Aviation History Facts: February

February 1

  • In 1851… Englishman William Dean makes the first balloon ascent in Australia, flying the Australasia for about 7 miles over Melbourne. (AYY)
  • In 1911… Burgess and Curtiss become the US’s first licensed aircraft manufacturer. (AYY)
  • In 1929… The aviation and space operations of Boeing and Pratt&Whitney are merged to form the United Aircraft&Transport Corp. (F&F)
  • In 1930… San Francisco’s first air ferry service starts to operate, cutting journey time across the Bay to 6 minutes. The ferry flies from San Francisco to Alameda, and from Oakland to Vallejo. (AYY)
  • In 1950… Eight Grumman F9F Panthers land on the USS Valley Forge to complete the first aircraft carrier night landing trials by jets. (AYY)

February 2

  • In 1918… The first operational squadrons of the American Expeditionary Force are formed in France. (AYY)
  • In 1950… Japan Air Lines inaugurates its first international service: a twice-weekly route to San Francisco. (AYY)
  • In 1989… People Express flies its last service from Newark, New Jersey, to New York; it has been taken over by Continental Airlines. (AYY)

February 3

  • In 1934… The first scheduled trans-Atlantic airmail service between Berlin, Germany, and Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, is inaugurated by Luft Hansa. The journey is made in four stages. (F&F)
  • In 1946… Pan American inaugurates the first commercial use of Lockheed Model 049 Constellation with the aircraft’s first scheduled service between New York and Bermuda. (F&F)
  • In 1948… All 145 pilots and co-pilots at National Airlines go on strike, grounding the carrier’s 22 aircrafts. The dispute is mainly over air safety. (AYY)
  • In 1964… The Federal Aviation Agency launches Operation Bongo Mark 2 to investigate the effects of supersonic flight; over the coming months, a Convair B-58 will fly through the sound barrier at low altitude over Oklahoma City. (AYY)
  • In 1982… A Mil Mi-26 helicopter sets a world record in the U.S.S.R., lifting 125,153.8 lb. to a height of 6,562 feet. (AYY)

February 4

  • In 1920… Charles Augustus Lindbergh (1920-1974), one of the most famous aviators in history, is born in Detroit, Michigan. (OTM)
  • In 1945… US President Franklin D. Roosevelt touches down at Yalta, the Crimean resort, in his presidential airplane Sacred Cow for a crucial summit with British Prime Minister Winston Churchill and Soviet leader Joseph Stalin. The leaders are meeting to discuss terms for German surrender and the shape of post-war Europe. (AYY)
  • In 1949… In the US, the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) gives authorization for the full use of ground control approach (GCA) landing aids. These will be used only in conditions of poor visibility caused by fog or bad weather and comprise a ground radar system. (F&F)
  • In 1958… The world’s first nuclear-powered aircraft carrier, the CVAN-65 USS Enterprise is laid down at the Newport News shipyard. (F&F)

February 5

  • In 1919… The first regular, daily passenger service in the world is launched at Berlin’s city airfield. A German airline, Deutsche Luft Reederei, operates the new service on route from Berlin to Weimar via Leipzig. (AYY)
  • In 1929… Frank Hawks and Oscar Grubb land their Lockheed Air Express in New York after a record flight of 18 hours 20 minutes from Los Angeles. (AYY)
  • In 1949… An Eastern Air Lines Lockheed Constellation lands at LaGuardia, New York, at the end of a flight of 6 hours 18 minutes from Los Angeles, a coast-to-coast record for transport aircraft. (AYY)
  • In 1951… The United States and Canada announce the establishment of the Distant Early Warning (DEW), the air defense system that uses more than 30 radar stations located across the northern portion of the continent. (OTM)
  • In 1962… A Sikorsky HSS-2 Sea King of the US Navy sets a world helicopter speed record of 210.6 mph, in the course of a flight between Milford and New Haven, Connecticut. (AYY)

February 6

  • In 1916… The airline Deutsche Luft Reederei flies its first service, which is freight only, between Berlin and Weimar. (AYY)
  • In 1946… A TWA Lockheed Constellation lands at Orly airport, Paris, from LaGuardia, New York, to complete the airline’s first scheduled international flight. (AYY)
  • In 1956… William Judd lands his Cessna 180 in Paris after a solo flight of 25 hours 15 minutes across the North Atlantic from the US. (AYY)

