Aviation History Facts: December

December 1

  • In 1783… J. A. C. Charles and another man make the first trip in a hydrogen balloon, flying 27 miles from Paris to Nesle, France. After landing, Charles goes up again by himself, achieving the first solo balloon flight. (OTM)
  • In 1934… The first airway traffic control center is opened in Newark, N.J., operated by staff of Eastern Air Lines, United Air Lines, American Airlines and TWA. (AYY)
  • In 1969… The first legislation to limit aircraft noise levels at airports is introduced in U.S. Federal Air Regulation, Part 36. (OTM)

December 2

  • In 1976… The Boeing 747 SCA, an ex-American Airlines airliner which has been adapted to carry the US reusable space shuttle, makes its flight. (AYY)
  • In 1986… A Concorde airliner carrying 94 passengers returns to Charles de Gaulle airport after an 18-day round-the-world journey; total flying time amounted to 31 hours 51 minutes. (AYY)

December 3

  • In 1945… A de Havilland Sea Vampire fighter becomes the first purely jet-powered airplane to operate from an aircraft carrier, when Lieutenant-Commander E. M. "Winkle" Brown lands his aircraft on the HMS Ocean in England. (AYY)
  • In 1958… An aircraft exchange, which will function like the stock markets and commodity exchanges, opens in New York. (AYY)

December 4

  • In 1908… The Englishman J.T.C. Moore-Brabazon (later Lord Tara of Brabazon) makes a flight of 1,350 ft. in a Voisin biplane at Issy-les-Moulineaux in France. He becomes one of the guiding lights of early British aviation and is issued the first British pilot’s license, then called an aviator’s certificate. (F&F)
  • In 1961… The National Air and Space Museum receives the Douglas C-54 transport Sacred Cow used by Presidents Roosevelt and Truman. (AYY)
  • In 1991… Pan Am World Airways goes out of business after 64 years of service. The sudden shutdown of this aviation pioneer strands many passengers and leaves about 9,000 employees out of work. (OTM)

December 5

  • In 1909… George Taylor makes the first manned glider flight in Australia in a glider of his own design. He eventually makes a total of 29 flights at Narrabeen Beach in New South Wales. (F&F)
  • In 1921… Western Australia Airways opens the first scheduled regular airline service in the country. (AYY)

December 6

  • In 1960… The first flight of the Sikorsky S-61L helicopter is made in the United States. It serves as a transport craft as well as patrol, rescue, and even anti-submarine duty. (OTM)
  • In 1975… The first airmail flight by a supersonic aircraft is made by the Tupolev Tu-144, carrying mail between Moscow and Alma Ata, within the U.S.S.R. (OTM)

December 7

  • In 1945… New Zealand National Airways Corporation is founded with amalgamation of Union Airways, Air Travel and Cook Strait Airways. (AYY)
  • In 1980… Pan Am’s Boeing 747 China Clipper arrives in Peking from New York via Tokyo to complete the first official flight between China and USA since shortly before 1949. (AYY)

December 8

  • In 1938… Germany officially launches its first aircraft carrier, the 280-foot by 89-foot Graf Zeppelin. (AYY)
  • In 1940… The New York City experiences its first blackout and anti-aircraft exercise, around the Brooklyn Navy Yard. (AYY)
  • In 1964… A United Lines Caravelle makes the first landing in the USA completely controlled by computer (automatic touchdown). (AYY)

December 9

  • In 1904… The Wright brothers discontinue trials with Flyer II after completing 105 tests and 80 brief flights since they began flying the new machine in May. (F&F)
  • In 1909… American Dr. Henry W. Walden makes the first flight with his triplane known as the Walden III. It is powered by a three-cylinder, 22-HP Anzani engine and takes off from Mineola, Long Island, N.Y. (F&F)

December 10

  • In 1919… Capts. Ross Smith and Keith Smith become the first Australians to fly directly between Great Britain and Australia, a distance of 11,340 mi., after flying 135 hr. 55 min. at an average speed of 83 MPH. (F&F)

