Aircraft

Go to the Early fighter planes and the Modern fighter planes pages for more on military aircraft



Since the Wright brothers made the first powered flight in 1903 things have changed tremendously. Here are some of the notable changes and events affecting aircraft developments that have occurred.

The first practical radar was built in 1935, but used in meteorological, not aircraft applications.
Picture of the first helicopter,VS300 (1939) Picture of the first jet aircraft, HE178 (1939)

Jet engines were invented in 1937, and the first jet-propelled flight was made in 1939 in the Heinkel HE178. This was the same year that the first helicopter, the VS300 was built.
During World War 2, Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR) and Instrument Landing Systems (ILS) were both used in aircraft for the first time.
The Messerschmitt ME262 jet fighter, the Flying Fortress and Superfortress high altitude heavy bombers were made and played a very important part in the war.
The sound barrier (mach 1, approx 767 MPH) was broken for the first time in 1947.
In 1949 the De Haviland Comet, the first commercial jet aircraft took its inaugural flight, and in 1952 began regular passenger flights between London and South Africa.
In 1953 the Learjet 23 became the first small jet aircraft to enter mass production, powered by 2 turbojet engines and capable of carrying 5 passengers plus 2 crew.
In 1969, the Boeing 747 became the first wide-bodied passenger plane. It used turbofan combustion".
The Concorde jet arrived in 1976, and was capable of carrying 100 passengers at over 1500 MPH, or mach 2. But a serious accident in 2000 and its subsequent grounding for about a year, coupled with high maintenance costs, led to its decommissioning in 2003.
Picture of a B-2 Spirit stealth bomber Picture of F117 Stealth fighter plane

The B2 Flying Wing bomber was built in the '90s. Pictured at left the B-2 Spirit (1997) has a top speed of 1,010 km/h and a range of over 11000 km. The F117 Nighthawk Stealth fighter, at right, was introduced in 1983, and retired in 2008. It has a top speed of 993 km/h (mach 0.92) and a range of 1720 km.
Both were designed to be invisible to radar and other systems, using a system called Stealth Technology. Changes to aircraft shape and surface composition are a major part of stealth technology, and both are used extensively by several countries now.



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