Aviation Timeline, Indian Airforce
Aviation Timeline

13000 B.C, India

About 15,000 years ago on the Indian sub-continent there was a nation of many large, sophisticated cities. One of the great Indian epics, the Ramayana, has a highly detailed story in it of a trip to the moon in a "Vimana" (or Astra), and in fact details a battle on the moon with an "Asvin" (or Atlantean airship). According to ancient Indian texts, the people had flying machines which were called "Vimanas." The ancient Indian epic describes a Vimana as a double-deck, circular aircraft with portholes and a dome, much as we would imagine a flying saucer. It flew with the "speed of the wind" and gave forth a "melodious sound." There were at least four different types of Vimanas; some saucer shaped, others like long cylinders ("cigar shaped airships"). The ancient Indian texts on Vimanas are so numerous, it would take volumes to relate what they had to say. The ancient Indians, who manufactured these ships themselves, wrote entire flight manuals on the control of the various types of Vimanas, many of which are still in existence, and some have even been translated into English.

3,000 years ago, China

The Chinese invented and flew kites at least 3,000 years ago. Kites eventually reached Europe in the 14th century. Although we think of them primarily as toys, they have been used to lift people for serious observations, for measurement or weaponry in war, and today for meteorological work. Marco Polo witnessed kites carrying humans in China in the 1300s.

400 B.C., Greece

Archytas of Tarentum, a Greek mathematician, scientist, and philosopher who lived in Italy, may have designed a small flying "dove" balanced so as to fly by means of a whirling arm which provided lift.

The Middle Ages (and earlier), Europe

Roger Bacon, an English Franciscan monk, suggested the use of large, hollow globes of thin metal, filled with rarefied air or "Liquid fire" (perhaps hydrogen gas) to achieve flight. Most experimenters, however, just designed wings, strapped them on, and jumped. None of them worked well even as gliders; most didn't work at all. Some of the would be aviators died. Children played with flying toys with whirring blades. This may have been true of children on many continents.

1010, England

An English monk, Eilmer, jumped from Malmesbury Abbey equipped with flapping wings. He broke his legs.

1162, Constantinople

A man in Constantinople tried to fly from the top of a tower using sail-like wings made of pleated fabric. He did not survive.

1400s, Italy

Leonardo da Vinci applied his extraordinary mind to understanding flight by carefully studying birds. He realized human arms are too weak to flap wings for long, so he sketched designs for machines with wings that would flap. The power was supplied by a person winding levers with the hands and pushing on pedals with the feet. Leonardo never built his ornithopter. It would never have flown; Leonardo didn't understand enough about how birds fly, and the materials available in his time were far too heavy. However his was among the first scientific efforts to design a flying machine. He invented the airscrew and designed the first real parachute (a hand-held size) in history.

1600s, Turkey

Hezarfen Celebi leapt from a tower at Galata and flew some distance before landing safely in the market place of Scutari.

1678, France

A French locksmith named Besnier tried to fly with wings modelled after the webbed feet of a duck. He was lucky - he survived.

1709, Portugal

Father Bartolomeu de Gusmao demonstrated a model hot air balloon to King John V and others. It was made of paper and inflated by heated air from burning materials carried in a suspended earthenware bowl.

1783, France

The world's first balloon flight occurred on November 21, 1783 over Paris, astonishing the population. The balloon was designed by the brothers Joseph and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier. Francois de Rozier and the Marquis d'Arlandes rode in it. It was made of linen and paper and powered by heated air. (There is some evidence, however, that in China in 1306 a balloon ascent was made during a coronation.)

1783, France

Brothers Jacques Charles and Maurice Robert made the second balloon flight in history, also over Paris. Their balloon was made of rubberized silk and filled with hydrogen gas instead of hot air. Hydrogen gas was more practical since it didn't have to be heated in flight.

1797, France

Andre Jacques Garnerin landed safely by the use of a parachute after jumping from a balloon at approximately 2,000 feet (600 m).

1799, England

Sir George Cayley invented the concept of the fixed-wing aircraft. Modern airplane design is based on his ideas.

1809, Paris

Marie Madeleine Sophie Blanchard wife of balloonist Jean-Pierre Blanchard, a capable aeronaut in her own right and chief of Napoleon's air service, lost her life when her hydrogen balloon caught fire as she watched a fireworks display. She was the first woman to lose her life while flying.

