I'm doing a project on the Enola Gay and I wondered which country started the tradition of naming aircraft?

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    $\begingroup$ Probably the same country that started building aircraft. Watercraft have been named for hundreds of years and aircraft surely just carried on that tradition. Perhaps the more interesting question is why, these days, most large commercial and military aircraft aren't named, whereas all ships and large boats are. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Aug 3 '17 at 8:34
  • $\begingroup$ @DavidRicherby because there are millions of airplanes and it's easier to just number them. $\endgroup$ – ratchet freak Aug 3 '17 at 9:54
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    $\begingroup$ @ratchetfreak There are millions of boats and ships. Seriously, every cargo ship on the planet is named and there are hundreds of thousands of them. All naval ships are named. Wander through a marina and half the pleasure boats are named, and certainly all the larger ones. $\endgroup$ – David Richerby Aug 3 '17 at 10:18
  • $\begingroup$ Lufthansa still names it aircrafts! Just the names are boring as usual in germany, mostly countries and cities not persons like Einstein, Roentgen or Raeuber Hotzenplotz. At least the last one would be a perfect match for the A350, the dark area around the cockpit windows make it looks like a mask. $\endgroup$ – Peter Aug 3 '17 at 11:15

I think the answer has to be that it has always been a tradition.

Since time immemorial - in the most ancient of mythologies and legends, across a very wide range of cultures (in fact I'm not aware of a culture that didn't name water-going vessels - boats of all sizes have been given names.

I don't think it's possible to say which country, or even which culture, started the practice of naming boats.

Many if not most of the traditions, names, roles and structures in aviation were inherited from navigation (including the term navigation of course).

Aviation, in many senses, is simply navigation translated to the sky. Given this, it would be pretty remarkable if it hadn't always been a tradition to bestow names upon vessels in aviation too.

The Wright brothers' first powered aircraft was named (Flyer, I guess they were too busy pioneering to expend much energy on naming), but really, it goes back longer than that, to navigation.

What I think is interesting is that now not all aircraft are named, whereas just about every boat that can be painted on still has a name painted on it.

  • $\begingroup$ and don't forget trucks, trains, cars. Many have been given names by their owners. $\endgroup$ – jwenting Aug 3 '17 at 12:38

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