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The Boeing 747, one of the most iconic aircraft in history.

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, 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 in 1896; then a large 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 by the introduction of the jet which permitted a major form of transport throughout the world.

Selected article

PanAm Airbus A310-222
Pan American World Airways, most commonly known as "Pan Am", was the principal international airline of the United States from the 1930s until its collapse in 1991. Originally founded as a seaplane service out of Key West, Florida, the airline became a major company; it was credited with many innovations that shaped the international airline industry, including the widespread use of jet aircraft, jumbo jets, and computerized reservation systems. Identified by its blue globe logo and the use of "Clipper" in aircraft names and call signs, the airline was a cultural icon of the 20th century, and the unofficial flag carrier of the United States. Pan Am went through two incarnations after 1991. The second Pan Am operated from 1996 to 1998 with a focus on low-cost, long-distance flights between the U.S. and the Caribbean. The current incarnation, based in Portsmouth, New Hampshire and known as the Pan Am "Clipper Connection", is operated by Boston-Maine Airways. The airline currently flies to destinations in the northeastern United States, Florida, Dominican Republic, and Puerto Rico.

Selected image

Composite image showing multiple stages of a Monarch Jet aircraft taking off from the Gibraltar Airport.
Credit: User:Nervousenergy

Composite image showing multiple stages of a Monarch Jet aircraft taking off from the Gibraltar Airport.

...Archive/Nominations

Did you know

...that Chris Phatswe committed suicide by crashing his Air Botswana plane into two other planes belonging to the airline, effectively crippling operations? ...that one of the first aircraft to cross the Atlantic was the Italian Savoia-Marchetti S.55 flying boat, which went on to serve in the Luftwaffe in WWII? ... that Teddy Air was the first airline to win a public service obligation in Norway?

Selected Aircraft

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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Selected biography

Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh, Jr. (February 4, 1902 – August 26, 1974), known as "Lucky Lindy" and "The Lone Eagle", was a pioneering United States aviator famous for piloting the first solo non-stop flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, flying from Roosevelt Airfield (Nassau County, Long Island), New York to Paris on May 20-May 21, 1927 in his single-engine aircraft The Spirit of St. Louis.

He grew up in Little Falls, Minnesota. Early on he showed an interest in machinery, especially aircraft. After training as a pilot with the Army Air Service Lindbergh took a job as lead pilot of an airmail route in a DeHavilland DH-4 biplane. He was renowned for delivering the mail under any circumstances.

Lindbergh is recognized in aviation for demonstrating and charting polar air-routes, high altitude flying techniques, and increasing aircraft flying range by decreasing fuel consumption. These innovations are the basis of modern intercontinental air travel.