1804, England

Sir George Cayley conducted experiments with kites to understand how things fly. While many people believed that flying would develop through lighter-than-air craft, he was convinced that one day wings would carry people in the air. One of his great contributions was to separate the ideas of lift, propulsion, and control (a bird's wings provide all three, unlike man-made aircraft). From his work with kites he learned so much about how things are lifted in the air that he was able to build a glider. His glider is the basis for modern aircarft design.

1845, England

William Henson and John Stringfellow built a working model of a plane powered by a specially made, lightweight steam engine. No one knows whether it flew. Over the next decades many imaginative people tried to build steam-powered flying machines. But the engines were either too weak or too heavy. Powered flight wasn't possible until the invention of the powerful, compact, gas engine.

1852, France

Henri Giffard addressed the great limitation of balloons - they would float wherever the wind took them. He made a cigar-shaped ballooon and powered it with a steam engine to make it "dirigible", that is, steerable. This was the first manned, powered, steerable aircraft.

1853, England

Sir George Cayley built a full size glider. It supposedly carried his terrified coachman across a small valley.

Late 1800s, Western Europe

Balloons became fashionable and popular. Men competed for distance and height records. Balloon races were generally thought unsuitable for women (considered too delicate for this sport). People who raced balloons also had to be well off - it took time and money to indulge this hobby.

1890s, Germany

Otto Lilienthal built a series of small, fragile gliders. He adopted a scientific approach: he studied each problem carefully and tested each solution. In his gliders he supported himself on his forearms, and steered by swinging his legs to shift his center of gravity. He succeeded in making the first regular, controlled flights with his gliders. Lilienthal discovered that a curved, or "cambered" wing surface creates the best lift. He corresponded with the Wright brothers and offered them many ideas. He was killed in 1896 when a gust of wind threw his glider out of control.

1890, France

French engineer Clement Adler built a steam plane - an airplane powered by a lightweight steam engine. It flew 164 feet (50 m). Notably, this plane took off from level ground, not needing a slope to gain speed.

1896, United States

Samuel Langley achieved sustained, powered flight (without a pilot on board) in his heavier-than-air Aerodrome. He was racing with the Wright brothers to be the first with controlled, piloted flight. His attempt, just nine days before the Wright's historic flight, suffered a structural failure.

1903, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA

Orville and Wilbur Wright flew a gasoline powered flying machine about 120 feet (37 m), for 12 seconds, over the sands at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, and returned safely to the ground. It was the world's first successful, piloted, powered flight. Orville was the pilot. That short flight is widely considered the starting point of modern aviation. The Wright brothers made four flights that day. The last, with Wilbur as pilot, flew 59 seconds and 854 feet (260 m). Their aircraft, the Flyer, can now be seen at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, Washington, D.C. The Wright brothers' success came about in part because of their thorough preparation. Wilbur once wrote: "Having set out with absolute faith in the existing scientific data, we were driven to doubt one thing after another, until finally, after two years of experiment, we cast it all aside, and decided to rely entirely upon our own investigations." They tested many designs, and improved their flying skill with each one. They were the first to use a wind tunnel to do practical tests of their propellers, wings, and engines. For a brief time they were far ahead of all other pioneers, but so many people were interested in flying that progress was rapid everywhere.

1906, France

Alberto Santos-Dumont made the first sustained airplane flight in Europe: 197 feet (59 m) in a straight line, about 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. Only a few months later, he flew 722 feet (217 m) in 21 seconds, winning a prize for the first European flight covering more than 100 meters.

1907, France

Paul Cornu, a French mechanic, flew briefly in a primitive aircraft which was lifted by two horizontally rotating wings - the first helicopter. Helicopters proved so unstable that they were not reliable aircraft until the flight of the first autogiro in 1923.

1908, Italy

Madame Therese Peltier was the first woman to fly solo in an airplane.

1908, England

Muriel Matters, a suffragette and balloonist, flew over the British Houses of Parliament dropping hundreds of flyers urging "votes for women". It was possibly the first use of the air for political lobbying and publicity.

1909, France

Louis Bleriot flew a small aircraft 26 miles (42 km) over the channel from France to England. His aircraft were monoplanes (single wing) with a separate tail. He adopted the Wright brothers' technique of 'warping' the wings - using wires to twist the wings and lift one side or the other. This allowed controlled turns.

After his crossing of the Channel, Bleriot became a celebrity. He was cheered in London, and by a crowd of over 100,000 people when he returned to Paris. His flight fired the public imagination and also immediately began to worry governments, which became concerned about the power and protection of their navies. Bleriot set a speed record in 1909 of 48 mph (77 kph).

