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Aviation is 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 hot air 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. (Full article...)

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The feathered propellers of an RAF Hercules C.4
The feathered propellers of an RAF Hercules C.4
A propeller is essentially a type of fan which transmits power by converting rotational motion into thrust for propulsion of an aircraft through the air, by rotating two or more twisted blades about a central shaft, in a manner analogous to rotating a screw through a solid. The blades of a propeller act as rotating wings (the blades of a propeller are in fact wings or airfoils), and produce force through application of both Bernoulli's principle and Newton's third law, generating a difference in pressure between the forward and rear surfaces of the airfoil-shaped blades and by accelerating a mass of air rearward. (Full article...)
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1783 balloonj.jpg
Credit: Library of Congress LOT 13403, no. 12 [P&P]. Author unknown.
1786 description of the historic Montgolfier Brothers' 1783 balloon flight. Illustration with engineering proportions and description.

Did you know

...that Guy Menzies flew the first solo trans-Tasman flight (from Sydney to New Zealand) in 1931, but landed upside-down in a swamp? ...that the Cessna 165 aircraft was instrumental in the recovery of the Cessna Aircraft Company in the years following the Great Depression? ...that Yekaterina Zelenko was the only woman to perform an aerial ramming and the only female pilot in the Winter War?

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Selected biography

Elbert Leander "Burt" Rutan (born June 17, 1943 in Estacada, Oregon) is an American aerospace engineer noted for his originality in designing light, strong, unusual-looking, energy-efficient aircraft. He is most famous for his design of the record-breaking Voyager, which was the first plane to fly around the world without stopping or refueling, and the suborbital rocket plane SpaceShipOne, which won the Ansari X-Prize in 2004.

Selected Aircraft

British Airways Boeing 747-400

The Boeing 747 is a widebody commercial airliner, often referred to by the nickname Jumbo Jet. It is among the world's most recognizable aircraft, and was the first widebody ever produced. Manufactured by Boeing's Commercial Airplane unit in the United States, the original version of the 747 was two and a half times the size of the Boeing 707, one of the common large commercial aircraft of the 1960s. First flown commercially in 1970, the 747 held the passenger capacity record for 37 years.

The four-engine 747 uses a double deck configuration for part of its length. It is available in passenger, freighter and other versions. Boeing designed the 747's hump-like upper deck to serve as a first class lounge or (as is the general rule today) extra seating, and to allow the aircraft to be easily converted to a cargo carrier by removing seats and installing a front cargo door. Boeing did so because the company expected supersonic airliners (whose development was announced in the early 1960s) to render the 747 and other subsonic airliners obsolete; while believing that the demand for subsonic cargo aircraft would be robust into the future. The 747 in particular was expected to become obsolete after 400 were sold but it exceeded its critics' expectations with production passing the 1,000 mark in 1993. As of June 2009, 1,416 aircraft have been built, with 107 more in various configurations remaining on order.

The 747-400, the latest version in service, is among the fastest airliners in service with a high-subsonic cruise speed of Mach 0.85 (567 mph or 913 km/h). It has an intercontinental range of 7,260 nautical miles (13,450 km; 8,350 mi). The 747-400 passenger version can accommodate 416 passengers in a typical three-class layout or 524 passengers in a typical two-class layout. The next version of the aircraft, the 747-8, is in production and scheduled to enter service in 2010. The 747 is to be replaced by the Boeing Y3 (part of the Boeing Yellowstone Project) in the future.