February 7

  • In 1920… French aviator Sadi Lacointe, piloting a Nieuport-Delage 29V, becomes the first pilot to set a new Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) world speed record after World War I. He reaches a measured speed of 275.862 km/h (171.141 mph) along 1 km (3,280 ft.) course. (F&F)
  • In 1927… Georgetown University medical school in Washington, D.C., offers the first aviation medicine course in the United States. (AYY)
  • In 1937… The prototype Blackburn B.24 Skua two-seat fighter/dive-bomber makes its maiden flight, piloted by “Dasher” Blake at Brough, Yorkshire; it is Britain’s first dive-bomber. (AYY)
  • In 1958… One of the best British soccer teams, Manchester United, has been virtually wiped out in an air crash. The team was returning from Belgrade after victory against a Yugoslav opponent when their British European Airways (BEA) Airspeed AS.57 Ambassador failed to take off and crashed into a house in Munich, Germany. (AYY)

February 8

  • In 1908… Flight tests begin at Issy-les-Moulineaux for the Gastambide-Mengin I monoplane, built by Léon Levavasseur and fitted with a 50-hp Antoinette engine. (AYY)
  • In 1919… The Farman brothers make the first scheduled international flight in Europe when a Farman F.60 Goliath piloted by M. Lucien Bossoutrot carries a token load of military passengers between Toussus le Noble airfield outside Paris and Kenley in southern England. (F&F)
  • In 1933… The first Boeing 247 takes to the air opening a new era in air transport, representing the new age of all-metal monoplane designs. (F&F)
  • In 1988… The Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) retires an aircraft registration number for the first time – that of Amelia Earhart’s airplane, which disappeared over the Pacific in July 1937. (AYY)

February 9

  • In 1936… Tommy Rose lands at Wingfield Aerodrome in Cape Town, South Africa, after a record flight from England of 3 days 17 hours 38 minutes. (AYY)
  • In 1939… British flyer Alex Henshaw lands his Percival Mew Gull at Gravesend in Kent, England, after a record flight to Cape Town and back in 4 days 10 hours and 20 minutes. (AYY)
  • In 1969… First flight of the Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet” airliner takes place in Seattle, Washington. The wide-bodied, long-range transport is capable of carrying 347 passengers, and is the largest aircraft in commercial airline service in the world. (OTM)

February 10

  • In 1923… An experimental night flight arrives to Le Bourget, France, from Croydon, England. The pilot has given his position by radio and used the aviation light beacons to make his approach. (AYY)
  • In 1962… American U-2 pilot Gary Powers, shot down and arrested in the U.S.S.R. in May 1960, is released in exchange for Soviet spy Colonel Rudolf Abel. (AYY)

February 11

  • In 1909… An important pioneer in developing aviation in New Zealand, Vivian C. Walsh pilots a Howard-Wright biplane on what is generally considered the first flight in New Zealand by a powered airplane. (F&F)
  • In 1914… Distance record for balloons over land is set by H. Berliner, who flies 1,890 miles (c. 3,040 km) from Bitterfeldt, Germany to Kirgischano, Russia. (OTM)
  • In 1946… The United States and United Kingdom sign an agreement in Bermuda setting out the principles by which air rates and frequencies of international services should be set. The Bermuda Agreement becomes a standard upon which air agreements would be based in the future. (F&F)
  • In 1959… A US meteorological balloon achieves a record height of 146,000 ft. carrying a special package of detectors sending information by radio signal to the ground. (F&F)

February 12

  • In 1914… Igor Sikorsky’s giant four-engined biplane, the Ilya Muromets flies in Russia. It is an improved version of last year’s Bolshoi Baltiskii. (AYY)
  • In 1921… The U.S. Army Air Service establishes the first in an expending series of airways – routes safely surveyed by the army civilian and commercial users linking towns and cities by air – by leasing land between Washington and Dayton, Ohio to facilitate a stopover. (F&F)
  • In 1928… Lady Heath (formerly Mrs. Elliot-Lynn) becomes the first woman to fly solo from Cape Town, South Africa to London, England. (F&F)
  • In 1959… The last Convair B-36 bomber in operational USAF service is retired to Amon Carter Field, where it is put on display; Strategic Air Command is now equipped with an all-jet bomber force. (AYY)
  • In 1960… A Delta Air Lines Convair 880 lands in Miami, Florida, from San Diego to set a new transcontinental speed record over the route of 3 hours 31 minutes. (AYY)

