Lesson 3 on Aeronautical Engineering: HISTORY, continued (November 7 and 8)

Please read the ALL of the background information below, before beginning this Assignment. Then begin the Assignment contained in the Blue box. Read all of the instructions first, before proceeding.

Work on the assignment INDIVIDUALLY (do not collaborate with other students). There is a collaborative element in our study of Aeronautical Engineering, but NOT this assignment.

Objectives: (1) To introduce students to the history of aviation and aeronautical/aerospace engineering from the first airplane to the present day; (2) To practice note taking (3) To improve research skills–seeking appropriate sources for citation; (4) To improve verbal presentation skills, in order to clearly express ideas.


The events in today’s study continue AFTER the flight of the Wright Brothers on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  Some of the key events in the field of aviation and aeronautical/aerospace engineering after this time are set out below:1

  • 1906: Alberto Santos-Dumont makes first successful powered flight in Europe.
  • 1910’s:  Glenn Hammond Curtiss (1878-1930) built and flew aircraft that were the first to make a takeoff (Nov. 14, 1910) and a landing (Jan. 18, 1911) from the deck of a warship. With the approach of World War I, Curtiss emerged as a major supplier of seaplanes and “flying boats” to the United States and allied European governments.
  • World’s first scheduled airline

    January 1, 1914: St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line.  The St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line became the world’s first scheduled airline. A one way fare cost $5.00. The airline closed shortly thereafter, on March 30. 1914.

WW I innovations2

  • In the early days of World War I, the aircraft of  Britain’s Royal Flying Corps (RFC) were used daily to monitor the movements of the German Army in France and Belgium. The benefits of “eyes in the sky” soon  became obvious to both sides.  Steps would need to be taken to prevent the opposition from gaining significant advantage. The enemy would need to be shot down.  At first this consisted of little more than pilots taking shots at each other with their service revolvers. But as technology improved, airplanes became more maneuverable and engines more powerful.  It was soon possible to mount machine guns. The age of air-to-air combat had begun.
  • WW I dog fight
    WW I dog fight

    April 1915:  Engineer, Anthony Fokker, invents an advanced system for German planes that permits a machine gun to fire through the plane’s propeller.  Air to air combat became extremely lethal with the average life expectancy of fighter pilots being about three weeks.

  • On May 2-3, 1923 U.S. Army Air Service Lieutenant Oakley Kelly and John Macready made the first transcontinental non-stop flight. They flew a Fokker T-2 from Roosevelt, NY, to San Diego, CA – 2,520 miles in 26 hours and 50 minutes.
  • 1926 Ford Trimotor
    1926 Ford Trimotor

    June 11, 1926:  On June 11, the Ford Trimotor made its first flight. Known as the “Tin Goose,” the plane was a high-wing monoplane with all-metal construction and a corrugated skin. The Trimotor became a workhorse for U.S. airlines and remained in production until 1933.

  • On February 8, 1933 the Boeing 247 first flew. Often considered the first modern airliner, this single-wing airplane of all-metal construction was powered by two Pratt & Whitney Wasp air-cooled radial engines. It carried 10 passengers.
  • Douglas DC-3

    On December 17, 1933 the Douglas DC-3 first flew. One of the most successful aircraft in history, the DC-3 was the first plane that allowed airlines to begin basing their profits squarely on passenger service rather than on carrying mail. The Bureau of Air Commerce certificated the aircraft on May 21, 1936, and American Airlines became the first to place it in service on June 25, 1936. By 1942, the DC-3 represented 80 percent of the U.S. airline fleet. When production of the DC-3 and its modifications ended in 1945, 10,926 aircraft had been built, 803 as commercial airliners, and the rest as military versions (called C-47 in the U.S. Army, R4D in the U.S. Navy, Dakota or Dakota I by the British).

  • Charles Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. Louis
    Charles Lindbergh with the Spirit of St. Louis

    1927:  Charles A. Lindbergh completes first solo, nonstop trans-Atlantic flight.

