François Pilâtre de Rozier: First man to fly in a balloon

Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier was a well-renowned pioneer of aviation. While studying pharmacology in Paris, Pilâtre de Rozier ventured into the fields of chemistry and experimental Physics. He soon sought a powerful patron to support his work in the form of the Count and Countess de Provence who named him intendant of the cabinets of physics, chemistry and natural history. With his patron’s backing, Pilâtre de Rozier established a scientific club, the Musée de Monsieur where he offered lectures. Pilâtre de Rozier’s penchant for the spectacular reached full fruition when he heard about the new invention of Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier, the hot air balloon which had its first public launch in June 1783.

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Panair Do Brazil S-38B P-BDAL

Panair Do Brazil, S.A.: First hijacking of an Airline

Pan American Airways (PAA) acquired its short-lived rival New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA) and its Brazilian subsidiary NYRBA Do Brazil on 15th September 1930. This new subsidiary of PAA was recognized by the Brazilian government after a name change to Panair Do Brazil. The fleet of Panair Do Brazil consisted of four Consolidated Commodores and four Sikorsky S-38 flying boats inherited from NYRBA.

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USAAF CG-4A Glider

Winged Cargo Inc.: First commercial freight glider service

Shortly after the end of World War II, surplus military aircraft entered the civilian market in large numbers. This triggered an explosion of airlines, often flown by the abundant number of veteran pilots. The Douglas C-47 was a mainstay in many of these airlines and freight companies. Not satisfied with simply transporting cargo, two former Air Corps officers, Fred P. Dollenberg and Raymond W. Baldwin Jr. set up Winged Cargo Inc. with its headquarters at NorthWest Philadelphia Airport. This company utilized gliders to carry extra cargo.

WInged Cargo Waco Glider CG-4A
Winged Cargo Inc. takes off while towing a Waco CG-4A glider | Source

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Deutsche Luftschiffahrts, A.G.: First airline with fare-paying passengers

The Deutsche Luftschiffahrts, A.G. (German for “German Airship Travel Corporation”) was the first airline with fare-paying passengers. It was founded on 16th November 1909 and operated airships including the famed LZ 127 Graf Zeppelin and the ill-fated LZ 129 Hindenburg which was destroyed at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

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St Lo Shimpu

Shimpu Special Attack Corps: First aviation unit formed specifically for suicide operations

Lt. Yukio Seki

The Shimpu Special Attack Corps, a group of 24 volunteer pilots commanded by Lt. Yukio Seki was formed within the 201st (fighter) Air Group, Imperial Japanese Navy, during the third week of October 1944. The unit, equipped with Mitsubishi Zero-Sen single-seat fighters, was formed for the task of diving into the flight decks of American aircraft carriers in the Philippines area, with a 250kg bomb beneath the fuselage of each fighter. (Shimpu is an alternative pronunciation of the Japanese ideographs which also represent kamikaze, “Divine Wind”, the name applied more generally to Japanese suicide operations.)

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Dean Ivan Lamb and Phil Rader: First dogfight

Sometimes war can pit brother against brother, friend against friend. But when the fighting occurs 4 miles in the air, that is a different story. When Dean Ivan Lamb and Phil Rader met in the skies over Mexico, they were ordered to shoot and by doing so participated in the first aerial battle between aeroplanes.

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Imperial airways

Imperial Airways: First British national airline

Imperial airways, was formed on 1st April 1924. This was the manifestation of the British government’s determination to develop air transport, and the company was to receive $1 million in preferential air subsidies over ten years. Having acquired the businesses of British Marine Air Navigation Co., Daimler Airways, Handley Page Transport and Instone Air Lines, the British government created some order in the multitude of startup airline and mail carriers. Based in Croydon, a center for early aviation, the airlines undertook scheduled flights to Paris Le Bourget beginning in 3rd of May 1924. The first scheduled flight on this route had begun in 1919. The Chairman to head the company was Rt Hon Sir Eric Geddes GCB, GBE. He had accomplished much as the head of military transportation in WW1 and had a reputation for getting things done.

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The first and only Oxford verses Cambridge University air race

Returning from the Great War, some young men from Oxford and Cambridge Universities felt confined within their universities. Besides, they has just a few years ago faced German biplanes in nerve wracking (but adrenaline inducing) encounters in fragile aircraft 4 miles over the battlefield. One student, a former test pilot by the name of A. R. Boree, from Oxford had a thrilling idea which he believed would rival the Oxford-Cambridge boat race. He proposed a air race over a circuit at the London Aerodrome, Hendon with a total distance of 129 miles.

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Aeromarine Airways: First airlines to transport an automobile

The Biltmore flying boat (Aeromarine model 85/80) at Lake George, NY in the summer of 1921 | (Photo courtesy of Jon Krupnick)

The Aeromarine Plane and Motor company was an early American aircraft manufacturer that was formed in 1914 and pioneered the civilian aviation market. Its subsidiary, Aeromarine Airways, started regularly scheduled flights between major US cities. By the summer of 1922, Aeromarine Airways operated daily flights between Cleveland and Detroit. Within two months, the aircraft had carried 4388 passengers thereby sparking optimism within the company that the general public would accept aviation as an attractive and integral part of transportation. However, this optimism was soon dashed as the flying boat Columbus (Pictured far top) suffered engine trouble and crash landed on heavy seas, claiming the lives of four passengers. Soon after, one of the flying boats from the Aeromarine fleet was destroyed in a Havana Harbour due to a storm.

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