Questions tagged [aviation-history]

Questions about aviation history, starting from kites, balloons, airplanes, helicopters and rockets.

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What is the meaning of the letters on the side(s) of WWII British aircraft?

WWII British Spitfire and Hurricane had identification letters on the side of fuselage. Do they have a specific meaning? How are the letters chosen?
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What was the first commercial aircraft to have a 'built-in' oxygen system?

(Source) Boeing 307 of TWA, the 307 was the first pressurized passenger aircraft. The 307 (c. 1938) flew as high as 23,300 ft, lower than the jets of nowadays, and did not have a built-in oxygen ...
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Why were turbojets the first kind of turbo-engines, instead of turboprops?

During WW2, the first jet engines appeared en mass in combat aircraft. Britain and Germany made the first ones. But why were turbojets first? Why not turboprops, which are easier since the turbo-...
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5answers
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When was the first rudder on an aircraft used?

I have seen pictures of World War I-era airplanes that have rudders much smaller than today. When did the first rudder come out?
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What data did the earliest HUDs display (for fighter jets)?

Ideally I'm looking for a screenshot with a bullet list of data. I started my search at the obvious encyclopedic site and was surprised to learn that the earliest HUDs (on fighter jets) go all the way ...
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Are there known cases of an airline pilot's becoming incapacitated, while in command of the aircraft, during a critical flight phase?

Are there any reported cases in which the Pilot Flying of an airliner has become incapacitated during a critical phase of flight, so that the Pilot Monitoring has had to intervene to prevent a ...
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How far could the Wright brother's catapult have thrown their unpowered plane?

I know that the Wright brothers started to use a catapult in September 1904 to help their Flyer II take off easily even when no headwind was available. Assuming the propellers did not turn, or they ...
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1answer
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How was the high-bypass concept invented?

(Source) Wikipedia says: After [the Ryan XV-5 Vertifan demonstrated] that large amounts of air could be moved through a lift fan, an 80 in (2.0 m) tip drive fan turned through 90 degrees, driven ...
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When were flares first used as IR countermeasures, and by whom?

I've been trying to find the history of flares (as countermeasures to heat-seeking missiles), but have not had much luck. Closest thing has been this wiki article which has but a single sentence in ...
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1answer
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What is the largest aircraft that has been flown inverted successfully?

What is the largest aircraft that has been flown inverted? For the purpose of the question: Sustained inverted flight is not necessary, therefore barrel rolls and loops count The aircraft must be ...
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How did Charles Lindbergh use dead reckoning over the Atlantic ocean?

Wikipedia and other sources assert that Charles Lindbergh used dead reckoning on his historic flight from Long Island to Paris but—likely being aimed at a broader audience—are short on specific ...
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948 views

When was the pitot-based ASI first used on aircraft?

The pitot was first invented well before aircraft, yet early aircraft lacked an airspeed indicator (ASI). What aircraft first had a pitot-based ASI, and when?
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Are there any documented example usages of film (ie, film film, not video or digital) for in-flight entertainment?

Regarding this excellent question: What was the inflight entertainment in the early seventies? There's a mention that the "TRANSCOM 8mm film cassette" (that was film-film, ie the plastic stuff you ...
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Who invented the cabin chime? What aircraft was the first to use it?

While looking for one to set as my ringtone, I became interested in the history of the cabin chime - the "bing-bong" noise heard on practically every commercial airliner today. I've found tons of ...
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1answer
674 views

What is the history of Concorde motto “May Concorde bring people closer” and medal?

I found this image of a medal figuring Concorde and a globe with two contours of continents, before and after Concorde, expressing the new speed of air transport with a motto "May Concorde bring ...
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504 views

How long has the term “situational awareness” been used in aviation?

I was puzzled to read (Wikipedia article on situational awareness) that: The term can be traced to World War I, where it was recognized as a crucial skill for crews in military aircraft. but in ...
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504 views

What was the Trim Problem on the Brabazon's First Flight?

In this video, starting at 18:15, the copilot on the Bristol Brabazon's first flight recounts that the aircraft became airborne a little sooner than its pilots expected, and that despite the captain ...
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Why are there so few Lancasters still flying?

According to Wikipedia there are 54 airworthy spitfires in the world (30 in the UK alone), yet there are only 2 airworthy Lancasters (Lancaster B X in Canada & Lancaster B I in the RAF's Battle of ...
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What is this WWII four-engine plane on skis?

I've seen this plane but I don't know its name:
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Was any Russian design feature incorporated in modern US fighters jets or vice-versa?

US has bought or sourced many Russian fighter jets. Was any Russian design feature incorporated in modern US fighters jets or vice-versa?
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Why are airplanes called ‘she’?

What is the reason that airplanes in English have a female gender? Please illuminate the historical or scientific reason.
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What did the “gear warning horn” on the North American P-51 sound like?

I'm working on a sound project for a P51 simulation and I'm having real trouble trying to find a reference on how the P51 gear warning horn sounded like. What mechanisms were used in the '40s to make ...
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833 views

Did the Douglas SBD Dauntless have a second set of controls?

In the book Never Call me a Hero, the author mentions that there were controls in the rear seat of the Douglas SBD Dauntless. However, I don't recall ever hearing this before, though I know the TBD ...
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Why was the An-225 built when the VM-T Atlant already did the job?

The Soviet Buran program decided to use a carrier aircraft to move their orbiter and Energia tanks similarly to the American Shuttle Carrier Aircraft. However, the Soviet Union built two types to do ...
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Why did the early versions of the Me-109 use a braced stabilizer?

