All posts tagged 'aviation history'

The Big Four: the aircraft that shaped private jet travel

Business jets have created a world of opportunity for businesses and high wealth individuals around the world, allowing them the ability to fly themselves or send predominant staff to places that commercial flights can’t reach. They allowed these executives to attend imperative meetings and be home for dinner. The social status of owners increased as well, showcasing to others that they were long on financial resources and short on time. 

The following are four aircraft that changed the world in regards to time efficiency, business productivity, and social status.  What is most interesting is that all four originated from military contracts with the intent of being quicker and more efficient than predecessors.

 

Lockheed JetStar – L329
Deliveries: 202 (1961-1980)

 

Lockheed created the L-329 as a private venture to meet a United States Air Force (USAF) requirement, which ultimately shaped it into the world’s first business jet design.

The JetStar was one of the largest aircraft in its class, seating ten plus two crew. It was the first corporate aircraft to allow a person to walk upright in the cabin.  It can be distinguished from other small jets by its four engines, which are mounted at the tail and the “slipper” style fuel tanks fixed to the wings to accommodate the increased fuel consumption from two extra engines. 

Although it was not the primary Air Force One aircraft, VC-140B’s did carry Presidents Lyndon B. Johnson, Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, Jimmy Carter, and Ronald Reagan while they were in office and used the Air Force One call sign while aboard.

Elvis Presley owned two JetStars at different times, the second being known as Hound Dog II. Reportedly he paid $899,702.60 for the aircraft on September 2, 1975.

 

North American Sabreliner 40
Deliveries: 137 (1959 – 1974)

 

The Sabreliner was developed in the mid-1950s by Los Angeles-based North American Aviation as an in-house project. North American offered a military version to the USAF in response to the Utility Trainer Experimental (UTX) program.  Because no other companies competed for the UTX, North American Aviation won the contract by default. 

This was the world’s first executive aircraft to run on a twin-jet system. It was named Sabreliner due to its similarity of supercritical and swept wings and tail to the North American F-86 Sabre jet fighter. It also included innovational slats.

Over 800 Sabreliners were produced, 200 of which were T-39s, military variants used by the USAF, United States Navy, and United States Marine Corps. Deriving itself from the F-86 Sabre, the Sabreliner is the only business jet authorized for aerobatics. The cockpit windows had topside “eyebrows” that provided a distinctive recognition feature for the aircraft.

Sabreliner was sold to Rockwell International and renamed as the Rockwell Sabreliner. In 1981, Sabreliner production came to a close.  In 1982, Rockwell sold the Sabreliner division to a private equity firm which later formed Sabreliner Corporation.

 

Learjet 23
Deliveries: 101 (1964-1966)

 

Among the first, and best known, private jets was the Lear Jet 23 (later renamed Learjet). This jet’s small size and economically fast operation made it a staple in the fleet of captains of industry, celebrities, and other wealthy members of society across the world.

The Lockheed JetStar and North American Sabreliner had been on the market before the Learjet 23 was produced, but its ability to climb higher and faster than its competitors made it the first civilian, jet-powered light aircraft.

The aircraft was beyond its time in terms of performance: 518 MPH cruising speed, 562 MPH (488 knots) maximum speed, 6,900 feet-per-minute rate of climb, 1,830-mile range, and 45,000-foot ceiling. According to the Smithsonian Institution, the Model 23 could out-climb an F-100 Super Sabre to 10,000 ft.

The man behind the Learjet was William “Bill” Powell Lear, Sr., who was inspired by the Swiss P-16 fighter jet prototype. Lear established the Swiss American Aviation Corporation (SAAC) to produce the passenger version: the SAAC-23 ExecuJet. After moving the company to Wichita, Kansas, he renamed it the Lear Jet Corporation. 

