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Firsts in Air Travel

The desire for freedom can best be expressed in humankind's desire to fly. This is likely one of the reasons that mankind has been fascinated with flight throughout history. Today, the fantasy has become an everyday reality with air travel becoming as routine a way to travel as driving a car. The ease in which modern society takes to the air is the result of inventors and scientists of the past. Courtesy of new and innovative ideas, air travel still continues, reaching beyond the atmosphere and into the stars.

1783 - Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier were the two men responsible for the first flight by hot air balloon. This date signifies the launch of the first manned hot air balloon; however, earlier in the year, the two men had launched a balloon that did not have anyone aboard except for a duck, sheep, and a rooster.

1903 - The first powered flight occurred in 1903 when Orville and Wilbur Wright launched the Wright Flyer I from the town of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The Wright Flyer I is now on display at the Smithsonian Institute.

1907 - The first helicopter flight was in what was called the Gyroplane No. 1. It was tied to the ground and was not able to fly freely. That same year the first helicopter that was not tied down took flight. It was called the Cornu helicopter. The Cornu helicopter was also not a great success as a flying machine due to its ability to only rise up to 2 meters into the air during a series of short hops.

1919 - Sixteen years after the first powered flight occurred in 1903, the first flight across the Atlantic Ocean was achieved by NC-4, a seaplane (a plane that can take off from and land on water) designed by Glenn Curtiss, in 1919. It was piloted by Albert Cushing Read, an aviator for the United States Navy.

1924 - The first flight around the world occurred in 1924 when the United States Army Air Force commissioned four Douglas World Cruiser airplanes to make the trip. The four aircraft made multiple stops along the way and it took 175 days to complete the journey. Three aircraft survived. The first aircraft to circumnavigate the globe without stopping or refueling was the Rutan Voyager, in 1986.

1939 - On November 21st of 1939, a German aircraft developed by Ernst Heinkel took to the air. This was the first jet aircraft to take flight.

1947 - Captain Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to break the sound barrier. He flew the Bell X-1 "Glamorous Glennis" which reached Mach 1.06 when it was launched from a B-29 bomber at 29,000 feet.

1969 - Astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first two people to set foot on the moon on July 20. Neil Armstrong, who was the first of the two men to actually walk on the moon, made the famous statement "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." The astronauts were on the moon for 21 hours.

2004 - Yves Rossy is the first person to fly in a jet wing. His first two flights were in 2004 in a jet wing using two jet engines. One year later he added two more jet engines for safety and performance. His jet wing is a carbon wing with jet engines attached. In 2008 he flew over the Alps at 124 miles per hour.

2012 - "Fearless Felix" is the nickname of the pilot, high-altitude jumper, and skydiver who was the first person to jump from space. His real name is Felix Baumgartner, and on October 14, 2012 he jumped from the Earth's stratosphere off of a space capsule. The Earth's stratosphere is the second layer of the atmosphere and it is 128,100 feet from the ground. The jump was at speeds of 833.9 miles per hour, which made it the fastest jump on record.