  • September 24, 1929:  On September 24, at Mitchel Field, NY, Army Lt. James H. Doolittle became the first pilot to use only instrument guidance to take off, fly a set course, and land.
  • June 30, 1931 — July 1, 1931: Wiley Post, with Harold Gatty as navigator, piloted a Lockheed Vega, called the Winnie Mae, around the world. They flew from Roosevelt Field, NY, and back with eight stopovers in 8 days, 15 hours, and 51 minutes. Post’s course took him near the Arctic Circle, but his distance of 15,447 miles was too short to qualify as a round-the-world flight as defined by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale.
  • 1930: Frank Whittle, British inventor, invents the jet engine.
  • On December 3, 1938 the Boeing 307 Stratoliner, the first airliner with a pressurized cabin, made its initial flight.
  • 1939: Germany’s Heinkel 178 is the first fully jet-propelled aircraft to fly.

WW II innovations:  The airplane underwent considerable improvement in the
two decades after the First World War, and during WW II.

  • Germany’s air arm, the Luftwaffe, was designed primarily as a ground support air force. The dive bomber was its primary close support weapon, and Germany’s principal dive bomber was the Junkers Ju-87 Stuka. The Stuka was a fearsome weapon when the air around it was free of hostile fighter planes. The fighter arm of the Luftwaffe provided this environment during Hitler’s early campaigns.  Eventually the allied forces gained air superiority, which enabled  them to bomb enemy positions at will.
  • Messerschmitt Me 262
    Messerschmitt Me 262 Schwable, the world’s first jet fighter. (U.S. Air Force photo)

    The German Messerschmitt Me 262, was the world’s first operational jet powered fighter aircraft.  It was technologically superior to allied planes of the time.  However, the Me 262 became operational late in the war and in insufficient numbers to make a significant impact.

  • On 6 August 1945, the world entered the age of atomic war when a B-29 named “Enola Gay” dropped the uranium-core “Little Boy” on the city of Hiroshima. Three days later, “Bock’s Car” dropped a second atomic bomb, the plutonium-core “Fat Man,” on Nagasaki. On 14 August 1945 Japan surrendered to end World War II.
  • Bell X-1
    Bell X-1

    1947: Charles E. Yeager pilots Bell X-1—the first aircraft to exceed the speed of sound in level flight.

  • 1954:  First C-130 airplane delivered to the US Air Force.  From the Manufacturer’s website:3  “It can be said without fear of contradiction that the C-130 Hercules is one of the most important aircraft in aviation history.

Since its first flight in 1954, the Hercules has been everywhere and done just about anything. Aircrews have flown it to both poles, landed or airdropped military supplies to hot spots from Vietnam to Afghanistan and performed countless relief operations around the globe. The Hercules has been used to drop bombs, retrieve satellites in midair, conduct reconnaissance and attack ground targets with cannons. Some models are flown as commercial transports. The C-130 has the longest, continuous military aircraft production run in history and one of the top three longest, continuous aircraft production lines of any type.”

One of many C-130 missions has been deploying paratroopers
  • On January 31, 1958 the United States successfully launched Explorer I, the first U.S. earth satellite.
  • On January 25, 1959 transcontinental jet airliner service began as American Airlines inaugurated Boeing 707 flights between New York and Los Angeles. The new service also made American the first U.S. airline to begin domestic scheduled jet flights using its own aircraft
  • On April 1, 1960 the United States launched Tiros I, the first of a successful series of weather satellites.
Major Yuri A. Gagarin
Major Yuri A. Gagarin was the first human to orbit Earth
  • On April 12, 1961, aboard the spacecraft Vostok 1, Soviet cosmonaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin becomes the first human being to travel into space.4 During the flight, the 27-year-old test pilot and industrial technician also became the first man to orbit the planet, a feat accomplished by his space capsule in 89 minutes.
  • After the Russians placed a man into earth orbit, US President John F. Kennedy spent several weeks assessing America’s options for competing with the Soviets in space. On May 25, 1961, he announced the goal of landing a man on the Moon before a joint session of Congress.
  • On May 5, 1961 Astronaut Alan B. Shepard became the first American in space with a suborbital flight.
  • On February 20, 1962 John H. Glenn, Jr., piloted the first U.S. manned orbital flight.
  • On February 9, 1963 the Boeing 727 first flew
  • On April 9, 1967 the Boeing 737 made its first flight.
  • Concorde Supersonic
    Concorde Supersonic

    On December 11, 1967 Sud Aviation and the British Aircraft Corporation unveiled a prototype of the British-French Concorde, the West’s first supersonic transport, in Toulouse, France.