Essentially, Bill Lear wanted a small aircraft that could perform like a jet airliner and carry its five passengers and two pilots at 500 MPH for distances of 1,500 miles or more. While the aircraft performed like a fighter, it also had the accident record of one. The Model 23 was demanding to fly, even for experienced pilots. It was unrelenting of pilot errors, leading to 23 Learjet crashes in only three years with four of those resulting in fatalities.  The fleet was only made of 104 aircraft, meaning you had a 22% chance of crashing each time you flew in one.

Lear recognized the problem and introduced the Model 24 in 1966, with improved two-speed handling qualities. The accident rates improved as new models continued to be put on the market, but these rates were still much higher than other corporate jets of the time.

 

Dassault Falcon 20
Deliveries: 512 (1965-1991) including 20C, 20D, 20E and 20F

 

In December of 1961, French aircraft designer and head of Dassault Aviation, Marcel Dassault, provided the approval to work towards the production of an eight to ten seat executive jet/military liaison aircraft that could fly 500 mph+, which was initially named the Dassault-Breguet Mystère 20.

This low-wing monoplane drew upon the aerodynamics of the transonic Dassault Mystère IV fighter-bomber and was equipped with a pair of rear-mounted Pratt & Whitney JT12A-8 turbojet engines. Later upgrades to the airframe include Garrett TFE-731 engines.

Directly selling the aircraft wasn’t a viable option, so they settled on Pan American World Airways as the US distributor. The aircraft were distributed in America under the name Fan Jet Falcon, later becoming popularly known as the Falcon 20.  In total, Pan American placed orders for a combined total of 160 Falcon 20s. Other major orders were soon placed by several operators, both civil and military; amongst these included the French Navy, the United States Coast Guard, and Federal Express.

During the late 1960s and early 70s, aviation businessman Frederick W. Smith was seeking an ideal aircraft with which to launch his new business, Federal Express, commonly known today as FedEx. The Falcon 20 had a strong fuselage, making it the ideal aircraft for cargo operations.  The first packages to be carried by FedEx were in a Falcon 20 on April 17, 1973. Within a decade, the company was using 33 of the twinjets in its air express network.

Dassault went on to sell more than 500 Falcon series aircraft until 1991. The French company continues to be a major player in the market today with its lineup of twin- and three-engined designs.

 

These private jets began as ideas on a crumpled piece of paper in the corner of a desk. No one could have known just how impactful they would become. Across the world, they represent wealth and power to socialites and business owners alike. It is because of these aircraft that the private jet industry is stronger today than ever before.

12 Things You Didn’t Know About the Wright Brothers



Most of us know that Wright brothers Orville and Wilbur were smart guys who also had a thing for bicycles. But what else do we know about these two brothers that successfully launched America – and other countries – into the world of flying? Here are a few interesting facts about the fathers of modern aviation.
  1. Neither Wilbur nor Orville finished high school. A hockey accident left Wilbur badly injured and he fell into a depression, forgoing his plans to attend Yale. Instead, he stayed home and cared for his mother, who had tuberculosis. In the meantime, Wilbur’s younger brother Orville dropped out of high school his senior year to open a print shop.

  2. In 1889 Wilbur and Orville started their own newspaper. It was a West Dayton paper called West Side News, in which Wilbur was the editor and Orville the publisher.

  3. Orville and Wilbur’s father was a bishop who traveled a lot. Their mother was the parent they turned to for advice on their engineering and design pursuits. Being mechanically inclined, she would design and build small appliances and also built toys for the two boys and their siblings.

  4. Wilbur was mature for his age, and he preferred to hang out with his two older brothers. He was invited to join their social group called the "Ten Dayton Boys," where activities included annual meetings, drinking, eating and singing.

  5. Wilbur was quiet and studious. Orville was mischievous, but shy.

  6. Orville played the mandolin. His sister Katharine, whom he was very close to, is known to have said, "He sits around and picks that thing until I can hardly stay in the house."

  7. The brothers funded their airplane pursuits with bicycles. The pair went into business designing, building and repairing bicycles. They competed with many other bicycle shops, at first selling the popular brands and later designing and manufacturing their own.

