Around the world solo in a Bluebird


Born Mildred Mary Petre in November 1895, the Hon. Mrs Victor Bruce made her name during the 1920s and ’30s as a record breaker on land, sea and in the air.

She first came to notice by way of several motoring records. In 1929 she turned her attention to the water and gained records for crossings of the English Channel. In 1930 her fame soared when she undertook the first solo lightplane flight around the world.

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Mountain high

All the companies that had a part in the 1933 British aerial expedition to Everest used the success of the mission for advertising. This advertisement lauds the achievement of the Bristol Pegagus engine used on the Westland biplanes.

April 4, 2013, marked the 80th anniversary of the successful aerial assault on Mt. Everest undertaken by two Royal Air Force pilots, David Fowler McIntyre and Douglas Douglas-Hamilton, flying modified, open-cockpit, Westland biplanes to an altitude of 30,000 feet.

It was a triumph for aviation, [Read more…]

Getting airborne: Early flight training


Flight training in the United States before 1914 went from a do-it-yourself — build a machine and try to learn to fly it — endeavor to a growing system of flight schools across the country.

The first organized flight instruction was by the early manufacturers of aircraft, such as the Wright brothers and Glenn Curtiss.

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The post-war bubble

Cessna 120Civil Commercial aircraftAircraft Files

On May 17, 1945, with the war in Europe ending and military production being cut back, the War Production Board announced the end of the prohibition on the production of civilian aircraft, providing such manufacturing didn’t interfere with war output.

Aviation magazines and the mainstream press jumped on the news of the post-war aviation potential. Articles such as “Lightplane Production Go-Ahead” in the May 21, 1945, issue of Aviation News, “Low-Price Plane Potentials,” in the July 1945 issue of Aero Digest, along with a survey by Esquire on the lightplane market, were some of the harbingers of the post-war boom expected for the lightplane industry.

Indeed, there was a huge boom in lightplane production, but it would be short-lived. [Read more…]

Aviation spreads its wings

On June 14, 1919, Alcock and Brown set out in their converted Vickers Vimy bomber from Lester's Field in St. John's Newfoundland. Photo courtesy The Museum of Flight

Among the many things taken for granted today is long-distance travel by jet airliners. So common is long-distance air travel that there have even been around-the-world races for general aviation aircraft. One forgets that regularly scheduled intercontinental commercial air travel only came into being after World War II.

The roots of long-distance flight lie in the five years after the First World War. In the early post-war period, aviation spread its wings in ever greater long-distance flights, culminating in the first round-the-world flight in 1924.

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The streamlined decade

The DC-2 bore all the hallmarks of streamlining developments of the time: All-metal, stressed-skin construction, cantilever wings, retractable landing gear and cowled radial engines.

During the decade of the Great Depression, the streamlined form stood as an optimistic symbol of progress and efficiency. Streamlining was applied to cars, trains, ships, buildings, and even household appliances. This new idiom replaced the angular, art deco forms of the 1920s.

By the mid-1920s aircraft construction was in need of a new design approach. With the availability of engines with 200 to 350 horsepower, aircraft were flying faster, but not in proportion to the increase in power. With all the higher turbulent flow being experienced at higher speeds due to common design practices of the time, a reduction in drag became important to improved performance.

So in the era between the middle 1920s and middle 1930s, streamlining came into its own in aircraft design.

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Taking to the air

The myth of Daedalus and Icarus depicted on an Italian woocut of 1493 (above). This woodcut of a kite in Europe appeared in a book published in 1635 (right).

The history of aviation is a long record of man’s restless urge to emulate soaring eagles and swooping hawks, to escape the earth and reach the freedom of the skies.

Even though the air had been harnessed for centuries with aerodynamic devices such as the feathers on an arrow or the shape of a boomerang or used to power sailing ships and windmills, it took eons for the principles to be applied to human flight. In attempts to achieve human flight, mankind failed for millennium to put principles witnessed in bird flight and sail power into practical application. Let’s examine some of the steps taken to progress from myth to tower jumpers, from kites to gliders to arrive at the airplane in a short pre-history of flight.

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Flying on wings of Mercury


Though Hammondsport, N.Y., is synonymous with the name Glenn Curtiss and well known as the home of the Curtiss Aeroplane Co., after World War I Hammondsport also became the home of another aircraft manufacturer — Aerial Service Corp.

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Front page news

Wiley Post’s Lockheed Orion after being mounted on floats at Bryn Mawr Air Field, which is now the north end of the Renton, Washington, airport.

LINDBERGH DOES IT! TO PARIS IN 33-1/3 HOURS cried out the newspaper headlines on May 22, 1927. Lindbergh’s epic flight made front page headlines in papers all around the world.

We are all aware of the impact Lindbergh’s New York-to-Paris ?ight had on the public, but what other aviation events of the 1920s and 1930s were deemed of enough importance to garner headlines in the newspapers?

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