  • On July 20, 1969 Astronauts Neil A. Armstrong and Edwin E. Aldrin, Jr., became the first people to land on the Moon, while Michael Collins remained in lunar orbit. Later in the day, Armstrong and then Aldrin became the first to walk on the lunar surface.
  • Space Shuttle Columbia
    Space Shuttle Columbia

    On April 12, 1981 the United States launched space shuttle Columbia on the first shuttle orbital flight.

  • On October 14, 1992 a FAA-chartered task force released its report on a Global Navigation Satellite System using the Global Positioning System (GPS). The report concluded that the system offered the greatest opportunity to enhance aviation efficiency and safety since the introduction of radio communications and navigation.


You are assigned one of the following topics, based on the FIRST LETTER of your LAST name. See the assignments below. It is important you do the topic to which you are assigned, since the next lesson depends on you doing the correct research. No credit will be given if you do the wrong assignment, so please see the teacher if you have any question about your assignment.

If the FIRST LETTER of your LAST name is A through E, then your sub-topic is advancements in Civil/Commercial (non-military) Aviation from the first airplane flight until today.  Also include a definition of “Civil Aviation” (see General Instructions below).

If the FIRST LETTER of your LAST name is F through M, then your sub-topic is advancements in Military Aviation from the first airplane flight until today. Also include a definition of “Military Aviation” (see General Instructions below).

If the FIRST LETTER of your LAST name is N through Z, then your sub-topic is advancements the Aerospace Industry from the first airplane flight until today. Also include a definition of “Aerospace Industry” (see General Instructions below).

General Instructions:

  1. This section of the assignment is to be performed individually, NOT in collaboration with others. Giving or receiving help to/from others in this section of the assignment is considered cheating and may result in a “zero” score.
  2. Research the subject of your research, as listed above. Take notes. You do not have to write a paper or essay. Just take complete notes on your research.
  3. Please show your work to the teacher at least 15 minutes before the end of class to receive full credit. If the teacher does not check off your research today, you can’t get credit for your work today.
    • Your research notes should be a minimum of one page, normal sized hand printing, with each line of the page used.
    • List all of your research sources on another page (or back of the note page). These sources aren’t included in your one page minimum for your notes. You must have a minimum of three acceptable sources–academic, museum, etc. Wikipedia, and social media are not acceptable sources.
  4. You will keep your notes from today. You will need them for next class.
  5. IMPORTANT: Bring your notes with you to this class, next time. You will need them to make a short (5 minute) verbal presentation on your research to the teacher and a small group of students (not the whole class). If you don’t have your notes next class, you can’t give your presentation, and you can’t receive a passing score.



  1. SOURCES:  Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) website, Timeline of FAA and Aerospace History (https://www.faa.gov/about/history/timeline/); United States Air Force, Cadet Handbook, “CADET HANDBOOK”, (1994); BBC website, Viewpoint: How WW1 changed aviation forever (https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29612707)
  2.   SOURCE:  BBC website, Viewpoint: How WW1 changed aviation forever (https://www.bbc.com/news/magazine-29612707)
  3.   Lockheed Martin website — https://www.lockheedmartin.com/en-us/products/c130/history.html
  4.   See the Smithsonian, National Air and Space Museum website, regarding disputes to this claim:  “Why Yuri Gagarin Remains the First Man in Space, Even Though He Did Not Land Inside His Spacecraft”  (https://airandspace.si.edu/stories/editorial/why-yuri-gagarin-remains-first-man-space-even-though-he-did-not-land-inside-his)