Otto Lilienthal in mid-flight, c. 1895.
First glider flights
First glider flight: In 1853, a glider designed by George Cayley first flew. One report gives John Appleby as the pilot.
First photographed manned glider flight: Otto Lilienthal, in 1891.
First flight in a powered airplane:
The Wright brothers are widely regarded as the inventors of the first fixed-wing aircraft to achieve sustained, controlled flight, the Wright Flyer. Orville Wright made the first successful flight in this aircraft on December 17, 1903, travelling 120 feet (37 m) at a speed of 6.8 mph (10.9 km/h).
On October 9, 1890, Clément Ader flew uncontrolled for approximately 50 m (160 ft) in the steam-powered Éole.
Gustave Whitehead claimed a flight on August 14, 1901, which was described in detail in a contemporary newspaper article. His claims are dismissed by many aviation historians, as are those of persons who stated decades later that they saw short flights.
Richard Pearse is said to have flown a fixed-wing aircraft several hundred meters on March 31, 1903. Pearse himself later denied this claim. Several persons stated decades later that they witnessed or were told of short flights or hops by Pearse in 1903 prior to December, the month the Wrights flew.
First circular flight by a powered airplane: Wilbur Wright flew 4,080 feet (1,244 m) in about a minute and a half on September 20, 1904.
First heavier-than-air flight of more than 25 meters in Europe: On October 23, 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont, flew a distance of 60 metres (200 ft) in his 14-bis at the Chateau de Bagatelle, Paris, winning the Archdeacon Prize.
First flight certified and registered by Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI): On November 12, 1906, in the presence of official observers from the newly founded FAI, Alberto Santos Dumont flew his 14-bis a distance of 220 metres (720 ft) at the Chateau de Bagatelle, Paris.
First airplane passenger:
Léon Delagrange, with pilot Henri Farman, on March 29, 1908.
Charles Furnas, Wright Company mechanic, in a Wright Flyer III flown by Wilbur Wright on May 14, 1908.
First person to die in a crash of a powered airplane: Thomas Etholen Selfridge, a passenger on an aircraft piloted by Orville Wright which crashed at Fort Myer on September 17, 1908. Wright was badly injured, and was hospitalised for seven weeks.
First ditching of an airplane in the sea: Hubert Latham, while attempting to complete the first powered flight across the English Channel on July 19, 1909, instead became the first person to perform a water landing when his aircraft suffered engine failure.
First airplane flight across the English Channel: Louis Blériot crossed the Channel on July 25, 1909, winning the Daily Mail prize of £1,000.
First woman to earn a pilot license: Raymonde de Laroche on March 8, 1910.
First documented and witnessed seaplane flight under power from water’s surface: Henri Fabre, piloting the Fabre Hydravion, at Martigues, France, on March 28, 1910.
First Chief of State to fly on an airplane: Ferdinand I of Bulgaria was a passenger in an aircraft flown by Jules de Laminne on July 15, 1910, during a visit in Belgium.
First mid-air collision between two airplanes: An Antoinette monoplane, piloted by Rene Thomas, rammed Bertram Dickson’s Farman biplane on October 1, 1910.
First shipboard take-off and landing by an airplane: Eugene Burton Ely, in a Curtiss pusher, took off from a temporary platform aboard light cruiser USS Birmingham on November 14, 1910. Ely was also the first to land an airplane on a ship, touching down on a temporary platform aboard armored cruiser USS Pennsylvania on January 11, 1911.
The first non-stop flight from London to Paris: Pierre Prier on 12 April 1911 in 3 hours and 56 minutes.
First woman to die in a crash of a powered airplane: Denise Moore, on July 21, 1911.
First flight across the Continental Divide of the Americas: Cromwell Dixon flew over the Rocky Mountains in a Curtiss pusher on September 30, 1911, reaching an altitude of 7,100 feet.
Armour Company poster showing the Vin Fiz transcontinental flight route, autumn 1911
First transcontinental flight across North America: Calbraith Perry Rodgers piloted the Wright Model EX pusher biplane, the Vin Fiz Flyer through a seventy-plus-stop cross-country flight from his departure from Sheepshead Bay, New York on September 17, 1911, flying westwards across the United States to arrive in Long Beach, California by December 10, 1911.
First parachute jump from an airplane:
Grant Morton, according to some sources, jumped from a Wright Model B over Venice, California, in 1911.
Albert Berry jumped from a Benoist biplane over Jefferson Barracks, Missouri, on March 1, 1912. Berry is generally considered to have been the first to jump from an airplane, notwithstanding Morton’s claim.
First woman to fly across the English Channel: Harriet Quimby flew from Dover to Hardelot-Plage on April 16, 1912.