Today in Aviation

September 9

  • 2009 – Egyptian airline Air Arabia Egypt announces that operations will start in late 2009 or early 2010.
  • 2009Aeroméxico Flight 576, a Boeing 737-800 with 104 passengers on board, is hijacked whilst flying from Cancún to Mexico City; after landing at Mexico City International Airport, Mexican officials storm the plane and take 5 men into custody; there are no casualties.
  • 2006 – Launch: Space Shuttle Atlantis STS-115 at 15:14:55 UTC. Mission highlights: ISS assembly flight 12A: P3/P4 Truss, Solar Arrays.
  • 2005 – An Antonov operated by Air Kasai in the DRC crashes 50 km north of Brazzaville killing 14 including 4 crew on a flight from Buendé to Kinshasa
  • 2005 – A Belgian Air Force F-16AM crashes at the Vliehors Shooting Range. The pilot is killed.
  • 2004 – A low-flying British Army Westland Lynx AH.9 helicopter, ZE382, of 661 Squadron, 1st Regiment, Army Air Corps (until March 1957, No. 661 Squadron RAF), is caught in high-voltage electric wires during an Anglo-Czech joint military training exercise near the village Kuroslepy (near Brno). All six persons on board died.
  • 1994 – Space Shuttle Discovery makes its 20th trip to orbit for mission STS-64.
  • 1994 – Launch: Space Shuttle Discovery STS-64 at 6:22:35 pm EDT. Mission highlights: Multiple science experiments; SPARTAN.
  • 1994 – A Tu-22 acting as a chase aircraft to photograph an Aeroflot Tu-134, collides with the Aerflot jet over Zhukovsky, killing 7. The Tu-134 (RA-65760) fell into a forest and the Tu-22 managed to land safely.
  • 1990 – Rimantas Antanas-Antonovich Stankiavicius (1944–1990), a Lithuanian test pilot selected as a cosmonaut and serves as a pilot for the Buran, is killed in the crash of a Sukhoi Su-27 fighter, '14 Red', at the Salgareda Air Show at Treviso, Italy. Footage:
  • 1988Vietnam Airlines Flight 831, a Tupolev Tu-134, crashes on approach to Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok. 76 of the 90 passengers and crew on board are killed.
  • 1982 – A Royal Swedish Air Force Saab Viggen crashed into Mount Hirvasaive, Lappland, pilot killed.
  • 1980 – Island Air, a Hawaiian airline, started operations.
  • 1979 – Two RAF Hawker-Siddeley Harrier GR.3s, XV757, piloted by former Red Arrows leader Wing Commander Richard Duckett, and XZ128, piloted by Flight Lieutenant C. Gowers, both of 1 Squadron, collide in midair over Wisbech, Cambs., UK. Both pilots eject but wreckage comes down on town, one impacting on Ramnoth Road, destroying three houses and killing former Wisbech Mayor W.E.M. Trumpess, R.W. Bowers, and his son Jonathon, aged 2. The other airframe impacts in New Drove on the outskirts of town, fortunately without further casualties.
  • 1977 – Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Ed Yost depart Marshfield, Massachusetts, in the balloon Double Eagle in an attempt to make the first crossing of the Atlantic Ocean in a balloon. They fail when they are forced to abort the flight on September 13 off Iceland.
  • 1970 – To pressure British authorities into releasing Leila Khaled, a PFLP sympathizer hijacks BOAC Flight 775, a Vickers VC10 flying from Bahrain to Beirut with 114 people on board, and forces it to land at Dawson’s Field in Jordan.
  • 1969Allegheny Airlines Flight 853, a Douglas DC-9, collides in flight with a Piper PA-28 Cherokee and crashes near Fairland, Indiana, killing all 83 occupants aboard the two aircraft.
  • 1958 – Two Boeing B-52 Stratofortress bombers collide over the town of Airway Heights near Fairchild AFB, Washington. Boeing B-52D Stratofortress, 56-661, and Boeing B-52D, 56-681, both crash. Thirteen crew members are killed, while three survive. There were no casualties on the ground.
