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The Beginning Years - Level 1

The Flyer - Orville & Wilbur Wright (United States)

Although there is some controversy over the first powered, sustained and controlled flight of an airplane*, Orville and Wilbur Wright are generally accepted as the first men to accomplish this dream. On December 17, 1903, they made four flights on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in the aircraft they called The Flyer.

First flight...December 17, 1903!
By Orville Wright and John T. Daniels, December 17, 1903 (165-WW-713-6);
Records of the War Department General and Special Staffs; Record Group 165; National Archives.

Bleriot XI Monoplane (France)

The future potential of the airplane was realized when Louis Bleroit flew his XI monoplane across the English Channel in 1909. The airplane for the first time had penetrated natural and political barriers. Britain could no longer feel secure and rely only on the Royal Navy.

Bleriot XI

First Seaplane - Henri Fabre (France)

Although the first seaplane was built and flown by Henri Fabre in 1910 at Martigues, France, the really great pioneer of marine flying was Glen Curtiss of the United States. In 1911 he fitted floats to one of his sturdy pusher biplanes and flew it off the water. His contributions to marine flying include flying boats and airplanes which could take off and land on a ship.

First flight of a seaplane. The plane, called a Hydravion, was created by Frenchman Henri Fabre. Using a 50 horsepower Gnome rotary engine, Fabre flew 1650 feet on water (March 28, 1910).

Fabre5.jpg (71410 bytes)

Fabre's Hydravion called "Le Canard"
photograph provided by Mme Sylvie Berges, Department Head, Musee
de l'Hydraviation de Biscarrosse

Vickers Gunbus (England)

Until 1914, the airplane had no military use except for reconnaissance. As the war progressed the manufacturers were pressed to equip airplanes with guns, bombs and torpedos. This had been accomplished by 1914. In England alone the defense industry employed 250,000 turning out 30,000 airplanes a vear. all for war.

Vickers Gunbus

F.X. Trimotor (United States)

The world's first airline services were in a dirigible in 1910. With the advances in aircraft design brought about by war, the enclosed cabin airplane became the standard for commercial airline travel by the early 1920's.

Ford Trimotor 
This aircraft can be seen at the Evergreen Aviation Museum
Photo by David K. Brunn 1992


*George Whitehead (Gustave Weiskopf) is considered by some as being the first to fly, accomplishing this task two years before the Wright Brothers.  In the October 1998 issue of "Flight Journal" magazine, there is an article about the controversy over the issue of who was the first to fly (pp. 48-55).


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Updated: 04 Jan 2009