First airplane flight across the Irish Sea: Denys Corbett Wilson took off from Goodwick in Wales in his Bleriot XI and landed at Enniscorthy in Ireland 100 minutes later, on April 22, 1912.
First take-off by an airplane from a moving ship: Commander Charles R. Samson took off from a temporary platform aboard battleship HMS Hibernia in a Short Improved S.27 No. 38, on May 9, 1912.
First bombing attack against a surface ship: Didier Masson and Captain Joaquín Bauche Alcalde, flying for Mexican Revolutionist Venustiano Carranza, dropped dynamite bombs on Federalist gunboats at Guaymas, Mexico, on May 10, 1913.
First air drop of propaganda leaflets: Didier Masson, flying for the Mexican Revolutionist Venustiano Carranza, post May 10, 1913.
First pilot to fly a loop: Pyotr Nesterov in a Nieuport IV, on September 9, 1913.
First flight across the Mediterranean Sea: Roland Garros flew from the South of France to Tunisia, on September 23, 1913.
First dogfight: Dean Ivan Lamb (flying a Curtiss pusher) and Phil Rader (in a Christopherson biplane) fired pistol shots at each other while airborne, during the Siege of Naco, Mexico. This incident took place sometime around November/December 1913; the exact date is unknown.
First scheduled commercial flight using winged aircraft: On January 1, 1914, Tony Jannus piloted the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line with a Benoist XIV biplane flying-boat, carrying former St. Petersburg mayor Abraham C. Pheill as its first paying passenger. The flight from St. Petersburg to Tampa took 23 minutes, and was repeated twice daily, six days a week, until May 5, 1914.
First flights by a mostly-metal aircraft: In May 1914, Vlaicu III, an aircraft with metal body and canvas wings, was completed in Romania and managed to fly a distance of 200–300 meters at an altitude of 2 meters.
First flight across the North Sea: On July 30, 1914, Tryggve Gran flew from Cruden Bay in Scotland to Jæren in Norway, a distance of 320 miles (510 km), in 4 hours and 10 minutes.
First aircraft intentionally downed by another aircraft: A Russian Morane-Saulnier G flown by Pyotr Nesterov rammed an Austrian Albatros B.II reconnaissance aircraft operated by observer Baron Friedrich von Rosenthal and pilot Franz Malina from FLIK 11 on September 7, 1914. Both aircraft were destroyed and all three individuals died.
First aircraft to shoot down another aircraft: A French Voisin III, piloted by Sergeant Joseph Frantz and Corporal Louis Quénault, engaged a German Aviatik B.II near Rheims on October 5, 1914. After expending all of his machine-gun ammunition, Quénault shot the German pilot (Wilhelm Schlichting) with his rifle, causing the Aviatik to crash.
First shooting down of a military aircraft with ground-to-air fire: During Italo-Turkish War in 1912 Turks shot an aeroplane by rifle.
First shooting down of a military aircraft with ground-to-air artillery fire: Serbian Army private Radoje Ljutovac shot an Austro-Hungarian aircraft with a cannon on 30 September 1915, during a bombing raid on Kragujevac.
First female military pilot: Eugenie Mikhailovna Shakhovskaya was a reconnaissance pilot in the Imperial Russian Air Service, having been ordered to active service on November 19, 1914.
The actual E.5/15 aircraft used by Wintgens in his pioneering aerial engagement on July 1, 1915, as it appeared at the time of the engagement.
First aerial victory for a fighter aircraft armed with a forward-firing synchronized machine gun: Leutnant Kurt Wintgens of the Deutsches Heer’s Fliegertruppe air service, while serving with its Feldflieger Abteilung 6b squadron flying a production prototype (M.5K/MG) of the Fokker E.I Eindecker, downed a French Morane-Saulnier L “Parasol” near Lunéville, France, on July 1, 1915.
First female fighter pilot: According to Guinness World Records, Sabiha Gökçen. However, others such as Marie Marvingt in 1915  or Eugenie Mikhailovna Shakhovskaya preceded her as military pilots in other roles, probably without a military academy enrollment.
First aerial torpedo attack on a ship: Charles Edmonds, flying a Short 184, torpedoed and sunk a Turkish supply ship in the Sea of Marmara on August 12, 1915. The ship was abandoned, having been crippled by a British submarine four days earlier.
First combat search and rescue by airplane: Richard Bell Davies rescued a comrade who had been shot down in Bulgaria on November 19, 1915.
First medical evacuation (medevac) by air: Louis Paulhan evacuated the seriously ill Milan Stefanik from the Serbian front in 1915.
First black military pilot: Ahmet Ali Çelikten a.k.a. Arap Ahmet Ali was the first black military pilot in the history, served in Ottoman Aviation Squadrons from 1914 or 1915. His grandmother came from Bornu (now in Nigeria) to the Ottoman Empire as a slave.