  8. The Kitty Hawk location was chosen based on certain criteria that included a soft place to land, sustained winds, elevated areas to launch from and, of course, wide open spaces.

  9. The test gliders were left on the beaches of Kitty Hawk. After the test flights of the first three gliders, the aircraft were so beat up from their time at Kitty Hawk that the Wright brothers just left them behind on the beaches of Kitty Hawk. A wingtip was later recovered, and is the only piece found from the Wright brothers’ gliders.

  10. One wing was shorter than the other on the Wright Flyer On the Wright brother’s design of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the left wing was engineered to be four inches longer than the right wing in order to compensate for the engine placement on the right side of the pilot.

  11. The brothers tossed a coin to determine who would be flying the Wright Flyer during its first test flight. Wilbur won.

  12. Farmland was used for future flight testing in Ohio, as long as they moved the cows first. Tired of continuous flights to Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers sought out the use of land from a nearby farmer in Ohio. They built a hangar there and began a mission to fly circular flights and make the aircraft more practical. The farmer requested nothing in return, except that they lead the cattle away before flying.

National Aviation Day: A Look Back at Aviation through the Years


Photo: Library of Congress

August 19th is National Aviation Day, a day on which many of us involved in aviation reflect on the past, present and future of our industry. Since it's the past that got us to where we are today - an aviation industry focused on innovation and technology - this year on National Aviation Day, take time to consider how far the aviation industry has come. From the earliest balloons to the Boeing 747, and from the Wright Brothers to the F-35, here are a few aviation highlights that will take you back in time.

Early Flight
Birds and Balloons - Before airplanes, scientists were studying birds, balloons, and other flying contraptions. According to the Library of Congress, the first kite was invented as early as 1000 B.C. in China. The Chinese later used kites to measure distances and for reconnaissance. As kites and other flying wings were being developed during this time, Leonardo Da Vinci was studying the flight of birds and developing designs for flying machines. Balloons became popular in the 1700s, after the Montgolfier brothers powered the first balloon flights.

The First Fixed Wing Aircraft - Balloons were no match for Sir George Cayley, also known as the Father of the Aeroplane, who first noticed and recorded the four forces of flight. Cayley also design the first fixed-wing aircraft and was perhaps the first modern engineer, researching and recording the first theories about stability & control and wing dihedral.

Langley vs. Gustav Whitehead vs. the Wright Brothers - In the early 1900s, Samuel Langley was designing and building the first airplanes with a grant from the U.S. government. Langley was unsuccessful, and during the same time, the Wright brothers successfully made the first flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Later, witnesses would claim the Gustav Whitehead had actually successfully completed the first manned flight in 1901, two years before the Wright brothers, but his flight are unrecognized due to lack of proof.

Going the Distance
The 1900s brought considerable advancements in aviation. With two world wars, competition was heavy, bringing many "firsts" in aviation and rapid progression.

Crossing the English Channel - 1909 brought the first crossing the English Channel by a heavier-than-air aircraft - a simple monoplane piloted by aviation pioneer Louis Bleriot.

US Airmail - In 1911, the U.S. started using aircraft for air mail. In 1911, the first U.S. airmail flight occurred. Many more would follow, and in 1914, with World War I about to being, The Benoist Company started the first scheduled passenger airline service between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida.

Crossing the Atlantic - In 1919, the infamous Vickers Vimy made the first nonstop Atlantic crossing while the military developed bombers and fighter aircraft. Charles Lindbergh completed the first flight solo nonstop Atlantic crossing in 1927, becoming an aviation legend.

Barnstomers
The post-World War I era brought a surplus of inexpensive aircraft - specifically the Curtis JN-4 "Jenny" - to the civilian world, and people started flying these airplanes around to give rides and performing air show type stunts. These "barnstormers" as they were named, operated out of fields and traveled frequently.

Modern Flight
Post- World War I and World War II brought even more advancements, like instrument flight, jet engines, supersonic flight and a trip to the moon!