In the news

Today in Aviation

December 13

  • 2011 – The engine of an unarmed, contractor-operated U.S. Air Force MQ-9 Reaper unmanned aerial vehicle fails two minutes after takeoff from Seychelles International Airport on Mahé in the Seychelles. The Reaper descends too quickly while its operator attempts an emergency landing at the airport, touches down too far along the runway, bounces over a perimeter road and breakwater, and crashes and sinks in the Indian Ocean about 200 feet (61 meters) offshore.[2]
  • 1995Banat Air Flight 166, a Romavia Antonov An-24 (registered YR-AMR), crashes after taking off from Verona airport, because of overloading and ice accumulation on the wings. All 4 crew and all 45 passengers die.
  • 1994 – American Eagle Flight 3379, a Jetstream 31, crashed 5 miles short of the runway in Raleigh-Durham, killing 15 of the 20 on board. The night flight crashed due to an engine failure and not following the proper procedures after it.
  • 1993 – Lockheed U-2R, 68-10339, Article 061, eleventh airframe of initial R-model order of twelve, N819X allocated, delivered to USAF 22 October 1968, but retained for trials. Delivered to 100th Strategic Reconnaissance Wing by early 1972. To 9th SRW, 1976. On take-off, this date, from Beale AFB, California, jet goes out of control, experienced U-2 Instructor Pilot Capt. Richard Schneider ejects but does not survive.
  • 1977 – University of Evansville men’s basketball team plane crash occurred when a DC-3 aircraft chartered from the Indianapolis-based National Jet crashed on takeoff at the Evansville Regional Airport, killing 29, including the University of Evansville basketball team, support staff and boosters of the team.
  • 1972 – Eugene Cernan and Harrison Schmitt begin the third and final Extra-vehicular activity (EVA) or “Moonwalk” of Apollo 17. This was the last manned mission to the moon of the 20th century.
  • 1971 – The RCAF’s 436 Squadron Hercules was fired on by the Indian Navy over the Bay of Bengal.
  • 1968 – USAF Martin B-57E Canberra 54-4284 of the 8th Tactical Bombardment Squadron, 35th Tactical Fighter Wing, has mid-air collision with Fairchild C-123B-5-FA Provider 54-0600 over Xieng Khovang, southern Laos, all three crew of the B-57 KWF, pilot of C-123 survives bail-out, lands in tree, rescued by an HH-3, but six others are KWF.
  • 1955 – The de Havilland Comet 3, the world’s first jet airliner, visits an American airport for the first time when it stops at Honolulu International Airport during an around-the-world flight. It then flies to Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, in 5 hours 39 min.
  • 1948 – A blade on the starboard rotor of the second prototype Bratukhin B-11 Soviet twin-rotor helicopter fails, and the subsequent crash kills the two crew.
  • 1944 – As the U. S. Navy Mindoro Attack Force is about to round the southern cape of Negros to enter the Sulu Sea, a Japanese Aichi D3 A (Allied reporting name “Val”) dive bomber operating as a kamikaze hits the light cruiser USS Nashville (CL-43), flagship for the Mindoro invasion, badly damaging her, wounding ground forces commander Brigadier General William C. Dunckel, and killing and wounding members of his staff. Another kamikaze badly damages a destroyer.
  • 1944 – (13–17) Six U. S. Navy escort carriers provide direct support for the U. S. invasion of Mindoro. They fly 864 sorties, losing nine planes, none to enemy action.
  • 1943 – North American’s P-51 B Mustangs accompany 651 heavy bombers to U-boat pens at Kiel, Germany. Three days later a Mustang downs a German fighter for the first time.
  • 1943 – Since November 14, the Japanese have lost 122 aircraft based in the Marshall Islands.
  • 1942 – U. S. Navy PBY Catalina flying boats begin night harassment raids against Munda airfield.
  • 1939 – A Fairey Seafox floatplane catapulted from the British light cruiser HMS Ajax spots fire for her guns while she fires on the German “pocket battleship” Admiral Graf Spee during the Battle of the River Plate. It is the first time in World War II that a ship-based seaplane spots gunfire for a Royal Navy ship and is considered a classic example of the use of a floatplane in such a role; the pilot, Lieutenant E. D. G. Lewin, receives the Distinguished Service Cross for the action. The Seafox goes on to conduct reconnaissance flights over the Admiral Graf Spee daily until her crew scuttles her on December 17.
  • 1935 – A U.S. Army Air Corps officer is killed in the crash of a Boeing P-12F, 32-100, of the 36th Pursuit Squadron, 3 miles E of Dale, South Carolina, while en route from Langley Field, Virginia, to Miami, Florida for an air race and exhibition. Maj. Arthur K. Ladd was the assistant supply officer for the General Headquarters Air Force. Fairbanks Air Base, Fairbanks, Alaska, is renamed Ladd Field on 1 December 1939.
  • 1913 – 13-14 – German balloonist Hugo Kaulen stays aloft for 87 hours. This record lasted until 1935.
  • 1872 – Paul Haenlein tests the first airship with a gas engine in Brünn, achieving 19 km/h. The tests were stopped because of a shortage of money.


  1. ^ Associated Press, "Japan: Chinese Plane Seen Over Disputed Islands," The Washington Post, December 14, 2012, p. A10.
  2. ^ Whitlock, Craig, "Drone Crashes Pile Up Abroad," The Washington Post, December 1, 2012, p. A8.

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