Aerospace History Questions
Although the field of aerospace is relatively young, it is filled with a rich history of far-sighted innovators who
pioneered new ideas that have drastically changed our world. This section celebrates some of the most amazing
feats and heartbreaking tragedies that have marked the development of aviation.
I am doing a National History Day project on flight. In your opinion what
event is the most important in aviation history? In additon, if you have any other good information on
airplanes, may you please send them to me?
The Early Years:
What are the most significant events in the history of aviation and space
What are the most numerous/successful aircraft in the following categories
and how many of each were made? 1) outright, 2) piston fixed-wing, 3) turbine fixed-wing, 4) commercial
airliner, 5) turbine helicopter, 6) piston helicopter?
Why do we use knots? I know that was probably imported from the naval
arena, but why do they use it? How fast is a knot?
Do you know why the pilot's area in a plane is called the cockpit?
Where does the word "Mach" come from? Is it an abbreviation?
Joe's quote does not come from Newton. Rather it is much older. It comes
from an 11th century monk named John of Salisbury. There is some evidence that he may have gotten it from
something older that is now lost, while he was studying with Abelard in France.
What is the name of the place where retired commercial aircraft are stored
in the desert?
I heard the airplane pilots are the first born child 80 percent of the
time. And the baby of the family is most likely to be a comedian. Is there any data to back this up?
What goes on at RAF Machrihanish, Scotland?
Who picks the names for military aircraft? For example, how did the F-14
become the Tomcat or the F-22 become the Raptor?
What can you tell me about Gustave Whitehead, aka Gustav Weisskopf? Is it
true that he was the first man to fly in a controlled airplane? If so, then why isn't he accredited as
the first man to fly?
The Jet Age:
I read about a guy named Felix du Temple who was supposed to have flown
before the Wright Brothers. Why isn't he considered the first to fly? Can you tell me about Mozhaisky?
Some sources say that he actually made the first flight in his 'flying shell' back in 1860s. Is there any
evidence for this?
I have several early magazines with references to and photographs of A. M.
Herring... Around 1900, he was said to be the first to build a powered airplane. Could it be that the
Wright brothers ... somehow knew Herring?
Why is the Zeppelin overlooked when discussing the first powered flight?
Zeppelin successfully flew...in 1900, 3 years before the Wright Brothers' flight. What is the difference
between a blimp and a dirigible?
Why do Brazilians consider Alberto Santos-Dumont the first man to fly if
he didn't fly until 1906 and the Wright brothers did so in 1903?
I've heard the name Langley mentioned sometimes. Who was he and what did he
Someone sent me this picture of a plane that has tons of tiny wings. Is
it real? How did it work and did it actually fly? What can you tell me about it and who invented it?
What is the history of the aileron? Who invented the aileron?
Your history of the aileron omits Alberto Santos-Dumont who had ailerons
on his planes before Farman.
In your answer about ailerons, you mentioned that M. Boulton patented the
device in 1868. Can you tell me more about him? At least what is his first name and where did he do his
What can you tell me about Dr. William Whitney Christmas, inventor of the
I am doing a history research paper and I wanted to know what was the first
act of aggression performed by a military aircraft? Where and when did it occur?
When was the first aerial bomb dropped on the U.S. mainland? Where did this
I ran into the name Gallaudet in relation to 1920's aircraft such as
Gallaudet D-1 and D-4. I am interested in who he was, time frame, and photo's if available.
I'm looking for the identity of an airplane from the 1920s. It had 7
wings--looks like venetian blinds. A video exists showing the wings collapsing.
What is Charles Lindbergh famous for?
Where exactly did Charles Lindbergh depart from and land at on his historic
1927 transatlantic flight?
Can you tell me if there was ever an airplane engine called a Krider Ryka?
My spelling may be wrong.
Have you ever seen this plane before? I was given this old photo, and I'd
like to know what it is and find out more about it.
I heard a big plane hit the Empire State Building in World War II. Why
didn't the skyscraper collapse like the World Trade Center did?