The Messerschmitt Bf-109 had struts holding the stabilizer in place up and including the E version. I marked it with a red circle in the picture below of the 109 E-3 of the Flying Heritage Collection. ...
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Was differential thrust used in the P-38 to improve turn performance?

In the P-38 Lightning could differential thrust be used to improve turn performance ? If so what was the procedure ?
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How did ICAO SARPS come to include the 250 knots speed limit for aircraft below 10,000 feet?

In certain airspace classes, a speed limit of 250 knots IAS is imposed for aircraft flying below FL100/10.000FT, according to the airspace classes defined by ICAO. How did this limit find its way into ...
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Is there a time limit for a line-up and wait?

So this was from a barrage of History Channel documentaries celebrating the century of flight, some 13 years ago. In one of the shows, I recall it being said that an airliner has a time limit for a ...
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683 views

Comparing the Lilienthal and Wright gliders, which one had a better glide ratio?

Where can I find reliable figures about the best glides of Lilienthal and the Wright Brothers (1902 - 1903)? From the sources below it would appear that Lilienthal's most advanced glider was far ...
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What is Mode B on the transponder?

Mode A selected on the transponder provides identification of the aircraft to the secondary radar; Mode C will add an automatic height read-out of an aircraft. Mode S is a selective addressing. But ...
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1answer
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What's the story behind U-2 flying from aircraft carriers?

This video from the CIA YouTube channel shows U-2 aircraft launching via catapult and trapping with a tailhook: The description only offers this: After stopping U-...
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1answer
833 views

Why do Czech Airlines have the airline code (IATA airline designator) “OK”?

Is there any specific reason why Czech Airlines have OK as the IATA airline designator? According to an urban legend: Urban legend says that when airline names ...
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How did the term PAN PAN originate?

Where did the phrase " pan pan" when declaring an emergency originate?
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Where can I find more information about my grandfather's crashed B-18a bomber on Mt. Redoubt Alaska?

My father and I have chartered a plane for late August to search for the remains of my grandfather's B-18a bomber, which crashed in the summer of 1942 in Mt. Redoubt Alaska. I am specifically ...
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585 views

Could the filming of the 747 in “Awakenings” have taken place during the 747 flight testing?

In the 1990 film "Awakenings", the main character Leonard awakens after suffering from a catatonic illness for 30 years. There's a scene where Leonard watches a 747 landing in New York at JFK. This ...
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When did the color orange enter flight test?

When did the color orange enter flight test? As early as the Bell X-1, pictured here, aircraft were painted orange to enhance visibility. Later, in 1959, a study was conducted that suggested the ...
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338 views

What is the origin of the practice of numbering runways by magnetic heading?

Today, runways are always named according to the magnetic heading. How did this practice start? When and where was the practice invented? Whose idea was it, and how did it catch on?
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682 views

What clues would have indicated KAL 902 was off course?

Korean Airlines Flight 902 was shot down by a Soviet fighter in April 1978 after the pilot turned through 150 degrees and entered Russian airspace. The New York Times reported it happened around 8.30 ...
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714 views

What are the evenly-spaced “bumps” on Bell X-1 tailplane?

The tailplane of the Bell X-1 had four evenly-spaced "bumps" on each side--what was their purpose? (Screen shot from The Right Stuff.) Another image If they're hinges for the elevators, then how ...
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253 views

When was the concept of V1 introduced?

When was V1 speed first introduced? Was it the result of a particular accident or series of accidents?
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Has there ever been a seaplane with inflatable airbags rather than traditional pontoons?

Traditional pontoons are big and cause a lot of drag. It would be nice to retract them like normal landing gear but they are just too big. Has there ever been a seaplane with inflatable airbags ...
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What was in the noses of airliners before the weather radar?

At the time of the first Lockheed Constellations, airliners fitted with a weather radar were not common, and the navigator was not placed in the airplane nose. Thus, the nose seems to be mostly dead ...
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406 views

What was the first aircraft equipped with a RAT?

RAT are common in airliners today to provide emergency electrical and hydraulic power. Yet, firsts airliners (prior to WWII) may not require the same amount of power than today's airliners (which are ...
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Which was the first pressurized aircraft?

Which aircraft was the first one to fly pressurized? High altitude breathing apparatus, 1918 (source) I mean an aircraft which didn't require to don an oxygen mask above a certain altitude, ...
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When did airlines start using seat belts for passengers?

When did airlines start using seat belts on passenger flights?
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1answer
985 views

Has anyone attempted to board a flying aircraft mid-air?

A few movies (e.g. Air Force One, Executive Decision) feature a story where people board a flying aircraft from another flying aircraft. Has anyone ever attempted, either via docking two aircraft ...
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Were there any folding wing biplanes?

Given that several nations had operational carriers by 1920 and biplanes were still in military service, were there any folding wing biplanes? Wikipedia: United States first purpose built aircraft ...
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983 views

Why did it take so long for helicopters to be developed/in use?

The Sikorsky_H-5 was made in 1943 but used an engine released in the 1930's. It seems to me that the used that applied to helicopters, specifically in warfare, could have applied much earlier. Things ...
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Were early military planes not pressurized?

I just heard that 1930s-40s planes such as the B-17 were not pressurized. Is this true? If yes, then how did the military men survive at heights of 30k ft?
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What impact did the Concorde have on business of other sub-sonic airliners?

The Concorde was anyways a technical marvel of its time, and a status symbol for society. Its fares were well above the rest, costing USD2999 + taxes for a JFK-LHR journey. But, at the same time there ...

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