8 Amazing Firsts in Flight
(Last Updated On: July 22, 2020)


8 Amazing Firsts in Flight – Humans have been fascinated with flight for thousands of years. And ever since we’ve earned our wings, we’ve been just as captivated by the history of it. It’s no surprise that we dedicate entire museums to flight. That’s why we explore these 8 Amazing Firsts in Flight – many you may have never even known occurred. But now you will.

1. Maxie Anderson, Ben Abruzzo, and Larry Newman

These three inspiring aeronauts attempted to make history by completing the first transatlantic flight – by balloon. That’s right. Maxie Anderson earned his pilot’s license at the age of 15 and began flying hot-air balloons with Ben Abruzzo. Larry Newman joined the crew, too, bringing with him balloon building skills. Each of the men brought their own experience and expertise to the expedition. Together they built their balloon, the Double Eagle II, in honor of Ed Yost’s balloon and failed 1958 transatlantic attempt. They launched from Presque Isle, Maine, on August 11, 1978, in honor of the anniversary of Charle Lindburgh’s first solo transatlantic flight. They completed the successful navigation of the Atlantic Ocean when they landed near Miserey, France, on August 17th.

2. Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon

In 1931, Pangborn and Herndon accepted the challenge put down by the Asshi Shibun newspaper in Japan – be the first to complete a non-stop transpacific flight. After modifying his Bellanca, Pangborn and Herndon took off with 915 gallons worth of fuel and just enough supplies to keep the plane in the air and food in their bellies. They landed 41 hours and 13 minutes later in Wenatchee, Washington, completing the challenge and making history.

3. Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown

The first non-stop transatlantic flight started on June 14, 1919, from St. Johns, Newfoundland. Captain John Alcock piloted a modified Vimy IV. Lieutenant Arthur Whitten Brown served as his navigator. The crossing of 1,890 miles took the men 16 hours and 27 minutes. Despite numerous technical difficulties, they landed on June 15th at Clifden, Ireland.

4. Geraldine “Jerrie” Mock 

While lots of men completed aviation firsts, how many can say they did it in heels? In 1953, Geraldine Mock did just that when she flew solo around the world in her Cessna 180 named the Spirit of Columbus. While Mock filed one flight plan, Joan Smith also intended to be the first woman to fly around the world. Smith took off following Amelia Earhart’s original route. On March 19, 1964, Mock started off from Columbus, Ohio. Her trip took 29 days and 22,860 miles. The Flying Housewife, as she became known, completed the journey on April 17, 1964, in Columbus, Ohio, ahead of Joan Smith.

5. Ahmet Ali Çelikten 

During World War I, Çelikten became the first black fighter pilot while serving in the Ottoman Army. There isn’t much information on Çelikten’s life, but he earned his wings during the years 1914 and 1915 at the Yeilköy flying school. The pilot continued to serve in the air force after the world war and earned the Bahri Aircraft Medal.

6. Bessie Coleman

Coleman became the first woman pilot of African-American and first pilot of Native-American descent. Since no flight schools in the United States would admit her, she traveled to France in 1920. There Coleman earned her pilot’s license on June 15, 1921. Once she obtained her license, Coleman turned to barnstorming to make a living. Once again, she turned to Europe to learn the skills for exhibition flying. Through the years, she earned the nickname “Queen Bess” at events for her flamboyant style. Coleman died tragically as a passenger at the age of 34 when she was thrown from a plane after the pilot lost control.

7. Hugo Eckener

In 1929, Eckener flew the Graf Zeppelin airship around the world. It was the first and only time this feat has ever been accomplished. Sponsored in part by William Randolph Hearst, two versions of the flight were reported; One for the German public and one for the American public. In the end, the airship overlapped it’s flight path, crossing the Atlantic twice so each country could claim the flight began and ended there. See airships.net for a view of the flight path.

However, before Eckener ever succeeded at flying the Graf Zeppelin around the world, he flew the first commercial passenger airship flight across the Atlantic. On October 11, 1928, the Graf Zeppelin departed from Friedrichshafen and landed 111 hours and 44 minutes later in Lakehurst, New Jersey, on October 15, 1928. The ship carried 40 crew members and 20 passengers. The voyage was not without mishap, however. Mid-journey, the Graf Zeppelin met with a storm and suffered damage requiring a mayday call for repairs.

8. Evgeniya Shakhovskaya

Hailed as the first female military pilot, Evgeniya Shakhovskaya flew reconnaissance missions during World War I. She got her start flying in 1911 when she began flying lessons at the age of 22. In 1913, her flying instructor died mid-flight. His death caused Evgeniya to give up flying. However, in 1914, the Imperial Russian Air Force called on her to begin flying again during World War I. Her missions included reconnaissance, and the Junior Officer was later accused of spying. The penalty was death, but her cousin, Tsar Nikolai II, sentenced her to life in prison. When the Russian Revolution erupted, Russia released Evgeniya from prison. She died at the age of 31.

These 8 Amazing Firsts in Flight only begin to describe the intrepid pilots called to the sky. Many more achieved greatness, and others quietly faded away. Explore those who dreamed they could and did!

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