February 13

  • In 1913… At the second British Aero Show in London, the world’s first airplane specifically designed to carry a gun, 37-mm cannon on biplane, is displayed for the first time. Called Destroyer and built by Vickers, Sons & Maxim, it is officially called the Experimental Fighting Biplane No.1 (E.F.B.1). (F&F)
  • In 1919… The first post-war French commercial service is established on a route from Paris to Lille for the carriage of food and clothing to France’s northern departments. (F&F)
  • In 1943… The Vought F4U Corsair naval fighter makes its operational debut in Solomon Island, escorting PB4Y-1 Liberators (the US Navy’s version of the B-24) raiding Bougainville. (AYY)
  • In 1972… The Soviet Union has started to use Cuba as a base from which to spy on the US. The first mission is flown by two Soviet Tu-95, which surveys part of the east cost. (AYY)

February 14

  • In 1914… An official American nonstop duration and distance record is made when Lt. Townsend Dodd and Sgt. Herbert Marcus fly the U.S. Signal Corps Burgess H tractor biplane. (S.C. No. 26) 244.8 mi. in 4 hours 43 minutes. Although it established a record for two people in one airplane, it also exceeded the previous single-seat record. (F&F)
  • In 1932… Ruth Nichols flies her Lockheed Vega from Floyd Bennett Field, New York to an altitude of 19,928 feet, a new world record for diesel-engined airplanes. (AYY)
  • In 1980… Japan Air Lines begins commercial operations with the highest-capacity airliner ever put into scheduled service, conducting the inaugural flight of eight Boeing 747SR. The aircraft has seating for 550 passengers, 45 in the upper deck. (F&F)

February 15

  • In 1910… King Edward VII grants the title “Royal” to the Aero Club of the United Kingdom. (AYY)
  • In 1926… The Ford Motor Co. becomes the first U.S. private air carrier to operate a contract airmail (CAM) route. Ford begins operations with CAM-6 between Detroit and Chicago and CAM-7 between Detroit and Cleveland. (F&F)
  • In 1961… Members of a US skating team are among 73 killed when Belgian airliner Sabena Boeing 707 crashes during its landing approach near Brussels, Belgium. (AYY)
  • In 1965… Mrs. Guy Maher arrives from Culver City, California to Medford, New Jersey in a Hughes 300 to complete the USA’s first transcontinental helicopter flight by a woman. (AYY)

February 16

  • In 1912… Frank Coffyn takes aerial views of New York City with a cinema camera while controlling his airplane with his feet and knees. (AYY)
  • In 1960… The Vought F8U-2N Crusader interceptor makes its maiden flight in Dallas, Texas. (AYY)
  • In 1982… The first production Airbus Industrie A310 is rolled out at the factory in Toulouse, France, destined for Swissair as the launch customer. (F&F)

February 17

  • In 1904… The Wright brothers inspect the grounds where the St. Louis aeronautical exposition will be held in April. (AYY)
  • In 1934… The first airmail flight from Australia to New Zealand is flown by Charles T. Ulm in his Avro Ten, a license-built Fokker F. VIIB/3m registered as VH-UXX. (AYY)

February 18

  • In 1832… Octave Chanute (1832-1910), first great historian of aviation, is born in Paris, France. Brought to the US when young, Chanute was a civilian engineer before turning to aviation. In 1894 he published Progress in Flying Machines. The book became a bible for the Wright brothers. (OTM)
  • In 1911… First official government air mail flight is made in India as French pilot Henri Pequet flies 6,500 letters a distance of about five miles (8 km). (otm)
  • In 1973… Daniel Bouchart and Didier Potelle land 19,568 feet up on the summit of Mount Kilimanjaro, Tanzania in an SA 319 B Alouette II helicopter. (AYY)
  • In 1977… The converted Boeing 747 space shuttle carrier makes its first flight with the shuttle Enterprise on its back, at NASA’s Dryden Flight Research Center. (AYY)