More than 100 of Bleriot's Type XI aircraft were ordered. He became the world's first large-scale aircraft manufacturer.

1909, France

The world's first international air show was held in Reims. The planes were mostly made of wood. They could climb as high as 500 feet (150 m) above the ground. The fastest airplane in the show flew 47 mph (75 kph). Within four years, aircraft were flying over 120 mph (192 kph), climbing as high as 20,000 feet (6,000 m), and performing aerobatics feats such as loops and rolls.

1908, England

Famous author H. G. Wells wrote War in the Air, a story envisioning the colossal destruction wrought by aerial bombing.

1909, United States

The U.S. Army buys its first plane.

1910, France

The colorful, self-styled Baroness Raymond de Laroche, an artist and car driver, became the first woman officially qualified as a pilot. She received pilot's certificate #36.

1910, Europe

Jorge Chavez, a Peruvian, became the first to fly an airplane over the Alps. Unfortunately just as he was about to land and complete his great feat one of his aircraft's wings buckled. He crashed and did not survive.

1911, United States

Harriet Quimby became the first American woman to receive a pilot's license. She was one of the most celebrated stunt pilots of the early years of flight. The second woman to receive a license was her good friend, Mathilde Moissant.

1911, United States

Calbraith Rodgers became the first person to cross the continent in a plane. He was followed by a train carrying a mechanic, his wife, and spare parts for his plane. The plane crashed 19 times. The trip took 49 days and Rodgers arrived with one leg in a cast. He was cheered by a crowd of 20,000 people in Pasadena, California, when he arrived.

1911, France

The first women's flying school was founded in France, run by qualified pilot Jane Herveux.

1911, United States

Eugene Fly, test pilot for the Curtiss Company, did the first landing on a warship at sea. In order to stop fast enough, a system of ropes stretched across a platform and secured to sandbags was used to aid in braking.

1911, Ireland

Lilian Bland designed, built, and flew a plane - the first powered aircraft to be built in Ireland. She had always been fascinated by birds and flight. After Bleriot's famous crossing of the English channel, she became determined to learn to fly. She attended an aviation meeting and studied the flying machines there. Later, she returned home and built her airplane, which she whimsically named the Mayfly.

1911, Germany

Melli Beese was about to take her test flight to gain her pilot's license when she discovered that some of her male colleagues so disliked the idea of a woman learning to fly that they drained her aircraft's fuel tanks and even tampered with the steering mechanism. She managed to take her test that day, however, and gained her license in spite of them.

1913, China

China buys its first fleet of aircraft and opens a flying school for pilots in Beijing.

1914, United States

The first regularly scheduled passenger service began operation, operating between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. The fare was $5.00 one way for up to 200 pounds of both passenger and baggage.

1914 - 1918 World War I

Desire for observation planes and later for fighters for use in war drove development of airplanes. This was the first major conflict involving the use of air power. By the end of the war, the airplane had become a fairly reliable, maneuverable machine. Hinged flaps on the wings called ailerons were used for banking the planes, instead of the 'wing warping' technique. Because of a wood shortage, manufacturers began to experiment with using metal in making airplanes. Biplanes were still popular, because the second wing gave them more lift and stability. However, as monoplanes improved, they became more popular because they produced less drag. During this time, dirigibles were also developed and used, particularly by Germany. However, they became less important as airplanes developed.

1916, United States

The Boeing Aircraft Company was founded by William Boeing, a timber merchant. It was called the Pacific Aero Products Company. It is still a highly successful airplane manufacturer today.

1916, United States

Ruth Law broke the American nonstop distance record, flying 590 miles from Chicago to Hormel, New York. To survive the cold in her open cockpit, she wore four complete suits of wool and leather clothes.

1917, United States

Katherine Stinson broke the Ruth Law's distance record by flying 610 miles (976 km) nonstop..

1918, United States

The first attempt to transport mail by air in the United States occurred on May 15th of this year. It was not a success - the pilot got lost. However, within a few years, U.S. mail was regularly transported by air.

1918, United States

Congress formed NACA, which later became NASA, the National Aeronautics and Space Administration.


Louis C. Candelaria of Argentina made the first successful flight of an airplane over the Andes, the highest mountain range in the western hemisphere. He took off from Zapala in Argentina and landed in Cunco, Chile.