December 11

  • In 1917… Katherine Stinson flies 606 miles from San Diego to San Francisco, setting a new American non-stop distance record. (AYY)

December 12

  • In 1953… Mach 2.5 (2 ½ times the speed of sound) is achieved for the first time by Major Charles "Chuck" Yeager in the Bell X-1A. The rocket-propelled experimental aircraft reaches 1,650 mph at 70,000 feet. (OTM)

December 13

  • In 1918… The first flight from England to India is made by A.S. MacLaren, Halley, and McEwen in Handley Page V-1500 four-engined bomber. (OTM)

December 14

  • In 1903… Wilbur Wright makes the first and unsuccessful attempt at powered flight at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. His aircraft stalls after 3 ½ seconds in the air and crash-lands 105 feet away. (OTM)
  • In 1965… A Learjet 23 executive transport shows off its impressive capabilities by climbing to 40,000 feet in 7 minutes 21 seconds with seven people aboard. (AYY)
  • In 1988… Japan Air Lines says its future Boeing 747-400s will be fitted with personal video screens in the first and business class. (AYY)

December 15

  • In 1920… The first of a number of flying schools to train reserve pilots for the military opens at Orly, south of Paris. (AYY)
  • In 1970… Artem Mikoyan, founder of the dynasty of MiG fighters, dies (AYY)

December 16

  • In 1951… The first helicopter powered by a gas-turbine engine flies successfully. The Kaman K-225 uses a turbine that makes for a lighter, simpler, more powerful engine compared to a conventional piston engine. (OTM)
  • In 1979… The British Airways Concorde lands in London after flying from New York in less than three hours (2 hours 58 minutes) at an average speed of 1,172 mph. (AYY)

December 17

  • In 1903… Orville Wright makes the first sustained, controlled, powered flight in the Flyer airplane at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. The historic first flight lasts 12 seconds and covers 120 feet. (OTM)
  • In 1969… The USAF closes Project Blue Book, its 22-year investigation into sightings of unidentified flying objects, or UFOs. (AYY)

December 18

  • In 1912… French aviator Rolland Garros becomes the first pilot to bridge two countries in a single flight. He flies his Blériot monoplane from North Africa to Europe, half-way across the Mediterranean, 177mi. (F&F)
  • In 1970… Airbus Industrie is formally established to develop the Airbus A300; it is comprised of Aérospatiale, Deutsche Airbus, Fokker and Hawker Siddeley. (AYY)

December 19

  • In 1908… The world’s first aerodrome, Port-Aviation, is opened 12 miles outside of Paris. (AYY)
  • In 1968… The Boeing Company receives its first order, from Israeli airline El Al, for a long-range version of the 747 Jumbo Jet, production of which was announced just under a month ago. (AYY)
  • In 1978… The first solar-powered aircraft, Solar One, makes a successful flight in England. (OTM)

December 20

  • In 1916… The US Army Balloon School is established in Fort Omaha, Nebraska. (AYY)
  • In 1928… Australian George Wilkins and Lieutenant Carl Eielson make the first flight over Antarctica. They use a Lockheed Vega for the 10-hour flight. (OTM)

December 21

  • In 1960… The first major combat aircraft with variable geometry wings, the General Dynamics F-111, makes its first flight. (OTM)
  • In 1982… The last V-bomber squadron of Britain’s RAF, 44, is disbanded at Waddington, Lincolnshire. (AYY)

December 22

  • In 1930… The Tupolev ANT-6 heavy bomber makes its first flight in U.S.S.R. (AYY)
  • In 1974… The Dassault Breguet Mirage F1-E makes its first flight, in the hands of Guy Mitaux-Maurourard. (AYY)

