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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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The air flow from the wing of this agricultural plane is made visible by a technique that uses colored smoke rising from the ground. The swirl at the wingtip traces the aircraft's wake vortex, which exerts a powerful influence on the flow field behind the plane.
Aerodynamics is a branch of dynamics concerned with studying the motion of air, particularly when it interacts with a moving object. Understanding the motion of air (often called a flow field) around an object enables the calculation of forces and moments acting on the object. Typical properties calculated for a flow field include velocity, pressure, density and temperature as a function of position and time. By defining a control volume around the flow field, equations for the conservation of mass, momentum, and energy can be defined and used to solve for the properties. The use of aerodynamics through mathematical analysis, empirical approximation and wind tunnel experimentation form the scientific basis for heavier-than-air flight.

External aerodynamics is the study of flow around solid objects of various shapes. Evaluating the lift and drag on an airplane, the shock waves that form in front of the nose of a rocket is an example of external aerodynamics. Internal aerodynamics is the study of flow through passages in solid objects. For instance, internal aerodynamics encompasses the study of the airflow through a jet engine.

The ratio of the problem's characteristic flow speed to the speed of sound comprises a second classification of aerodynamic problems. A problem is called subsonic if all the speeds in the problem are less than the speed of sound, transonic if speeds both below and above the speed of sound are present (normally when the characteristic speed is approximately the speed of sound), supersonic when the characteristic flow speed is greater than the speed of sound, and hypersonic when the flow speed is much greater than the speed of sound. Aerodynamicists disagree over the precise definition of hypersonic flow; minimum Mach numbers for hypersonic flow range from 3 to 12. Most aerodynamicists use numbers between 5 and 8.

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U.S. F/A-18 Hornet breaking the sound barrier
Credit: John Gay, U.S. Navy

U.S. F/A-18 Hornet flying at transonic speeds. In aerodynamics, the sound barrier is a physical boundary that was once thought to be stopping large objects becoming supersonic. When an aircraft is near to the speed of sound, an unusual cloud sometimes forms. A drop in pressure, in this case due to shock wave formation, causes water droplets to condense and form the cloud.

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Did you know

...that in the late 1940s the USAF Northrop YB-49 set both an unofficial endurance record and a transcontinental speed record?

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

... that the collection of the Prague Aviation Museum, Kbely includes 275 aircraft, of which approximately 110 are on public display?

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Pregnant Guppy NASA.jpg

The Pregnant Guppy was a large, wide-bodied cargo aircraft built in the USA and used for ferrying outsized cargo items, most notably NASA's components of the Apollo moon program. The Pregnant Guppy was the first of the Guppy line of aircraft produced by Aero Spacelines, Inc. The design also inspired similar designs such as the jet-powered Airbus Beluga, and the Boeing 747 LCF designed to deliver Boeing 787 parts.

  • Span:141 feet, 3 inches.
  • Length: 127 feet.
  • Height: 31 feet, 3 inches.
  • Engines: 4 3500hp P&W R-4360.
  • Cruising Speed: 250 mph
  • First Flight:September 19, 1962
  • Number built: 1
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Sir Hugh Trenchard (cropped).jpg
Marshal of the Royal Air Force Hugh Montague Trenchard, 1st Viscount Trenchard GCB OM GCVO DSO (3 February 1873 – 10 February 1956) was a British officer who was instrumental in establishing the Royal Air Force. He has been described as the Father of the Royal Air Force.

During his formative years Trenchard struggled academically, failing many examinations and only just succeeding in meeting the minimum standard for commissioned service in the British Army. As a young infantry officer, Trenchard served in India and in South Africa. During the Boer War, Trenchard was critically wounded and as a result of his injury, he lost a lung, was partially paralysed and returned to Great Britain. While convalescing in Switzerland he took up bobsleighing and after a heavy crash, Trenchard found that his paralysis was gone and that he could walk unaided. Some months later, Trenchard returned to South Africa before volunteering for service in Nigeria. During his time in Nigeria, Trenchard commanded the Southern Nigeria Regiment for several years and was involved in efforts to bring the interior under settled British rule and quell inter-tribal violence.

In 1912, Trenchard learned to fly and was subsequently appointed as second in command of the Central Flying School. He held several senior positions in the Royal Flying Corps during World War I, serving as the commander of Royal Flying Corps in France from 1915 to 1917. In 1918, he briefly served as the first Chief of the Air Staff before taking up command of the Independent Air Force in France. Returning as Chief of the Air Staff under Winston Churchill in 1919, Trenchard spent the following decade securing the future of the Royal Air Force. He was Metropolitan Police Commissioner in the 1930s and a defender of the RAF in his later years.