1919, Canada/Ireland

First successful, nonstop, transatlantic flight by Captain John Alcock (pilot) and Arthur Whitten-Brown (navigator) of Great Britain. They flew from Newfoundland to Ireland, braving darkness, clouds, sleet and snow.

1919, U.S./Canada

First international mail flight between the United States and Canada.

1919 U.S./Cuba

Aeromarine Airways became the first international airline flying scheduled flights out of the United States. It flew between Key West and Havana.

1910 - 1929, United States The Barnstorming Era.

Stunt flyers and exhibition teams put on shows and introduced thousands of people to the idea of flying. For a fee, they would take passengers up for a brief flight. Their shows included loops, rolls, daredevil stunts close to the ground, parachute jumping, and wingwalking. The career was genuinely dangerous; many pilots lost their lives. Among the pilots some of the better known names are Harriet Quimby, Bessie Coleman, Katherine and Eddie Stinson (Eddie was the first pilot to discover how to recover a plane from a spin), Charles Lindbergh.

1921, Argentina

Adrienne Bolland became the first woman to fly over the Andes. She took off from Mendoza, Argentina, and landed 10 hours later in Santiago de Chile. Huge crowds greeted her arrival. She had flown at an altitude of 14,750 feet, braving the bitter cold and having to avoid mountain peaks that were higher than the altitude her airplane could fly.

1923, Spain

Juan de la Cierva of Spain crossed the English Channel in the world's first autogyro a craft using a propeller for forward movement and a rotor for lift.


The trial of Col. William 'Billy' Mitchell. A hero of the great war (World War I), he was court-martialled for making public statements 'contrary to military order and discipline.' The outspoken Mitchell angered his superiors not only because of his brusque manner, but because he insisted that the U.S. Armed Forces devote more resources to the U.S. Army Air Service and make it a separate arm equal to the Army and the Navy. The U.S. secretary of the Navy claimed that the U.S. was not vulnerable to attacks from the air, because several Navy aircraft had crashed on long flights. Mitchell responded that the crashes arose from 'incompetence, criminal negligence, and almost treasonable' actions by members of the Army and Navy. Years after his trial he was posthumously honored for his vision and achievements.

1926, North Pole

First flight over the North Pole by Commander Richard Byrd and Bennet of the United States

1927, United States/France

Charles Lindbergh flew the first non-stop, solo flight from New York to Paris (although this was not the first crossing of the Atlantic) in his plane, the Spirit of St. Louis. He was cheered by huge crowds in Paris when he landed. A few weeks later when he returned to the United States, over a million people lined the streets to cheer him during a ticker tape parade.


Ellen Church became the world's first airline stewardess, flying for United Airlines. She was a registered nurse, as were the next eight stewardesses hired by United. They wore white nurses' uniforms while on duty.

1930, United States

Ruth Nichols set a transcontinental speed record of 13 hours and 21 minutes, beating a previous record set by Charles Lindbergh.

1930, India

Amy Johnson, an Englishwoman, set a speed record flying from London to India in 13 days. She then continued her flight and eventually reached her destination in Australia, where she was greeted by cheering crowds. When she saw the crowds from the air, she thought she must have arrived during an air pageant - not realizing they were there to greet her.

1933, Around the World

Wiley Post of the U.S. set a record flying the first solo flight around the world - 15,596 miles (24,954 km) in 7 days, 19 hours. Post and his navigator Harold Gatty flew around the northern hemisphere, crossing the Atlantic, parts of Europe, the USSR, Alaska, and Canada.

1933, United States

The first modern airliner came into service, the Boeing 247.

1933, Spain/Cuba

Marion Barberan and Joaquin Collar made the first non-stop flight between Seville, Spain, and Cuba. It was the first crossing of the Atlantic to the West Indies.

1937, United States

The luxury airship Hindenburg exploded in Lakehurst, New Jersey. The dramatic conflagration and the deaths of 36 people on board marked the end of the era of huge dirigibles.

1937, Japan/England

To mark the coronation of England's King George VI, Japanese pilot Masaaki Iinuma and navigator Kenji Tsukagoshi flew from Japan to England in just under four days. Eager crowds welcomed the aviators.

1937 - 1945 World War II

Need for aircraft for military superiority fueled development of faster and more efficient fighter planes, transport planes, radar and navigation systems, helicopters, and jets. Air power, as predicted by Billy Mitchell so many years before, was a decisive factor in the waging of this war.