December 23

  • In 1907… The chief signals officer of the U.S. Army, Brig. Gen. James Allen, issues specification no. 486, the first military aircraft specification for which commercial tenders were invited. The specification is written around the capabilities of the Wright Flyer and, though published for bids to conform to army requirements, only the Wrights are expected to respond by the closing date of February 1, 1908. (F&F)
  • In 1940… The first U.S. all-cargo air service is inaugurated by United Air Lines when at 11:30 P.M. a flight leaves New York for Chicago, where it arrives at 3:40 A.M. local time the following morning after stopping in Cleveland. (F&F)

December 24

  • In 1908… The world’s first aeronautical exhibition opens in Paris when the French president inaugurated the second half of the Annual Automobile Salon at the Grand Palais. (F&F)
  • In 1944… The people of the Philippines receive a surprise when airplanes of 43rd Bombing Group flew over to drop a million Christmas cards; each one contains the words: "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 1944 – General Douglas MacArthur." (AYY)
  • In 1963… New York International Airport is rededicated as John F. Kennedy Airport in honor of the murdered president (AYY)

December 25

  • In 1934… French pilot Raymond Delmotte sets a new world speed record for landplanes of 314.33 mph, flying a Caudron 460. (AYY)
  • In 1946… Today is nicknamed "Black Christmas" as three airlines crash trying to land in bad weather, killing 72 people. It is the worst day so far in the history of Chinese civil aviation. (AYY)

December 26

  • In 1948… I. V. Fedorov becomes the first Soviet pilot to break the sound barrier. He achieves the necessary speed by diving his Lavochkin La-176 jet, powered by a Rolls-Royce Nene engine, at full throttle. (AYY)
  • In 1980… Aeroflot puts the Ilyushin Il-86 into service on its Moscow-Tashkent route. (AYY)

December 27

  • In 1773… George Cayley is born in Scarborough, Yorkshire, England. Pioneer of early aviation regarded by many as the father of flight. His glider takes his coachman on the first manned flight in 1853. (OTM)
  • In 1949… US carriers American Airlines and TWA begin coast-to coast coach-class flights with 60-passenger DC-4s, charging US $110 one-way (AYY)

December 28

  • In 1988… An analysis of the wreckage of the Pan Am Boeing 747, which crashed at Lockerbie, Scotland a week ago, reveals that a bomb had been planted in the jet’s luggage hold. (AYY)

December 29

  • In 1921… Edward Stinson and Lloyd Bertaud set a world endurance record of 26 hours, 18 minutes and 35 seconds flying a BMW-engined Junkers-Larsen over Roosevelt Field. (AYY)

December 30

  • In 1905… The Wright brothers sign a contract for one million francs with Frenchman Arnold Fordyce for the sale of a powered flying machine capable of flying a nonstop distance of 31 mi. When contingent of French government officials come to Dayton in April 1906 to change the agreement by seeking exclusivity for one year, the idea is dropped; for their trouble, the Wrights received 25,000 francs (then about US $5,000), the first money they earn from flying. (F&F)
  • In 1947… The prototype of the second Mikoyan Type S fighter, an early version of the MiG-15, makes its first flight; it has an imported Rolls-Royce Nene 2 jet engine. (AYY)

December 31

  • In 1908… Wilbur Wright at Auvours, France, makes the first flight over 2 hours. He flies for 2 hours and 20 minutes, covers 77 miles, and wins the Michelin Cup for 1908. (OTM)
  • In 1951… This year, for the first time, air passenger miles flown (10.6 million) have exceeded passenger miles traveled in Pullman cars on the railroad (10.2 million). (AYY)
  • In 1958… This year, for the first time, more passengers (1.2 million) have crossed the North Atlantic by air than by sea. (AYY)
  • In 1968… The world’s first supersonic transport aircraft to fly, the Tupolev Tu-144, takes to the air, powered by four 28,660/38,580-lb. s.t. Kuznetsov NK-144 turbofans. (F&F)

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)

From the Centennial of Flight web site.