Skip to main content

A High-Flying Timeline

This article contains a historic timeline of flight.

A High-Flying Timeline

What a trip -- from the Wright brothers' first, 12-second flight to the latest launch of the Space Shuttle! Take this aviation tour with your kids. Share your own memories and lay the groundwork for future lofty discussions.

Leonardo da Vinci makes drawings of flying machines. He envisions them with wings that flap.

November 21 -- Two noblemen from the court of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette are the first to pilot a hot-air balloon. They mistakenly think that smoke, not heat, makes the balloon rise.

December 17 -- Orville and Wilbur Wright take-off on the world's first powered airplane flight in Kitty Hawk, NC. Their plane, the Wright Flyer, is airborne for 12 seconds.

August 1 -- The U.S. Airforce is established.

July 25 -- French aviator Louis Bleroit flies across the English Channel. He is the first person ever to arrive in England by a means other than water.

March 12 -- Albert Berry makes the first ever parachute jump from an airplane over Jefferson Barracks Missouri.

John Alcock and Arthur Whitten Brown make the first nonstop transatlantic flight.

May 2 -- U.S. Navy pilots Kelly and McCready, complete the first transcontinental flight from New York to California.

Two U.S. Army planes complete the first flight around the world. Four Douglas biplanes were built for the journey. The trip began in Seattle. Six months and six days later, two of the planes finished the 27,553-mile trip.

May 20 -- Then airmail pilot Charles Lindbergh sets out from New York on the first-ever, solo flight across the Atlantic. 33 hours and 29 minutes later, he lands safely in Paris. Before he takes off, he is dubbed the "flying fool" for trying to fly the route alone.

October 5 -- Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon make the first nonstop flight across the Pacific.

Amelia Earhart becomes the first woman to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean.

Wiley Post completes the first round-the-world solo flight.

The jet-engine airplane makes its first successful flight.

July 28 -- An army B-25 bomber crashes into the Empire State Building in New York City.

October 14 -- Air Force Captain Chuck Yeager becomes the first person to break the sound barrier in the experimental X-1 aircraft. On Dec. 12, 1953, Yeager broke another speed record, flying 1,650 mph (Mach 2.5) in an X-1A rocket plane.

The U.S. Air Force makes the first nonstop round-the-world flight.

The first jet plane crosses the Atlantic.

January 31 -- Ham the chimpanzee goes into space in a test of the Project Mercury capsule.

April 12 -- Russian cosmonaut Yuri Gargarin becomes the first man in space. He completes one orbit of the earth, giving the Russians the edge in the "race to space."

May 5 -- Alan Shepard becomes the first American in space.

John Glen becomes the first American to orbit the earth.

Russian Cosmonaut Valentina Tereshkova becomes the first woman space-traveler. She flew aboard Vostok 6, and spent three days in orbit.

April 17 -- Mrs. Jerrie Mock is the first woman to fly solo around the world.

March 18 -- Russian cosmonaut Alexi Lenov becomes the first man to walk in space.

July 20 -- Neil Armstrong becomes the first man to walk on the moon.

April 17 -- Apollo 13 launches in the third lunar-landing attempt. The mission is aborted due to malfunctions. The crew miraculously returns safely to earth.

June 6 -- The Russian spacecraft Soyuz 11 launches and links up with the first space station, Salyut 1. The spacecraft loses pressurization, and all four astronauts aboard die just before reentry.

The launch of the Skylab space station -- the crew is in flight for a little over 28 days.

The Concorde SST lands for the first time in the United States.

The Space Shuttle Columbia -- the first space craft designed specifically for reuse -- launches for the first time.

Sally Ride becomes the first U.S. woman in space.

The Space Shuttle Challenger explodes 74 second after take off. Six astronauts and teacher Christa McAuliffe are killed.

On the Space Station Mir, Col. Vladimir Titov and Musa Manarov set the team record for time spent in space: 366 days.

The first paying passenger, Japanese journalist Tohiro Akiyama, goes into space aboard the Russian spacecraft Soyuz TM-11.

February 3 -- The U.S. Space Shuttle Discovery lifts off to make the first rendezvous with the Russian Space Station Mir. On board is Col. Eileen Collins, the first female Shuttle pilot.

June 2 -- The Space Shuttle Discovery's ninth and final docking at the Russian Space Station Mir, setting the stage for the International Space Station Partnership.

October 29 -- John Glenn returns to space, becoming the oldest man ever to make the trip. The Space Shuttle Discovery's mission is to study the effects of aging in space, and to deploy and retrieve the Spartan solar-observing satellite.

December 4 -- The Space Shuttle Endeavor launches, carrying hardware for International Space Station Assembly.

Join the Family

Your partner in parenting from baby name inspiration to college planning.