First Instrument Flight-In 1929, Jimmy Doolittle took off, flew and landed without any outside references. Doolittle is also credited with discovering the visual and motion limitations involved with instrument flight, including the idea of trusting the instruments over bodily sensations.

Jet Engines, Supersonic Flight and Moon Landings - The 1930s brought us the first practical jet aircraft - the HE-178 Heinkel - and Chuck Yeager's legendary flight that broke the sound barrier for the first time. By the 1970s, Boeing was making the 747 and the first Concorde entered service, capable of supersonic flight from New York to London in just less than three hours - incredible by anyone's account. And do you think Sir George Cayley or the Wright brothers have ever imagined we'd land on the moon in 1969?

While the supersonic transport aircraft industry didn't take off, today's technology is amazing, nonetheless. With airliners like the A380, capable of transporting over 800 passengers, stealth technology found in the B-2 Bomber and now the F-35, composite materials and electric powered aircraft, the aviation industry continues to advance in fascinating ways.

This year on National Aviation Day, what part of aviation history will you remember and celebrate?

February is a big month for Boeing first flights

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February is a big month for first flights at the Boeing Co. The aircraft maker, 41 years ago today, first flew its iconic Boeing 747 jumbo jet, whose legend rests among the biggest rock stars of commercial airlplanes. (Hat tip to Avtips, which earlier today tweeted the YouTube video embedded above.)

Today also marks a year and a day since Boeing first flew its 747-8, helping mark the 40th anniversary of the original 7-4.

[more]

(Read more on why Boeing dubbed its commercial jets with 7_7 model IDs.)

Still, we can go even further back in history to find dozens of first flights and other notable moments in aviation history that occurred at Boeing in February. The list below comes from the log book history on the company’s web site.  Let us know in the comments which is your favorite Boeing moment.

 

1921
Feb. 24: The first wholly Douglas-designed, Douglas-built aircraft, The Cloudster, makes its first flight. It is the first airplane to lift a useful load exceeding its own weight.

1933
Feb. 1: The last Boeing biplane designed and built in Seattle, the Model 236 (XF6B-1), based on the F4B/P-12 series, makes its first flight.

1939
Feb. 20: The Douglas DC-5 makes its first flight. Only 12 are built, five as commercial DC-5 transports and seven as R3D military transports.

1942
Feb. 14: The Douglas C-54 Skymaster makes its first flight. Designed as the DC-4, it is adapted for military use. During the war Skymasters complete 79,632 transoceanic flights with only three ditchings, one of which was a test.
Feb. 26: The luxurious Boeing Stratoliners are stripped of their civilian finery and pressed into military service as C-75s. The first flights carry antitank ammunition and medical supplies to British forces in Libya.

1946
Feb. 15: The military prototype of the Douglas DC-6, the YC-122, makes its first flight.

1952
Feb. 18: The first North American AJ-2 Savage bomber flies.

1958
Feb. 28: The first Douglas Thor-Agena rocket launches Discoverer 1, the first photo reconnaissance satellite and the first satellite to enter polar orbit.

1962
Feb. 20: In the first orbital flight of a McDonnell-built Mercury spacecraft, John Glenn becomes the first American to orbit the Earth.

1963
Feb. 27: The first flight of Hughes OH-6A Cayuse light observation helicopter

1965
Feb. 25: The Douglas DC-9 twinjet airliner makes its first flight.

1972
February: The first Boeing AWACS plane, a modified 707-320B, makes its first flight.

1982
Feb. 19: The Boeing 757-200 makes its first flight.

1987
Feb. 19: The Boeing E-6A TACAMO prototype flies for the first time.

1989
Feb. 14: The first McDonnell Douglas Delta II rocket launches the Navstar II-1 global positioning satellite, designed by Rockwell.