1937, Spain

The town of Guernica, Spain, was the scene of massive bombing from the air by German aircraft. The raid, which lasted four hours and left much of the population dead and most of the town destroyed, was ostensibly to destroy a bridge. The bridge was undamaged. It was the worst such attack in history up to that date.

1939, Germany

Test pilot Erich Warsitz made the first jet flight, in a German Heinkel He 178. World War II provided impetus for the rapid development of jets.

1941, United States

Formation of the Tuskegee Airmen, the first black fighter squadron in the United States armed forces. Until that time, blacks had been forbidden from receiving pilot training.

1943, U.S.

Formation of the Women's Airforce Service Pilots (WASPS) to ferry military planes and perform other non-combat operations for the U.S. military in World War II. They flew with distinction but were disbanded as the war ended because opposition to women military pilots was so great.

1947, United States

U.S. Air Force test pilot Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier flying in a Bell X-1 roket powered aircraft. He flew at 670 mph (1072 kph), or Mach 1.015, at an altitude of 42,000 feet (12,600 m).

1948, United States

The world's first flying car is flown. The Hall flying automobile was an automobile with a detachable airplane wing and a tail.

1948, United States

Record for the decade for speed set by Amy Johnson, flying 671 mph (1,073 kph).

1948 United States

President Harry S. Truman signed the executive order desegregating the armed forces of the United States.

1953, United States

Jacqueline Cochran became the first woman to fly faster than sound. She was one of the most admired aviators in the United States. By the time of her death in 1980 she held more records for speed and distance than any other pilot before or since.

1959, USSR

Speed record for the decade set by Mosolov flying 1,483.51 mph.

1959, Around the World

First around the world jet passenger service was offered by Pan American Airways in a Boeing 707.

1961, United States

Ross and Prather set a balloon altitude record of 113,740 (34, 122 m) feet.

1963, United States

NASA pilot Joseph Walker flew the experimental X-15 rocket airplane to a record altitude of 67 miles (108 km). The X-15 was launched from beneath the wing of a modified B-52 bomber.

1964, United States

Jerrie Mock is the first woman to fly solo around the world. The flight, in a Cessna 18, lasted 29 days.


First automatic landing by a jet (a Boeing 707).

1969, United States

The test flight of the 747, the first wide-bodied jumbo jet. It has been a highly successful commercial aircraft. The challenge in its design was the scale-up of an aircraft to this size. 747s typically carry 420 passengers. They have a maximum range of 8320 miles (13,390 km).

1969, France and Great Britain

Flight of the Concorde, the first commercial airplane capable of travelling faster than the speed of sound. The plane travels at Mach 2.2 They are used primarily by business travellers.

1971, Great Britain

Sheila Scott made the first flight equator to equator over the North Pole.

1971, United States

Long makes the first around the world flight over the poles in a Piper Navajo, travelling 38,896 miles (62,234 km) in 215 hours.

1979, English Channel

First human-powered flight across the English Channel by MacCready in the Gossamer Albatross. The aircraft weighed only 200 lbs. (90 kg), and had wings nearly 100 feet (30 m) long.

1981, United States

U.S. Astronauts John Young and Robert Crippen piloted the space shuttle Columbia on its maiden flight from Kennedy Space Center in Florida, marking the first flight into orbit of America's reusable "space plane" - part rocket and part glider. The flight ended with a perfect reentry and landing at Edwards Air Force Base in California.

1986, United States

Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager set a distance record for airplanes and made the first (and so far, the only) nonstop, non-refueled, around-the-globe flight in their frail plane, the Voyager. They flew 24,987 miles (39,979 km) in 9 days, 3 minutes, 44 seconds.

1987, United States

First over-the-poles, around-the-world flight by a single-engine plane made by Norton and Rosetti in a Piper Malibu, flying 34,342 miles (54,947 km) in 185 hours, 41 minutes.

1988, United States

Longest flight by a human-powered aircraft made by Kanellopoulos in his aircraft the Daedalus. He flew 74 miles (118 km).

1988, Austria

Distance record set for an ultralight, by Lischak, flying 1,011 (1618 km) miles.


Longest balloon flight ever, by the Virgin Otsuka Pacific Flyer, 6,761 miles.


Vicki Van Meter was twelve years old when she flew a Cessna 210 across the Atlantic, becoming the youngest pilot to ever make a transatlantic flight..


Test flight of the Boeing 777, the first aircraft designed entirely on a computer.