Top 10 Iconic Figures in the History of Aviation
Flying nowadays has become a common way to travel long distances. However, mastering this art has taken us centuries and many advances in technology. The real heroes are the pioneers, who might not have been as well trained as our pilots today, but their accomplishments were great back in the day, thus earning them their deserved places in history books. Here is a list of 10 aviators whose names will never be forgotten.
10.Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier (1754-1785) and the Montgolfier Brothers
The question of who was the first ever man to fly remains, to this day, unanswered. Some believe it was a Benedictine monk named Eilmer of Malmesbury, others credit Abbas Ibn Firnas, a Spanish Muslim. Both of them allegedly rose off the ground using gliders. These theories haven’t been confirmed so it is difficult to say for sure who the first man to fly was.
When it comes to modern times, the battle for the first ever aviator is held between Jean-Francoise Pilatre de Rozier and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier, both from France. They both ascended off the ground in hot air balloons. The second of the two is the one who designed and built the contraption, however, his flight was tethered whereas de Roizier’s was not. Even though the question of who of the two was the first to be up in the air is still up for debate, it is clear that the balloon made Montgolfier and his brother, the one with whom he created the contraption, famous throughout their country.
Most historians believe that de Rozier is the first true aviator. His boldness to try to cross the English Channel a couple of years after his first flight led him to an untimely death as the balloon crashed.
9.Louis Bleriot (1872-1936)
This Frenchman is famous not only for his piloting skills but also for the fact that he was a gifted engineer as well as designer. After earning money from creating the first usable headlamp for automobiles, he decided to spend it on building the first manned aircraft. He wasn’t the first man to fly a plane in the world, as the Wright brothers hold that record, but he was the first European to do it.
Because technology back in 1909 was not as advanced as it is today, crossing the English Channel was considered to be a dangerous task. However, Bleriot succeeded in his attempt, a fact that made him even more renowned. He was also one of the pioneer aircraft designers in Europe. He created an aircraft for his country right before he passed away in 1936. Bleriot even met Lindbergh, another great aviator of those times, in Paris in 1927.
8.Baron Manfred Von Richthoven (1892-1918)
This renowned aviator was Germany’s best fighter in World War I, and for a good reason too. This pilot, whose flying skills were rated around average, is also known as the Red Baron and made history by shooting down no less than 80 French aircrafts before he was killed. For his death, historians credit Brown, a Canadian aviator, but the truth is still unclear because it is also possible that he was wounded badly enough in combat for the injuries to have been fatal. What is certain is that Snoopy isn’t the one who killed the Red Baron, but not from lack of trying.
7.John Glenn (1921- )
This Marine Corps fighter pilot from Ohio is one name that won’t be forgotten too soon. Some might be wondering why. Becoming an astronaut was indeed impressive, but it wasn’t like nobody had done it before. He definitely wasn’t the first man in space, nor was he the first American. He also only returned to cosmos as a passenger on Discovery when he was 77 years old. That did earn him the title of the oldest man to go out in space but, again, that is not what he is known for.
The fact that he was the first man born in the USA to orbit the Earth for three times in five hours is what made John Glenn famous. The event took place back in 1962. It is important to mention the year because orbiting our planet might not seem like such a big deal today, but in 1962 it was fairly impressive. After his accomplishment, John decided to stick to a less daring career and became a US Senator and perennial Presidential contender, not before retiring from NASA.
6.Chuck Yeager (1923- )
Where many failed (to their deaths) before him, Chuck succeeded. He was the first man ever to fly faster than the speed of sound in 1947. He might have had two broken ribs after falling off his horse the day before, but apparently his determination bested the pain. Another record this pilot holds is being the first American aviator ever to pilot the MiG-15, which was built in Soviet Russia. These aren’t his only accomplishments, as he also broke numerous other altitude and speed records.
5.Jimmy Doolittle (1896-1993)
The reason why this bold pilot became famous is that he was the one who led the raid on Tokyo back in 1942. Sixteen army bombers followed his lead and even though the attack didn’t cause much damage to the Japanese, it was a great step in raising the American army’s morale. After the event he was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor.
The raid might have been impressive and the main reason for which people will remember him, but his most valuable contribution was that he played an active role in the development of instrument flying. Again, it might not seem like much now, but it was a pretty big deal in the 1920s. Other remarkable accomplishments include being the first to succeed in the attempt of doing an outside loop-the-loop maneuver and being the first man to take-off and land using just instruments.
4.Steve Fossett (1944-2007)
Fossett is known world-wide for his numerous records, 116 in five different sports. The ones that we are interested in include the fact that he was the first to complete a nonstop circumnavigation in a balloon filled with helium in 2002 as well as five nonstop circumnavigations of our planet. Another impressive accomplishment was making the first circumnavigation of the Earth in a plane without refueling (2005). He disappeared mysteriously in 2007 while flying over the Nevada desert. His remains were found a year after his disappearance.
3.The Wright Brothers (Wilbur, 1867-1912, Orville, 1871-1948)
They are without a doubt the most famous duo in the history of aviation and it is a commonly known fact that they started off as bike builders. The photo which shows Wilbur flying a short distance in a contraption that only vaguely reminds of a plane is also very famous. The invention looks anything but impressive compared to the aircrafts that are on the market now, but keep in mind that without that short flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 3, 1903, none of it would have been possible. Without the ingenious design that the Wright brothers created, the world today wouldn’t have been the same.
2.Amelia Earhart (1897-1937)
Also known as Lady Lindy, Ms. Earhart was the first ever female pilot to fly nonstop from Honolulu to Oakland in 1935 and also the first one to cross the Atlantic solo, in 1932. The last mentioned accomplishment is perhaps her most famous one. However, she was made into a legend by her last flight that happened in 1937. She was attempting to circumnavigate the globe with her navigator, Fred Noonan, when she disappeared somewhere close to the Howland Island in the Pacific Ocean. The mystery was not yet revealed, but some evidences point that she might have crash-landed on a small island in the vicinity of Howland. This theory was not confirmed.
1.Charles Lindbergh (1902-1974)
“Lucky Lindy” is certainly the most iconic pilot in history. He is the first one to cross the Atlantic Ocean solo. He flew from New York to Paris in a monoplane with a special design. The event took place in May 1927. Even though he didn’t approve of the idea of America going to war during WWII, after the attack on Pearl Harbor he started supporting the war effort. He piloted in over 50 combat missions over the Pacific, which made him even more famous. He is also said to have shot down a Japanese aircraft in year 1944.
Paradoxically, he passed away peacefully in 1974 after spending the last years of his life in Hawaii. After the war, he also showed much interest in the environment and in technology.