Era Defining Moments In Aviation

The Beginning

When the Wright Brothers first flew the Wright Flier, little did they know what would happen within the next hundred years. The 12 second flight opened up the next frontier in human progress. Fast forward to 2019 and air travel has made leaps. Leaps that were thought impossible when the first ever 23 minute commercial flight took place in 1914. In this Aviation Geeks Lists, we will discuss moments that changed the aviation industry forever.

While the moments will be numbered, they aren’t ranked in any particular order. What’s more historic is subjective to different perspectives. But this list compiles some moments that we think just shaped the air industry as it is today. Let’s get into it!

Note: This list talks in context of commercial aviation. Military aviation is not given any regard in this post.

On January 1st, 1914, what we know today as commercial air travel took birth. The first scheduled commercial air service was called the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line. It operated between St Petersburg, Florida to Tampa, Florida in the USA. The first ever commercial pilot was Tony Jannus and the passenger was Abraham C. Pheil, a former Mayor. The flight was completed in a flying boat, called the Benoest Model 14. It had space for one pilot and one passenger side by side. The first flight was 23 minutes long and flew 50 feet over the Tampa Bay. This service could only last for four months. But it paved the way for all that we see today. Intercontinental flights covering thousands of kilometers in a matter of few hours, that too at an affordable price. The first commercial passenger reportedly payed $400 for the privilege.

The flight of the Douglas DC-3

You would expect everything in this list to be “first ever”. But no, to reiterate, we are talking moments that changed aviation forever. Now the DC-3 wasn’t a first of anything, but it is regarded as the most important airplane in commercial aviation history. It truly deserves a separate article and there will be. For now, what you need to know is that the DC-3 revolutionized commercial air travel. It made longer range flights in greater comfort possible. It was easy to operate and easy to maintain. Many say it was the first passenger airplane to actually be profitable to the companies operating them. It first flew in 1935 and throughout the pre-World War 2 era, pioneered several routes that were not thought possible. The DC-3 proved to be so popular that no one has an actual number of how many were produced. After WW2, the DC-3 was replaced by more advanced propeller airliners. But only because the DC-3 promoted air travel for the public as simply, doable.

The Flight of The Boeing 707

Again. some of you might scratch your heads as to why not the first ever jetliner, but there is a strong case in favor of the Boeing 707. It was the first commercially successful jetliner. The first actual jetliner, the de Havilland Comet, although a real first and indeed a historic moment, still did not make a real impact on the industry. It was riddled with problems and if only, pushed away people from commercial jets. It was the Boeing 707 that made people believe in fast, comfortable and safe commercial jets. The Boeing 707 thus, pioneered the jet age. It first flew in 1957 and remained dominant all through the 1970’s. The 707 crossed oceans in times that were thought unimaginable. With the 707 starting the jet age, it also pushed Boeing into becoming a huge aerospace company. What Boeing did later, is all known. Icons like the 747 and most sold jet 737 are products of Boeing. All of this, made possible by the success of the 707.

The flight of the Airbus A320

When the Airbus A320 flew, it started a whole new age of modern commercial airliners. The A320 holds the distinction to be the first ever commercial airplane to incorporate a full digital ‘fly-by-wire’ system. In short, it replaced conventional flight controls with digital flight controls. Meaning, the pilots’ inputs to the aircraft were converted to digital signals and then carried out by separate computers for each control surface. This not only reduced weight, it made flight control much easier and took safety and reliability to a whole new level. Airbus continued this onto all it’s other airplanes and Boeing followed suit. Today, all airplanes use fly-by-wire technology as a standard. The economic benefits and safety reputation of this system made the A320 an era defining airplane. It first flew in the 1987 and today it is the fastest selling commercial jet, with several improvements of course.

Singapore Airlines’ Longest Non-Stop Flight

You probably did not expect this but this moment isn’t from the 40’s or the 80’s. Ultra long haul flying is the new frontier in commercial aviation and Singapore Airlines took the first step in 2018. Using a modified Airbus A350, called the A350-900ULR, it started a flight from Singapore to New York, almost 16,000 kilometers in about 19 hours. Qantas’ Project Sunrise looks to stretch that even further with 20 hour flights. The first research flight just concluded a week ago. This means that an era of ultra long haul flying has begun. Read about Qantas’ Project Sunrise here. 

Do you agree that these moments shaped the commercial aviation domain as we see it today? Would you like to do mention other moments? Please chime in the comments section!

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