1993
Feb. 22: The McDonnell Douglas MD-90 commercial transport makes its first flight.

1997
Feb. 9: The first Next-Generation Boeing 737, a 737-700, makes its first flight.

2001
Feb. 15: The 757 Special Freighter makes its first flight.

2003
Feb. 24: The 777-300ER completes its first flight.

2005
Feb. 14: Two Joint Unmanned Combat Air Systems (J-UCAS) Boeing X-45As perform their first simulated combat mission, eliminating two simulated pop-up ground threats.
Feb. 15: The first 777-200LR Worldliner, the world's longest range commercial airplane is rolled out in Everett, Wash. It can carry 301 passengers up to 9,420 nautical miles.
Feb. 24: Boeing officials and Italian Air Force customers roll out the first KC-767A advanced aerial refueling tanker in Wichita.

2008
Feb. 24: Boeing, Virgin Atlantic and GE Aviation conduct the first commercial aviation flight using a sustainable biomass-to-liquid fuel mixed with traditional kerosene-based jet fuel. The fuel blend includes oils from Babassu nuts extracted from indigenous Brazilian plants, and coconuts from the Philippines.

Happy National Aviation Day!

Outside the office, tour guides here at Bowman Field (KLOU), presumably next door from Louisville Executive Aviation, one of the FBOs at the airport, or perhaps leaders from the local Civil Air Patrol, led a group of children around the tie-down area behind our building. Just after lunchtime today, they strolled through the line adjacent to one of the runways, looking at various aircraft on the field, mostly pistons, a couple Citations probably and a European trainer-fighter jet. The tour was fitting, as today is National Aviation Day.

In this post, we will pause and honor the history of flight, as well as recap how other groups are celebrating across the country. Why confine the commemoration to a single day, though?  In order to allow us to celebrate the feats and marvels that have taken place within the industry, many push back the schedule and observe the entire week as National Aviation Week. [more]

 

Events this week include:

A look at how an EAA Chapter reconstructed the 1940s crash of a warbird

Civil Air Patrol events take place in North Carolina and Alabama

A free event at the New England Air Museum in Connecticut

How to make a tiny airplane out of a few pieces of candy

Celebration at the Chennault Museum in Louisiana

Pilots in Oklahoma and Pennsylvania reflect on their passion to fly

Review some posts on the GlobalAir.com blog that detail aspects of aviation history

Oh yeah, by the way, it's also National Potato Day

 

The federal observation of National Aviation Day, which coincides with Orville Wright’s birthday, began 71 years ago today when President Franklin Roosevelt made the distinction with the stroke of a pen and a nod to the pioneers of controlled flight. The moment took place in an era that many look back as one that crested within a movement that sprinted toward today’s modern aviation.

Scrappy fighters and burly bombers played key roles in determining the fate of humanity in World War II. Within a year of Roosevelt’s declaration, Allied and Axis forces would see planes evolve from experimental objects into speedy military assets like the P-51 Mustang and A6M Zero that battled in the sky. The Germans flew the Heinkel He 178 during the era, the first usable jet, amongst a span of a few short years that saw rapid innovation in aviation and technology on both sides of the wire.

Planes like the B-29 Superfortress delivered greater payloads in increasingly efficient manner, and it forever changed warfare tactics and global politics by dropping a pair of atomic bombs on Japan.  Thus, Roosevelt’s decision to honor the spirit of aviation by setting aside a national day was a small but important key in boosting American defense and technological progress. When the war ended, it set the stage for even further development amongst aircraft.

Commercial aviation ballooned. Suddenly, cross-country and international travel became attainable to the public. Then, three decades after Roosevelt’s declaration, mankind took a giant leap and placed footprints on the moon.

Soon private space travel, too, will be within the realm of possibility. Today is a great day to reflect backward and, at the same time, imagine the possibilities ahead.

 Hopefully, you get a chance to celebrate the day by visiting an airport or aviation museum, while getting a chance pass the spirit on to others.

Drop a line in the comments section and let us know how you are celebrating the moment.  What do you think the world of aviation will look like when we celebrate the 100th National Aviation Day in 2039?

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