In the news

Today in Aviation

October 4

  • 2008 –Two American UH-60 Black Hawk helicopters collide while trying to land in Baghdad. An Iraqi soldier was killed, while two Iraqis and three Americans were injured.[1][2][3] Incident was due to mechanical failure.[4]
  • 2007 – Africa One Antonov An-26 crash: An Antonov An-26 (9Q-COS) from Africa One / El Sam Airlift and charted by Malift Air crashes shortly after taking off from the Kinshasa-N’Djili Airport, Congo. The airplane bound for Tshikapam crashed on the outskirt of Kinshasa killing 21 on board (1 crew survived) and at least 28 on the ground. This accident forced the Congolese minister of transportation to resign.
  • 2004 – Gordon Cooper, one of the original astronauts in Project Mercury, dies. (b. 1927).
  • 2001Siberia Airlines Flight 1812, a Tupolev Tu-154, is suspected to be shot down by a Ukrainian missile over the Black Sea. All 66 passengers and 12 crew members are killed.
  • 1992El Al Flight 1862, a Boeing 747, freighter, crashes into high-rise apartment buildings in Amsterdam after two of its engines detach from the wing. Forty-three people, including the plane's crew of 3, are killed. The incident became known as the Bijlmerramp (Bijlmer disaster).
  • 1984 – 61 year old Elaine Yadwin lands a Piper Cherokee Warrior II safely in Florida after her husband, the plane's pilot, dies during the flight.
  • 1977 – First production prototype FMA IA 58 Pucará, AX-03, of the Fuerza Aérea Argentina, crashes during preparations for the 50th Anniversary of the Fabrica Militar de Aviones at Córdoba, due to pilot error.
  • 1975 – A Cessna 310Q airplane crashes over Wilmington, North Carolina, killing the pilot and severely injuring several pro wrestlers affiliated with the NWA’s Mid-Atlantic promotion. One of the survivors is the legendary Ric Flair.
  • 1960Eastern Air Lines Flight 375, a Lockheed L-188 Super Electra, crashes on takeoff from Boston's Logan International Airport into Winthrop Bay, after multiple bird strikes; 62 of 72 aboard die.
  • 1958 – BOAC de Havilland Comet 4 G-APDB makes first the commercial transatlantic crossing by a jet airliner, from London Heathrow Airport to New York International Airport, Anderson Field via Gander.
  • 1946 – The B-29 Pacusan Dreamboat sets a world nonstop, unrefueled distance record of 9,500 miles on a flight from Honolulu to Cairo, Egypt.
  • 1943 – During Operation Leader, aircraft from the American aircraft carrier USS Ranger (CV-4) raid German shipping along the coast of Norway, sinking six steamers and damaging four others, including a transport on which about 200 German troops are killed.
  • 1924 – First flight of the Curtiss XPW-8 A, a predecessor of the XPW-8 B, prototype in turn of the Curtiss P-1 Hawk
  • 1919 – A new altitude world record of 9,622 m (31,569 feet) is set by American pilot Rudolph Schroeder, flying a Packard-Le Peré LUSAC-11.
  • 1909 – More than a million New Yorkers watch as Wilbur Wright makes a flight along the Hudson River.
  • 1784James Sadler (balloonist) becomes the first British aeronaut when he makes a flight in a Montgolfier-type balloon of a 170-foot circumference.


  1. ^ "Egyptian Foreign Minister Visits Iraq". Voice of America. 2008-10-05. Retrieved 2008-10-19. 
  2. ^ Abbas, Mohammed (2008-10-04). "Two U.S. helicopters collide in Baghdad". Reuters.com. Retrieved 2008-10-08. 
  3. ^ "Helicopters collide in Iraq, killing 1, injuring 4". CNN.com. 2008-10-04. Retrieved 2008-10-09. 
  4. ^ Ernesto Londoño (2008-08-05). "2 U.S. Copters Crash in Iraq; 1 Iraqi Is Killed". Washington Post. Retrieved 2010-02-17. Seven U.S. soldiers were killed Sept. 18 when a CH-47 Chinook, a transport helicopter, crashed in southern Iraq. Officials have cited mechanical failure in that incident 

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