I have a photo of a Pan American DC-6 or DC-7 taken in 1963 in Juneau,
Alaska. Is there an obvious detail I can use to tell which one it is?
Can you tell me who built and flew the first jet? I have some doubts about
the first jet aircraft to fly, I believe I have read that an Italian jet aircraft flew in 1938-39. Could
you find any information to confirm this?
Who was the first man to break the sound barrier in an aircraft?
What was the first manmade object to break the sound barrier?
Who was the first woman to break the sound barrier?
...Although the X-1 was the first aircraft to fly supersonically, it was
propelled by a rocket. What was the first jet-powered aircraft to break Mach 1, and when did it
I understand that recently released World War II documents state that the
Germans broke the sound barrier before George Welch and Chuck Yeager. Is this true?
Who was the first Brit to break the sound barrier, and when did it occur?
When did Russia first break the sound barrier? Who did it and in what plane?
My father always claimed to have been the second person (after Chuck Yeager)
to have broken the sound barrier. We never knew for sure if he really did or if he was pulling our leg.
Is there any way to find out?
Who was the first person to fly Mach 2?
I enjoyed your articles about who was first to travel Mach 1 and Mach 2. Who was
the first to go Mach 3, 4, 5, and so on?
I bought a framed photograph of a pilot stepping out of a jet. ...the
signature appears to be "J. H. Moore, Brig. General U.S.A.F." A notation reads, "Just before setting a
new world speed record of 1217 m.p.h. for the 100 kilometer course." ...My question is who is this guy and
what was he doing?
Why is it that most histories of the U-2 still claim Gary Powers' U-2 was
shot down by the Soviets when KGB records state that no Soviet fighter got closer than 20,000 feet (nearly
4 miles) and no Soviet missile got closer than 10,000 feet (nearly 2 miles)?
There are rumors that a C-130 landed on an aircraft carrier! ... I need
Some time ago, someone sent me a photo of a U-2 landing on a USN aircraft
carrier. Do you have any such pictures available on your site?
It really bothers me that a coward like George W. Bush spent the Vietnam
War training to fly old and useless planes in Texas while John Kerry was heroically risking his life in
combat and got three purple hearts!
Why was development of the original Rockwell B-1A bomber cancelled by
I understand that cruise missiles can attack different targets at various
stages of flight, ... I'm wondering how this is allowed since there is presently a ban on offensive weapons
carried aboard unmanned vehicles?
Exactly how many aircraft defected/fled to Iran from Iraq? Which ones were
they? Have they been adopted by the Islamic Republic of Iran Air Force? Would this raise IRIAF's
How many astronauts have died exploring space? Have any Russians ever been
killed in space?
What does the series of letters and numbers on the back of a plane stand
for? Why do the numbers on US aircraft always start with the letter N? Where can I find a country's
Memorials to Aerospace Pioneers:
In one of your pictures of the week, you said the aircraft in the photo
was in markings of the Portuguese Air Force. How can you tell? Is there any way of knowing what country a
military plane belongs to?
Can you please explain the naming systems used for German and Japanese combat
planes during World War II?
Can you explain the codename system used for Soviet planes during the Cold
Why did the US military restart the aircraft designation numbers in the
In regards to the Tri-Service System of 1962, why is there no F-19, and why
is the new JSF being dubbed the F-35?
I'm building models of every US jet aircraft, beginning with the XP-59. My
dilemma is what happened to the designations F-24 through F-34?
When was the Tri Service System first used by the Army, Navy, Air Force, and
I've noticed that Air Force planes have a two-letter code on their
vertical tails. What do these letters mean?
Your site talks about the tail codes used by the Air Force, but doesn't
the Navy have tail codes too? Can you explain them? What's the deal with the tail code letters on Navy
planes? They seem totally random.
I know that both the UK and Canada have aircraft designation schemes
similar to that of the US, but both have key differences. Can you please explain these methods?
I want to know what parameters indicate the generation of an aircraft, both
military and civilian. For example, the F-14 is considered a fourth generation fighter. Can you sort
aircraft by their generations?
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