The History of Flight from Around the World


  • September 30, 1949 - The Berlin airlift ends.

  • July 27, 1949 - The first flight of the prototype DeHavilland Comet, the first commercial jet aircraft.

  • June 23, 1949 - Douglas Aircraft "Super DC-3" completes its first test flight in Santa Monica, California.

  • March 2, 1949 - Lucky Lady II: This Boeing B-50A makes the first nonstop around-the-world flight.

  • February, 1949 - The U.S. Air Force conducts tests of a special 30-ft. parachute to act as brakes and shorten the landing run of jet airplanes, using a Boeing XB-47 for the purpose.

  • January 5, 1949 - Capt. Charles E. Yeager sets a new unofficial climbing speed record of more than 13,000 ft. per minute in the Bell X-1 at Muroc.


  • July 20, 1948 - July 20 - 16 Lockheed F-80's of the U.S. Air Force 56th Fighter Group land in Stornway, Scotland, marking the first west-to-east Atlantic crossing by jet aircraft.

  • June 26, 1948 - The Berlin airlift begins by the U.S., Britain, and France to break the Soviet blockade of Berlin, supplying the city entirely by air.

  • June 10, 1948 - The Air Force makes its supersonic flights public.

  • March 22, 1948 - The United States first jet trainer, the T-33 (first known as the TP-80) made its first flight with pilot Tony LeVier.

  • March, 1948 - The U.S. Air Force announces the dropping of the world's largest bomb, weighing 21 tons, from a B-29 bomber in a test flight at Muroc Air Force Base, California.

  • January 30, 1948 - Orville Wright collapses in his laboratory in Dayton, Ohio, and dies at the age of 76.


  • December, 1947 - United Helicopters unveils its "Hiller 360" helicopter in Palo Alto, California.

  • November 26, 1947 - First successful hypersonic-flow wind tunnel (11 inch) placed into operation at Langley Laboratory.

  • October 14, 1947 - Capt. Charles E. Yeager flies faster than sound for the first time in the rocket powered Bell X-1.

  • September 16, 1947 - The United States Air Force is established as a separate and equal element of the United States armed forces.

  • September 2-6, 1947 - The first Joint Technical Sessions by the Royal Aeronautical Society, Great Britain, and the Institute of the Aeronautical Sciences, are held in London, England.

  • July 2, 1947 - The first double-deck Boeing "Stratocrusier" is completed at the Boeing Airplane Company's Seattle plant.

  • June 12, 1947 - Boeing Aircraft's new B-50 bomber rolls off a final assembly line in Seattle, Washington.

  • April 27, 1947 - United Airlines introduces the Douglas DC-6 aircraft, the first postwar aircraft to feature full-cabin pressurization.

  • 1947 - The F-86 "Sabre Jet" made by North American Aviation became America's first single-seat, swept-wing jet fighter.


  • August 17, 1946 - Sgt Lawrence Lambert successfully tests a new pilot-ejector seat, designed to catapult a pilot from the cockpits of high-speed airplanes, at Wright Field, Ohio.

  • August 12, 1946 - President Truman signs a bill authorizing appropriation of $50,000 to establish a National Air Museum in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, DC.

  • August 6, 1946 - Two B-17 bombers, minus pilot and crews, are flown nonstop from Hilo, Hawaii to Muroc Lake, California, controlled entirely by radio.

  • March 27, 1946 - The U.S. and France sign a bilateral Five Freedoms Agreement, giving reciprocal rights for the operation of each country's commercial airlines over the territory of the other.

  • March 22, 1946 - The WAC, the first American-built rocket to actually leave the Earth's atmosphere, reaches an altitude of 50 miles.

  • March 12, 1946 - The first commercial helicopter license issued by the U.S. Civil Aeronautics Administration is granted to Bell Aircraft Corporation on its two-place Model 47.


  • August 17, 1946 - Sgt Lawrence Lambert successfully tests a new pilot-ejector seat, designed to catapult a pilot from the cockpits of high-speed airplanes, at Wright Field, Ohio.

  • August 14, 1945 - Japan's surrender ends World War II.

  • August 6, 1945 - A U.S.A.A.F. B-29 bomber, the "Enola Gay," piloted by Col. Paul W. Tibbets, Jr., drops the first atomic bomb on Hiroshima, Japan.

  • May 8, 1945 - The War in Europe ends with the collapse of Germany.

  • March 29, 1945 - Final wartime V2 rocket launched.

  • January 20, 1945 - Robert T. Jones formulates the swept wing to overcome shockwave effects.


  • September 14, 1944 - U.S. Col. Floyd B. Wood, Major Harry Wexler, and Lt. Frank Record, flying in a Douglas A-20 "Havoc," successfully carry out the first attempt to fly into the heart of a hurricane to obtain valuable scientific data.

