Timeline of early aviation (The Wonder Book of Aircraft)

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The following useful listing of key dates in aviation is taken from the back pages of one of the Wonder Book series, edited by Harry Golding, p.252-256., from 1920 or later.

Some Notable Records in Aviation

WHEN, on December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright actually flew with a power-driven aeroplane, they undoubtedly did the greatest thing that had ever been accomplished in flight, a thing, as we have shown elsewhere, other men had vainly attempted for centuries. That first flight lasted for just twelve seconds; four trials in all were made that day, and the fourth flight was a matter of only 59 seconds.

It was not until September 26, 1905, that another record was established by the Wright brothers, Wilbur remaining in the air for eighteen minutes, a wonderful achievement for those days. The next record of any account also came to one of the Wrights, for on September 9, 1908, Orville made the first flight of over an hour's duration.

Henry Farman put up the first cross-country record with a flight of 17 miles from Bouy to Rheims, on October 30, 1908, and on the last day of that year Wilbur Wright regained the honours with a flight of 2 hours 20 minutes at Auvours, France. Although successful flying was born in America, the honour of its early development belongs principally to France, where the Wright brothers migrated owing to the greater general interest in aviation displayed in that country.

As the following list shows, from that date onward records began to grow.

In 1909 the great event was Blériot's Cross-Channel flight on Sunday, July 25. Starting immediately after sunrise, in fifty minutes he saw Deal through the haze. Then he flew toward Dover and landed there, observed only by a French journalist.

Ten years later, in 1919, came the first flights across the Atlantic both by aeroplane and airship, followed later in the year by the first flight from England to Australia, and early in 1920 by the nearly successful attempts to fly from Cairo to the Cape.

A few records remain to be established. By the time a man appears who will fly round the world without alighting, the aeroplane will be such a commercial and everyday thing that in all probability the record will scarcely be noticed. Duration of flight and distance covered are matters more of machine than of man, and in all likelihood the records of the future that will be most sought after will be those of altitude, since these call for the limit of human skill and endurance.

Our closing pages contain a list of the principal established flying records from the earliest times.

— -, Some Notable Records in Aviation, The Wonder Book of Aviation, fourth edition

Aviation timeline:

Before 1700

A.D. 1065.
Oliver of Malmesbury, attempting flight with artificial wings, injured himself in jumping from a tower.
Besnier, a French locksmith, made a series of gliding flights with a wing apparatus rather similar to that used later by Lilienthal.


The brothers Stephen and Joseph Montgolfier invented the hot air balloon.
November. The first balloon flight by man was made by Pilátre de Rozier and the Marquis d’Arlandes who made a balloon ascent and were carried over Paris, alighting safely at the end of their adventure.
The Brothers Robert (French) attempted to propel a balloon in the air by means of oars, the first attempt at navigating a balloon in the air.
A military balloon section was formed in the French Republican army, and balloons were employed in war for the first time at the Battle of Maubeuge.


John Stringfellow constructed the first power-driven model aeroplane that achieved flight.
Giffard's airship, the first successful dirigible balloon, constructed.
Fernand Forrest, a Frenchman, designed and made the first internal combustion motor-engine.
Otto Lilienthal (German) killed on August 10th, after nearly ten years of gliding experiments, which contributed materially to the development of flying machines and culminated in the construction of the first power-driven aeroplane.
Clément Ader claimed to have made the first power-driven aeroplane flight at Satory, France, a claim which has been so disputed that it is generally ignored in the history of flight.
September 30th. Percy Pilcher killed while making gliding experiments at Market Harborough.


