The History of the Airplane

Applied Educational Systems


In 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the first airplane and made the first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The airplane flew for 12 seconds and traveled 120 feet. Over the years, the Wright brothers improved their airplane, and in 1908, they built an airplane for the United States Army.


In 1911, Calbraith Rodgers flew from Long Island, New York, to Long Beach, California. This flight was the first coast-to-coast flight. The flight took 49 days because there were various stopovers. It was not until 1923 that Lieutenant John Macready and Oakley Kelly made the first nonstop coast-to-coast flight. They traveled from New York City, New York, to

San Diego, California in 26 hours and 50 minutes.


World War I brought many developments to the airplane. It was first used to take pictures of enemy positions and was later equipped with machine guns and bombs.


As a result of the improvements to the airplane during World War I, in 1919, the United States Navy flew from Rockaway, New York, to Newfoundland, to the Azores, to Lisbon, Portugal, and finally to Plymouth, England. This flight was the first trans-Atlantic flight. Later in the same year, Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Brown made the first nonstop trans-Atlantic flight. They flew from Newfoundland to Ireland in 16 hours and 12 minutes.


The first commercial airplane passenger service began in Europe in 1920. The United States’ first

commercial airplane passenger service, both domestic and international, began in 1927.


In 1924, two United States Army airplanes, the Chicago and the New Orleans, made the first flights around the world. The flights lasted from April to September because there were various stopovers along the way. Then, in 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first trans-Atlantic solo flight in his airplane the Spirit of St. Louis. The flight lasted 33 hours and 30 minutes. In 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to make a trans-Atlantic solo flight.


Airplanes were also used extensively during World War II. One of the airplane’s first major developments during this time occurred in 1939 when the Germans made the first jet airplane.


After World War II, in 1947, the first rocket-powered airplane, an American plane, flew faster than the speed of sound (supersonic).


In 1952, Great Britain had the first commercial jet airplane passenger service. And in 1976, Great Britain and France made the Concorde, the first supersonic commercial passenger service. The Concorde flew 2.5 times the speed of sound.