  • 1949 – In order to kill his wife Rita, Albert Guay conspires with Généreux Ruest and Marguerite Pitre to plant a dynamite bomb in Rita Guay’s luggage aboard Canadian Pacific Air Lines Flight 108, a Douglas DC-3. The bomb explodes in mid-flight over Cap Tourmente near Sault-au-Cochon, Quebec, Canada, en route from Quebec City to Baie-Comeau, Quebec, killing Rita Guay and all of the other 22 people on board. Albert Guay, Ruest, and Pitre all will be hanged for the crime, the worst mass murder in Canadian history at the time.
  • 1949 – First flight of the Lavochkin La-200, a Soviet two-seater, swept winged, Night and Bad Weather Jet Interceptor Fighter.
  • 1945 – Consolidated B-32 Dominator, 42-108532, "Hobo Queen II", is damaged when the nose wheel accidentally retracts on the ground at Yontan Airfield, Okinawa. Two days later, a hoist lifting the B-32 drops it twice. Since the war has ended, it is not repaired but is disassembled at the airfield.
  • 1943 – In Operations Avalanche and Slapstick, Allied forces land at Salerno and Taranto, Italy, respectively. The British aircraft carriers HMS Illustrious, HMS Formidable, and HMS Unicorn and escort aircraft carriers HMS Attacker, HMS Battler, HMS Hunter, and HMS Stalker cover the landings In an innovation at Salerno, U. S. Army Air Forces P-51 Mustangs of the 111th Fighter Squadron join the more vulnerable U. S. Navy floatplanes of American light cruisers in spotting fire for naval gunfire against German forces ashore The German Luftwaffe puts up only minor opposition to the landings, with only four air raid alerts occurring during the day.
  • 1943 – During carrier compatibility trials, test pilot Capt. Eric "Winkle" Brown crashlands Fairey Firefly F Mk.I, Z1844, on the deck of HMS Pretoria Castle when arrestor hook indicator light falsely shows "down" position. Fighter hits crash barrier, shears off undercarriage, shreds propeller, but pilot unhurt.
  • 1942 – An Imperial Japanese Navy Yokosuka E14Y floatplane (Allied reporting name “Glen”) launched by the submarine I-25 makes two attacks against the coast of Oregon in the United States, dropping four 76-kg (167.5-lb) phosphorus bombs in an attempt to start forest fires. They become known as the Lookout Air Raids. It is the only time that an enemy aircraft bombs the continental United States during World War II.
  • 1942 – The British escort aircraft carrier HMS Avenger joins Convoy PQ 18, bound from Loch Ewe, Scotland, to Archangel in the Soviet Union, as an escort. She is the first aircraft carrier to escort an Arctic convoy.
  • 1940 – Aircraft from the British aircraft carrier Ark Royal strike Cagliari, Sardinia, inflicting more damage under heavy fire.
  • 1928 – (9 – 10) First successful trans-Tasman flight: Charles Kingsford Smith and crew in the Southern Cross.
  • 1923 – First flight of the Curtiss R2 C-1
  • 1913 – Imperial German Navy Zeppelin, L 1, LZ14, pushed down into the North Sea in a thunderstorm, drowning 14 crew members. This was the first Zeppelin incident in which fatalities occurred.
  • 1922 – Cpt Frank Barnard wins the first King's Cup air race, flying from England to Scotland and back in 6 hours 32 min in a de Havilland DH.4.
  • 1913 – First pilot to fly a loop: Pyotr Nesterov in a Nieuport IV.
  • 1913 – Maurice Prevost reaches 204 km/h with the "Deperdussin-racing aeroplane".
  • 1913 – The first fatalities aboard a German airship occur when the Imperial German Navy dirgible L-1 is forced down into the North Sea during a thunderstorm, killing 16 of the 22 men on board. Among the dead is the commanding officer of the Naval Airship Division, Kapitänleutnant Matzing.
  • 1908 – Orville Wright flies 1 h 3 min and 15 seconds.
  • 1830 – Charles Durant, America’s first great balloonist, makes his first U. S. ascent at Castle Garden, New York. He stays in the air for two hours, landing at South Amboy, New Jersey. His skill and enthusiasm inspire a passion for ballooning in America.