Wilbur and Orville Wright took up gliding, making many experiments at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Voisin and Blériot experimented in attempts to produce a power-driven aeroplane.
December 17th Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first flights in a powerdriven aeroplane, the flights ranging from 12 seconds to 59 seconds in duration.
September 26th Wilbur Wright, on a Wright biplane, made a flight of 18 minutes. ;1906.
August 22nd. Santos-Dumont made a short aeroplane flight at Bagatelle, France.
Jan. 13th. Henry Farman won a prize for circular flight.
Sept. 9th. Orville Wright remained in the air on a Wright biplane, for over an hour.
Dec. 31st. Wilbur Wright, flying at Auvours, France, remained in the air for 2 hours 20 minutes.
June. First aviation meeting held at Rheims—over a hundred flights made by various aviators.
July 25th. Blériot flew across the Channel from Barraques, near Calais, landing at Dover.
Nov. 3rd. Henry Farman flew for 4 hours 6 minutes at Mourmelon, covering a distance of 144 miles.
April 28th. Louis Paulhan flew from London to Manchester, 183 miles, with one stop on the journey.
June 2nd. C. S. Rolls flew across the Channel from Dover to Calais, and back.
Sept. 23rd. Georges Chavez flew across the Alps, but sustained such injuries in landing that he died four days after.
Sept. 28th. Maurice Tabuteau flew across the Pyrenees.
Dec. 18th. Henry Farman made a flight of 282 miles in 8 hours 12 minutes.
Dec. 30th. Tabuteau flew 365 miles in 7 hours 48 minutes.
Jan. 17th. E. B. Ely, American, flew from the shore at San Francisco to the U.S. cruiser Pennsylvania, landing on the cruiser, and flew back to land.
May. J. Vedrines won the Paris-Madrid race, 732 miles, flying a Morane biplane.
May. Beaumont won the Paris-Rome race, 916 miles, flying a Blériot monoplane.
June 27th. Beachey (American) crossed Niagara falls on a Curtiss biplane, and flew under the arch of the steel bridge across the Falls.
July. Koenig (German) won the German national circuit race, of 1,168 miles, flying an Albatros biplane.
July. Beaumont won the Paris-Brussels-London-Paris circuit of 1,080 miles, on a Blériot monoplane.
July. Beaumont won the circuit of Britain race, 1,010 miles, on a Blériot monoplane.
Sept. 9th. Aerial post from Hendon to Windsor tried as an experiment in sending mails by aeroplane.
September. Trans-American competition, 2,600 miles, run off. One competitor, C. P. Rogers, completed the distance, but failed to comply with the time limit.
Nov. 28th. H. Salmet, at Hendon, reached a height of 8,070 feet. 1912.
Sept. 9th. A speed of 105 miles an hour, average speed of flight, accomplished at Chicago, by Vedrines, on a Deperdussin monoplane.
Aug. 12th. G. de Havilland, with passenger, reached a height of 10,560 feet on a B.E. biplane with 70 h.p. Renault engine, at Salisbury Plain.
May 31st. H. G. Hawker, at Brooklands, reached a height of 11,450 feet, flying a Sopwith biplane, with 80 h.p. Gnome engine.
June 16th. H. G. Hawker, with passenger, reached a height of 12,900 feet, flying a Sopwith biplane, with 80 h.p. Gnome engine.
Oct. 2nd. Louis Noel, flying a Grahame-White biplane with 120 h.p. Austro-Daimler engine, made a flight of 19 minutes 47 seconds, carrying 9 passengers.
Dec. 28th. G. Legagneaux, flying in France with a Nieuport monoplane, reached a height of 6,120 metres (over 20,070 feet).
June 6th. H. G. Hawker, flying a Sopwith biplane with 80 h.p. Gnome engine at Hendon, reached a height of 18,393 feet.
April 26th. H. G. Hawker, flying a Sopwith biplane, soared 23,904 feet.
July. A large Handley-Page bombing aeroplane flew from England to a Mediterranean base, subsequently bombing Constantinople. The distance flown was nearly 2,000 miles, the machine being in the air over 31 hours and carrying a load of six tons.
August. Captain Laureati, of the Italian Air Service, made a non-stop flight with a passenger from Turin to Naples and back (950 miles) in 10 hours 10 minutes.
September. Captain Laureati, with a passenger and two machine-guns, flew from Turin to London (656½ miles) in 7 hours 22 minutes.
Oct. 22nd. Lieut. Resnabi, flying a Caproni machine, covered a distance of 300 miles (from Newport News to Mineola Camp, U.S.A.) in 4 hours 15 minutes, carrying 8 passengers.