February 19

  • In 1912… One of the most successful pre-World War I airship operations begins with the first flight of the Zeppelin LZ II, Victoria Louise, and its introduction into service with the German airship company DELAG. (F&F)
  • In 1937… Howard Hughes establishes a new transcontinental speed record of 7 hours 28 minutes 25 seconds from Los Angeles to Newark, New Jersey. (AYY)
  • In 1982… The first Boeing 757 takes to the air on its maiden flight. With capacity for between 178 and 239 passengers in a wide variety of configurations, it has a cruising speed of 528 mph and a range of 2,100 mi., or 5,343 mi. at economic cruise. (F&F)

February 20

  • In 1915… During the Panama-Pacific Exhibition, Allan Loughead is allowed to launch an air service and flies 600 passengers across the bay during 50 days. The 10-minute flight costs $10 per passenger. (AYY)
  • In 1924… In Dakar, Lieutenant-Colonel Tulasne, Captain Gama and Lieutenant Michel complete the first trip across the Sahara desert and back, piloting Breguet-14 airplanes. (AYY)
  • In 1968… A standard Learjet 25 sets a new “time-to-climb” record by climbing to 40,000 feet in 6 minutes 29 seconds. (AYY)
  • In 1972… A USAF Lockheed HC-130H Hercules piloted by a crew commanded by Lt. Comdr. Ed Allison sets a new world record for unrefuelled flight by turboprop aircraft. It flies a distance of 14,052.94 km (8,732.5 mi.) between the Taiwanese base of Ching Chuan Kang AB and Scott AFB, Illinois. (F&F)

February 21

  • In 1911… A new 1910 Wright Type B Flyer owned by Collier’s magazine publisher Robert F. Collier, arrives at San Antonio, Texas on rent to the U.S. Army for $1.00 per month to supplement the aging Wright biplane first accepted on August 2, 1909. (F&F)
  • In 1919… The prototype of the first US-designed fighter to enter large-scale production, the Thomas-Morse MB-3 (to be made by Boeing), makes its maiden flight. (AYY)
  • In 1979… Former astronaut Neil Armstrong climbs to 50,000 feet in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in just over 12 minutes in a Gates Learjet Longhorn 28, breaking five world records for business jets. (AYY)
  • In 1984… Racing driver Henri Pescarolo and Air France pilot Patrick Fourticq land their Piper Malibu in Paris after a flight from New York, setting a speed record of 14 hours 2 minutes for a single-engined lift aircraft across the North Atlantic. (AYY)

February 22

  • In 1912… The Fokker Aviatik G.m.b.H. company is entered in the trade register at Berlin, Germany with a quoted capital of 20,000 marks. The company’s Holland-born founder, Anthony Herman Gerard Fokker, was brought up in Haarlem, the Netherlands and moved to Germany where he developed a passion for aviation before designing his first airplane – the Spider No. 1 – in late 1910. (F&F)
  • In 1925… Geoffrey de Havilland takes off in his newly built D.H.60 Moth G-EBKT, heralding a new age of light aviation. (F&F)
  • In 1928… Australian Bert Hinkler lands at Fanny Bay in Darwin, Australia after 11,000-mile solo flight from England. He is the first to make such a trip, setting four other new records: longest solo flight, longest light plane flight, first nonstop flight from London to Rome and fastest journey from Britain to India. (AYY)

February 23

  • In 1909… John A. McCurdy flies the Aerial Experimental Association’s Silver Dart biplane 40 feet over the frozen Bras d’Or lake at Baddeck Bay – the first flight of a heavier-than-air machine in Canada. (AYY)
  • In 1914… Harry Busteed makes the first test flight of the Bristol Scout biplane at Larkhill training center in England. (AYY)
  • In 1921… A team of pilots completes an experimental coast-to-coast mail flight; flying by day and night, they have linked San Francisco and Long Island in a day and half’s flying time. (AYY)

