When you think of aviation, your first thoughts might go directly to Orville and Wilbur Wright, the brothers who famously worked on flight trials at Kitty Hawk. Many inventors worked tirelessly toward the goal of flight though, as you can see in the following timeline of aviation. From the first rudimentary attempts to replicate bird wings to the eventual ascension into space to explore the moon and beyond, scientists have been aiming for the heavens. Anyone with aeronautics or aviation aspirations can study engineering and science to achieve these goals.
1010 – A Benedictine monk named Oliver Maimesbury was the first person to use wings to fly. After flying 125 paces, he fell and broke both legs.
1488 to 1514 – Leonardo de Vinci created the first design of flying machines, which he patterned after bird wings.
1536 – Denis Bolor of France attempted flight with wings he made move with a spring mechanism. The spring broke and Bolor died.
1678 – A locksmith named Besnier who lived in France attempted flight with wings he made that he constructed using a duck as inspiration.
December 1, 1783 – Jacques Alexandre Cesar Charles flew more than 36 kilometers 3,500 meters in the air for the first solo hot-air balloon flight.
January 7, 1785 – A hydrogen balloon crossed the English Channel for the first time.
1799 – Sir George Cayley originated the idea for a fixed-wing aircraft.
1804 – Sir George Cayley built and flew the first model glider.
1884 – Horatio Phillips worked to invent curved airfoil shapes, discovering the secret to soaring flight.
1891 – Otto Lilienthal flew more than 25 meters by launching himself from a high board. This flight was the first safe and repeatable glide.
August 8, 1896 – Otto Lilienthal died when wind caused his glider to go out of control.
May 30, 1899 – Wilbur Wright wrote to the Smithsonian Institute, expressing his belief that it was possible for humans to achieve flight.
October 22, 1900 – Wilbur and Orville Wright made their initial glider flight.
March 23, 1903 – The Wrights applied for patents for their flying machine and glider.
December 8, 1903 – Samuel P. Langley‘s aircraft crashed into the Potomac River, destroying it.
December 17, 1903 – The Wright Flyer became airborne for 12 seconds, flying 121 feet to become the first powered, manned, and controlled flight.
October 4, 1905 – The Wright Brothers flew the Flyer III 24.2 miles in just over 38 minutes.
November 13, 1907 – Paul Cornu flew the first helicopter for 20 seconds, keeping it one foot from the ground.
1908 – Madame Therese Peltier became the first woman to fly alone in an airplane.
February 8, 1908 – The United States War Department finalized a contract with Orville and Wilbur Wright to buy one flying machine for $25,000.
June 1910 – Charles W. Hamilton made the first night flight in the United States.
May 25, 1910 – The Wright Brothers flew together for the only time ever in Ohio on a short flight.
May 30, 1912 – Wilbur Wright died at the age of 45.
September 23, 1913 – Roland Garros flew across the Mediterranean Sea for the first time.
April 1914 – The United States used aircraft in a military operation for the first time.
June 29, 1916 – William E. Boeing built and test flew his first airplane, called the “B&W” trainer.
April 30, 1917 – The Pacific Aero Products Company became the Boeing Airplane Company, and William Boeing became the president of it.
May 3, 1919 – The first municipal airport was opened in the United States in New Jersey.
February 22, 1920 – The first transcontinental mail service flight was made between San Francisco and New York taking just over 33 hours.
January 24, 1925 – Airplanes carried scientists above the clouds to see a total eclipse of the sun.
June 17, 1928 – Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean.
May 20-21, 1932 – Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly across the Atlantic Ocean alone.
December 1, 1935 – The first air traffic control center began working at Newark, New Jersey.
June 1-2, 1937 – Amelia Earhart began a world flight attempt, but she was lost during the flight. She was declared dead about six months later.
June 20, 1941 – The United States Army Air Force was created.
January 30, 1948 – Orville Wright died at the age of 76.
July 26, 1952 – Two monkeys and two mice were brought back down to Earth after being fired about 200,000 feet into the air in a rocket.
November 24, 1954 – The first Air Force One was brought into service.
1956 – The first airplane crash happened over Arizona, killing everyone aboard.
January 15-18, 1957 – The first jet flight around the world occurred.
October 4, 1957 – The Russians launched Sputnik I, the first Earth satellite.
May 5, 1961 – Freedom 7 launched with Alan Shepard aboard, becoming the first human space flight.
March 18, 1965 – Alexei Leonov took the first spacewalk.
July 16-24, 1969 – Apollo 11 achieved the first human lunar landing with Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landing on the moon’s surface.
January 1970 – The Boeing 747 began passenger service.
December 2, 1971 – The first soft landing on Mars occurred.
May 14, 1973 – Skylab was launched as an unmanned space station.
January 28, 1986 – The Challenger accident occurred, killing all seven astronauts on board.
April 24-29, 1990 – The Hubble space telescope was deployed.
July 4, 1997 – The Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner Rover landed on Mars.
November 2, 2000 – Astronauts docked with the International Space Station, becoming the first people to live on board.
December 17, 2003 – The 100th anniversary of the first powered, manned, and controlled flight was observed.
May 16, 2011 – The final launch of the Space Shuttle Endeavor occurred.
July 8, 2011 – The final launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis occurred, which was also the final launch of the Space Shuttle Program.
December 28, 2019 – U.S. astronaut Christina Koch set a world record for the longest single spaceflight by a woman.