Sept. 18th. Capt. R. W. Schroeder, flying at Fairfield, Ohio, in a Bristol fighting biplane with a 300 h.p. engine, made a world's height record of 28,900 feet.
Nov. 15th. A Handley Page four-engined machine, piloted by the late Mr. Clifford B. Prodger, flew over London at a height of 6,500 feet, carrying 40 passengers.
Nov. 27th. A Curtiss N.C. 1 seaplane, fitted with three Liberty engines of 385 h.p. each, piloted by Lieut. E. H. McCollough, U.S. Naval Reserve Flying Corps, made a flight at Rockaway, N.Y., with 50 passengers on board. Speed of flight, 72 miles per hour.
Dec. 12th. Completion of the Cairo-Delhi flight by Major-General W. G. H. Salmond, D.S.O., accompanied by four other persons, in a Handley Page machine. The journey was accomplished in seven stages, with a little over 57 hours in the air.
Jan 2nd. Flying at Martlesham, near Ipswich, Captain Andrew Lang captured the world's altitude record by climbing to 30,500 feet in 66 minutes 15 seconds on a D.H.9 two-seater machine fitted with 450 h.p. Napier "Lion" engine.
May 17th–18th. The United States seaplane N.C.4, with Liberty engines, piloted by Lt.-Commander Read, flew from Trépassey, Newfoundland, to the Azores, 1,381 miles, in 15 hours 18 minutes. On the 27th, ten days later, the flight was resumed to Lisbon, another 900 miles, thus completing the first Transatlantic flight. On May 31st the trip was continued to Plymouth, 840 miles.
May 18th–19th. Mr. Harry G. Hawker, with Commander Mackenzie Grieve, R.N., as navigator, attempted the first non-stop flight of the Atlantic. Leaving St. John's, Newfoundland, on a Sopwith biplane with Rolls-Royce engine, at 6.48 p.m., they flew for 143 hours, being obliged by a mechanical trouble to descend when about 750 miles from the west coast of Ireland. The aviators were rescued by a Danish steamer.
June 14th–15th. First Direct Atlantic Flight. The late Captain J. Alcock, D.S.C., with Lieut. A. Whitten Brown as navigator (both afterwards knighted), made the first direct flight across the Atlantic, winning this greatly coveted record for Great Britain. The flight was made on a Vickers-Vimy machine with two Rolls-Royce engines of 375 h.p. each. The distance from St. John's, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Galway, 1,880 miles, was covered in 15 hours 57 minutes, an average speed of 118 miles per hour.
July 2nd—13th. First Return Atlantic Crossing. The British airship R34 left Temple Fortune, Scotland, on July 2nd, and reached Mineola Aerodrome, Long Island, New York, at 10 a.m. on July 6th. Returning, she left Long Island at 11.54 p.m. on the 9th, and reached Pulham, Norfolk, at 6.56 a.m. on July 13th, having accomplished the return journey in 75 hours 3 minutes.
Nov.12th–Dec.10th. First Flight from England to Australia. Captain Ross Smith and three companions, flying a Vickers-Vimy-Rolls-Royce aeroplane, won the prize of £10,000 offered by the Australian Government for the first flight from Great Britain to Australia to be completed in 720 consecutive hours (30 days). Actually, the 11,294 miles to Port Darwin were flown in 27 days, 21 hours. Afterwards the machine flew across the Continent to Melbourne.
May 4th. Flying a Handley Page, with two Napier "Lion" 450 h.p. engines, Capt. G.T.R. Hill flew for 1 hour 20 minutes with a load of 3,690 lbs., equivalent to a load of 26 passengers, reaching a height of 13,999 feet.
May 26th. Fronval, a French airman, flying at Villacoublay, looped the loop 962 times in 3 hours, 52 minutes, 10 seconds, on a Morane-Saulnier biplane with Le Rhone engine.
May 31st. Completion of the Rome-Tokio flight by Lieutenants Masiero and Ferrarin. The machines used on the flight, which was begun on February 14th, were S.V.A. biplanes, fitted with 220 h.p. S.P.A. motors. Seven other competitors started, two of whom were shot down by Arabs in Mesopotamia. The cost of the competition was £480,000.
June 4th. Boussotrot and Bernard, French pilots, made a continuous flight lasting 24 hours, 19 minutes, and 7 seconds, accomplishing a distance of slightly over 1,900 kilometres.
September 28th. M. Sadi Lecointe (France) won the Gordon Bennett Air Race with a Nieuport machine, at an average speed of 172 miles per hour.