February 24

  • In 1921… Lieutenant William D. Coney completes a solo flight from Rockwell Field, San Diego to Jacksonville, in 22 hours and 27 minutes flying time. (AYY)
  • In 1931… John Lankester Parker makes the first flight of the prototype Short S.17 Kent flying boat, from the river Medway in Kent, England. (AYY)
  • In 1940… The 2,000-hp prototype Hawker Typhoon fighter makes its first flight in England. (AYY)
  • In 1957… Scandinavian Airline Services (SAS) opens the first regular scheduled service from Europe to the Far East over the North Pole, with departure from Copenhagen, Denmark and Tokyo, Japan; the DC-7C aircraft will circle the pole en route. (AYY)
  • In 1983… The youngest pilot known to have made a solo flight in a powered, heavier-than-air, flying machine takes to the air for the first time at age of 9 years 316 days. The flight takes place near Mexicali, Mexico and the aircraft the boy pilots is a Cessna 150. (F&F)

February 25

  • In 1784… The first balloon flight made in Italy takes place from the grounds of a villa owned by Chevalier Paul Andreani near Milan and uses a modified Montgolfière hot air design built by the brothers Charles and Augustin Gerli. (F&F)
  • In 1929… The world’s first major air evacuation comes to an end when Britain’s Royal Air Force (RAF) flies out the last of 586 civilians from Kabul to the safety to India. The airlift involves nationals of about 20 countries. (AYY)
  • In 1930… Ralph O’Neil lands in Miami on the first mail service of America airline New York, Rio and Buenos Aires Line (NYRBA) between Buenos Aires and New York after a difficult 6-day flight from Argentina. (AYY)
  • In 1970… TWA becomes the first airline to fly a “Jumbo Jet” within the US, when it inaugurates a Boeing 747 service between Los Angeles and New York. (AYY)
  • In 1990… Smoke-free flights become mandatory throughout North America for all US airlines. (AYY)

February 26

  • In 1940… The US Air Defense Command is formed at Mitchell Field, New York (AYY)
  • In 1949… A Boeing B-50 makes first nonstop refueled flight around world. American Capt. James Gallagher and Luck Lady II crew cover 23,452 miles (37,742 km) in 94 hours 1 minute and are refueled in flight four times. (OTM)
  • In 1955… The first supersonic ejection takes place when North American test pilot George F. Smith ejects himself from his diving F-100 off Laguna Beach, California. He is unconscious for five days but recovers. (F&F)

February 27

  • In 1920… Major Rudolph W. Schroeder of the US Army Air Service sets a new world altitude record when he flies to the height of 33,143 feet. During the flight over McCook Field in Dayton, Ohio he nearly loses his life when his oxygen system fails. (AYY)
  • In 1935… Latècoère’s giant seaplane Santos Dumont lands with a cargo of mail after a record flight of 53 hours 4 minutes from Natal, Brazil to Paris, with two stops en route. (AYY)
  • In 1965… The world’s largest aircraft at the time, the Antonov An-22 Antei, makes its first flight. It is powered by four 15,000 EHP Kuznetsov NK-12 turboprop engines. (F&F)

February 28

  • In 1907… Cabinet-maker Charles Voisin begins tests of the airplane made by his company for Lèon Delagrange. He takes off for a hop of several feet, but the fuselage breaks up. (AYY)
  • In 1918… Regulation of the airways begins as US President Woodrow Wilson issues an order requiring licenses for civilian pilots and owners. Over 800 licenses are issued. (OTM)
  • In 1929… An amendment to the Air Commerce Act, effective in June, provides for the federal licensing of flying schools. (AYY)

February 1

  • In 1964… President Lyndon Johnson publicly acknowledges the existence of the Lockheed A-12 Mach 3+ spy plane program and shows a picture that is actually an YF-12A. (F&F)
  • In 1992… British Aerospace’s latest Hawk demonstrator, Hawk Mk 102D, ZJ 100, takes to the skies for the first time. It is an enhanced two-seater ground-attack version with a modified wing and incorporates many improvements to its onboard sensors and weapons system. (AYY)

Works Cited

Editor-in-Chief: Bill Gunston, Aviation: Year by Year, Amber Books Limited, London, UK, 2001. (AYY)
Leonard C. Bruno, On the Move: A Chronology of Advances in Transportation, Gale Research Inc., Detroit, MI, 1993. (OTM)
Arthur George Renstrom, Wilbur & Orville Wright: A Chronology, United States, Library of Congress, 1971 (COFC)

Courtesy Centennial of Flight Commission