’s down a U. S. Navy patrol plane over the Bering Strait.
  • 1952 – On the eighth test flight of the first Convair YB-60-1-CF, 49-2676, a flutter condition resulted in the trim tab disintegrating and the rudder suffering severe torsional wrinkles while flying at 263 mph (423 km/h) at 35,000 feet (11,000 m). Replaced by rudder built for second prototype which never received one and never flew. As the Boeing B-52 project was succeeding, the Convair B-60 program was canceled and the two airframes were salvaged in 1954 for parts.
  • 1949 – Cargo airlines first licensed by US Civil Aeronautics Board.
  • 1948 – The Soviet Union begins the Berlin Blockade, America responds with the Berlin Airlift.
  • 1944 – Attempting to strike Iwo Jima, F6 F Hellcats of U. S. Navy Task Group 58.1 are intercepted by Japanese aircraft, shooting down 29 of them in exchange for six Hellcats. Iwo Jima-based Japanese aircraft fly three ineffective raids against the task group during the day, losing another 37 planes
  • 1941 – No. 408 (Bomber) Squadron was formed in England.
  • 1940 – The first four Elementary Flying Training Schools (EFTS) were officially opened: No. 1 at Malton, Ontario; No. 2 at Fort William, Ontario; No. 3 at London, Ontario; No. 4 at Windsor Mills, Quebec.
  • 1939 – Pan Am’s first US to England flight.
  • 1935 – One Ford Trimotor of Servicio Aéreo Colombiano (SACO) crashed with another Ford Trimotor of Sociedad Colombo Alemana de Transporte Aéreo (SCADTA) in Medellín, Colombia. Fifteen people were killed including the world's most famous tango singer Carlos Gardel.
  • 1930 – Dr. Albert Taylor and Leo Young of the Aircraft Research Laboratory, near Bolling Field, Washington, D. C., succeed in tracing the position of airplanes in flight using wireless detection equipment.
  • 1925 – Off New England, a United States Coast Guard Vought UO-1 becomes the first aircraft to assist in the capture of a rum-runner.
  • 1924 – In Macau, Portuguese Commander Brito Pais and Captain Sarmento de Beires give up on their eastbound attempt to circumnavigate the world in the de Havilland DH.9 A Patria II after covering 11,000 miles (17,713 km) from Lisbon.
  • 1910 – J. A. D. McCurdy crashed attempting a flight in the Canadian Aerodrome Company’s Baddeck No. 2 biplane at Lakeside, Que.


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