Air travel began with the idea of flying like birds. As the concept took hold and grew in the minds of innovators, a progression of designs and inventions followed. Hot air balloons were the first attempt at taking flight, and aviation literally took off from this point. Over the course of history, air travel has advanced significantly. In today’s current society, flying is an integral part of everyday life. People travel by air regularly for both pleasure and business, whether in coach or with business class tickets and first class airfares.

  • 1485-1500 – Leonardo da Vinci was an accomplished artist, but he also had a great interest in flight. After studying the mechanics of bird flight, da Vinci designed a parachute and a human-powered flying device.
  • 1670 – Francesco Lana Terzi was an Italian mathematics and physics professor. He designed a flying ship that had features such as a rudder, sail, and mast.
  • 1680 – Giovanni Alfonso Borelli was an Italian physicist who studied the capabilities of the human body. Borelli’s studies led him to conclude that humans could not fly due to anatomical limitations.
  • 1709 – Bartolomeu Lourenco de Gusmao designed a flying machine made out of a paper balloon, which he presented to a royal court before a king.
  • 1783 – Two men, Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Marquis d’Arlandes, successfully flew a hot air balloon approximately five miles in a 20-minute flight over France.
  • 1783 – The first hydrogen balloon took flight in 1783, launched by Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles.
  • 1785 – The first balloon to cross the English Channel made this journey in 1785 with Jean-Pierre Blanchard and John Jeffries at the helm.
  • 1785 – The first fatal balloon crash occurred as Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Pierre Romain were attempting to cross the English Channel. Their balloon caught fire and crashed.
  • 1797 – Andre-Jacques Garnerin used a hot air balloon to ascend to an elevation of 3,200 feet. At this point, he cut away the balloon and descended by parachute.
  • 1809 – Sir George Cayley earned the nickname “Father of Aviation” with his flight research and inventions. In 1809, Cayley published a paper that laid the groundwork for aerodynamics.
  • 1843 – William Henson, working cooperatively with John Stringfellow, published a design for a steam-powered carriage.
  • 1843 – George Cayley continued to pursue flight, and he published a design for a man-carrying glider in 1843.
  • 1852 – Henri Giffard, a French designer, constructed and flew an airship for 17 miles in France.
  • 1867 – Wilbur Wright, aviation pioneer, was born on April 16, 1867, in Indiana.
  • 1870 – Alphonse Penaud created a model that used a rubber band to power contra-rotating rotors in a precursor to the helicopter.
  • 1871 – Orville Wright, the second Wright brother in the famous aviation duo, was born on August 19, 1871, in Ohio.
  • 1889 – Otto Lilienthal designed a lightweight steam engine that operated with a system of tubular boilers, increasing safety.
  • 1891 – The first gliding flights credit goes to Otto Lilienthal, who successfully traveled about 80 feet on his first flight.
  • 1895 – Otto Lilienthal continued to expand his gliding flights, achieving a flight with a biplane glider.
  • 1896 – On the shores of Lake Michigan, Octave Chanute began testing new glider designs.
  • 1901 – Alberto Santos-Dumont successfully flew around the Eiffel Tower in an airship.
  • 1903 – Ill-fated attempts to fly a motor-powered airplane ended in a crashes in the Potomac River. Samuel P. Langley tried two times to fly the “Aerodrome,” but failed both times.
  • 1903 – Orville and Wilbur Wright succeeded in flying their first flight, which lasted 12 seconds.
  • 1906 – Alberto Santos-Dumont performed a 722-foot flight in Europe.
  • 1909 – The first airplane to cross the English Channel occurred with Louis Bleriot piloting it.
  • 1926 – A farm in Massachusetts was the location of Robert H. Goddard’s launch of the first liquid-fueled rocket.
  • 1927 – Charles Lindbergh successfully navigated the first nonstop, solo trans-Atlantic flight.
  • 1930 – Sir Frank Whittle invented the jet engine and applied for a patent for his invention.
  • 1932 – Amelia Earhart became the first woman to complete a nonstop, solo trans-Atlantic flight.
  • 1933 – Boeing completed design and manufacture of Model 247, the first twin-engine airplane made completely of metal and the first passenger airplane.
  • 1939 – The Heinkel He 178 was the first turbojet engine aircraft, created by Hans Joachim Pahst von Ohain.
  • 1947 – Captain Chuck Yeager flew the Bell X-1 at Mach 1.06 speed, exceeding the speed of sound.
  • 1957 – The Soviet Union launched the first satellite, called “Sputnik-1.”
  • 1961 – Yuri Gagarin, a Russian cosmonaut, became the first human in space.
  • 1962 – John Herschel Glenn, Jr. orbited the Earth three full times on February 20, 1962, taking about five hours to complete his journey.
  • 1969 – Two United States astronauts, Neil Armstrong and Edwin Aldrin, Jr., became the first humans to walk on the moon.
  • 1971 – The Soviets launched “Salyut 1,” the first space station.
  • 1981 – On April 12, 1981, the United States launched the “Columbia” space shuttle, the first U.S. manned spacecraft to take off without the benefit of an unmanned test flight.
  • 1998 – The Unity module launched as a part of the International Space Station.
  • 2000 – The International Space Station receives its first crew, who begin living and working there.