  • September 8, 1944 - The V-2 became the first combat ballistic missile used by Germany against England.

  • June 6, 1944 (D-Day) - A gigantic sky-train, nine planes wide and 200 miles long, carries American and British air-borne troops across the English Channel for invasion of Europe.

  • January 8, 1944 - The U.S. Army's new P-61 "Black Widow" night fighter, built by Northrop Aircraft, Inc., makes its first public appearance at the Army-Navy Los Angeles Air Show.

  • January 7, 1944 - The U.S. Army Air Forces announces development and production of its first jet-propelled fighter airplane, the Bell P-59 "Airacomet".


  • August–September 1943 - The "Hump" airlifts to China commence - The "Hump" was the name given by Allied pilots in the Second World War to the eastern end of the Himalayan Mountains over which they flew military transport aircraft from India to China to resupply the Chinese war effort of Chiang Kai-shek and the units of the United States Army Air Forces based in China. Creating an airlift presented the USAAF a considerable challenge in 1942: it had no units trained or equipped for moving cargo, and no airfields existed in the China Burma India Theater (CBI) for basing the large number of transports that would be needed. Flying over the Himalayas was extremely dangerous and made more difficult by a lack of reliable charts, an absence of radio navigation aids, and a dearth of information about the weather. The "Hump" airlifts were accomplished by thousands of fliers and ground support personnel who often endured stifling heat and monsoon rains, living in tents and bamboo huts for years. Many aircraft crashed in the mountains or jungles and many crews perished in this forgotten theater of WWII.

  • January, 1943 - Franklin D. Roosevelt boarded a Boeing 314 flying boat in Miami, Florida, and became the first chief executive to make a wartime flight while in office.


  • November 26, 1942 - A water-injection device, developed by Pratt & Whitney Aircraft, gives added "bursts of power" to engines installed in fighter aircraft.

  • November 15, 1942 - The first women ever to be flight trained by the Army Air Forces report for flight training in Texas and take Oath.

  • October 3, 1942 - First successful test flight of the V-2 rocket.

  • July 19, 1942 - The Messerschmitt 262, the world's first, operational jet-powered fighter, takes to the air with Fritz Wendel at the controls.

  • May 14, 1942 - The U.S. Congress establishes The Women's Auxiliary Army Corps (WAAC), under the direction of Oveta Culp Hobby, editor of the Houston Post.

  • 1942 - The German Heinkel He 219 becomes the first aircraft to be equipped with crew ejection seats as standard equipment.


  • December 7, 1941 - Japan pulls a surprise air raid on Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, doing heavy damage to the U.S. Fleet and destroying the majority of military aircraft at Hickman Field.

  • December 1, 1941 - The Civil Air Patrol is established.

  • October 24, 1941 - The first successful true "flying wing," developed by Northrop Aircraft, Inc., is announced by the Army Air Forces.

  • September 5, 1941 - Nine U.S. Army Air Forces B-17 "Flying Fortresses" fly from Hawaii to the Philippines, the first mass flight of heavy bombers across the western Pacific.

  • July 19, 1941 - The Tuskegee Airmen, the first black fighter squadron in the United States armed forces, is formed.

  • July 1, 1941 - Jacqueline Cochran becomes the first woman to ferry the Lockheed Hudson bomber across the Atlantic .

  • June 20, 1941 - The U.S. Army Air Force is formed.

  • May 15, 1941 - The first Allied jet aircraft, the Gloster-Whittle E28/39, makes its' first official flight.

  • April 16, 1941 - Igor I. Sikorsky sets a national helicopter record by hovering virtually motionless over a Stratford, Connecticut airport, for 1 hour, 5 minutes.


  • November 3, 1940 - Alexander P. de Seversky is awarded Patent No. 2,219,980 on his new design of pursuit-type airplane.

  • September 8, 1940 - A puncture-proof gasoline tank is tested at Wright Field, Ohio.

  • July 8, 1940 - The first flight of the Boeing Stratoliner, the first airliner with a pressurized cabin. This allowed the plane to fly up to 20,000 feet, avoiding turbulence.

  • July 3, 1940 - Northrop introduces the N-1M Flying Wing, the first flying wing airplane with pilot, engine, and fuselage in a single airfoil structure.

  • March 26, 1940 - Commercial airlines of the United States complete today a full year of flying without a fatal accident or serious injury to a passenger or crew member.

  • March 25, 1940 - The Army and Navy agree to stand aside to give France and Britain virtually unhindered access to the latest models of American warplanes, releasing to the Allies over 600 planes now under construction.

Back to Timeline >