The Junkers J 1, the world’s first airworthy all-metal aircraft (1915-16)
First flights by an all-metal aircraft: The Junkers J 1 pioneering all-metal demonstrator aircraft was flown on several flight trials starting on 12 December 1915 through to 19 January 1916, by both Gefreiter Paul Arnold and Leutnant Theodor Mallinckrodt on separate occasions, with the J 1 attaining altitudes up to 900 meters (3,000 ft) and airspeeds up to 170 km/h (110 mph).
First landing by an airplane on a moving ship: Squadron Commander Edwin Dunning, in a Sopwith Pup, landed on HMS Furious on August 2, 1917.
First flight by an airplane across the Andes: Luis Candelaria flew from Zapala, Argentina, to Cunco, Chile, on April 13, 1918; reaching an altitude of 4,000 meters.
First flight across the Andes for its top mountains, Chile – Argentina: Teniente Dagoberto Godoy, on December 12, 1918. Made the crossing on a Bristol M.1C and was awarded by a bi-national Chilean-Argentinian prize. Reach an altitude of more 6.300 meters, without oxygen supply.
First non-stop transatlantic flight: Alcock and Brown flew a modified Vickers Vimy from St. John’s, Newfoundland, to Clifden, Ireland, on June 14–15, 1919. They were awarded a Daily Mail prize of £10,000, and both men were knighted by King George V.
First England to Australia flight: Keith Macpherson Smith and Ross Macpherson Smith (plus mechanics Sergeant W.H. (Wally) Shiers and J.M. (Jim) Bennett) completed the journey from Hounslow Heath Aerodrome to Darwin in a Vickers Vimy on December 10, 1919, winning a prize of £A10,000.
First African-American woman to obtain a pilot’s license: Bessie Coleman on June 15, 1921.
First aerial crossing of the South Atlantic: Artur de Sacadura Cabral and Gago Coutinho flew from Lisbon, Portugal, to Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, between March 30 and June 17, 1922. The first to use astronomical navigation (and to rely solely on it during the crossing), with an artificial horizon for aeronautical use.
First aerial refueling: An Airco DH.4B biplane of the United States Army Air Service successfully refuelled another DH.4B in mid-air on June 27, 1923.
First Portugal to China flight: Sarmento de Beires and Brito Pais flew from Vila Nova de Milfontes, Alentejo, to Canton, between April 7 and June 20, 1924.
First solo non-stop transatlantic flight: Charles Lindbergh, flying the Spirit of St. Louis, made the 33-hour journey from New York to Paris on May 20–21, 1927, winning the Orteig Prize.
First transpacific flight from U.S. mainland to Hawaii: U.S. Army lieutenants Albert Francis Hegenberger and Lester J. Maitland flew from California to Hawaii in the Bird of Paradise, a C-2 transport, on June 28–29, 1927.
First female airline pilot: Marga von Etzdorf (de) was hired by Lufthansa in 1927. One year later, Mary, Lady Heath, was hired by KLM.
First transpacific flight to Australia: Charles Kingsford Smith and crew, in the Southern Cross, flew from Oakland, California, to Brisbane, Australia, between May 31 and June 9, 1928.
First woman to fly across the Atlantic (as passenger): Amelia Earhart was flown by Wilmer Stultz and Louis Gordon, in a Fokker F.VII, from Trepassey, Newfoundland, to Burry Port, Wales, on June 17, 1928.
First successful trans-Tasman flight: Charles Kingsford Smith and crew, in the Southern Cross, flew from Richmond, New South Wales, to Christchurch, New Zealand, on September 9–10, 1928, becoming the first airplane pilots to successfully cross the Tasman Sea.
First solo trans-Tasman flight: Guy Menzies, flying an Avro Avian named the Southern Cross Junior, took off from Sydney on January 7, 1931, and crash-landed in a swamp near Hari Hari, New Zealand, nearly twelve hours later.
First nonstop flight across the Pacific Ocean: Clyde Pangborn and Hugh Herndon flew from Samushiro, Japan, to Wenatchee, Washington, on October 4–5, 1931. The journey took 41 hours, 13 minutes.
First female pilot to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean: Amelia Earhart, in a Lockheed Vega 5B, flew from Harbour Grace, Newfoundland, to Culmore, Ireland, on May 20, 1932.
First successful single-lift rotor helicopter: Alexei Cheremukhin and Boris Yuriev’s TsAGI-1EA, which flew to a record altitude of 605 meters (1,985 ft) on August 14, 1932.
First flight over the world’s highest peak, Mount Everest: Lord Clydesdale and David McIntyre, in Westland’s PV-3 and PV-6 respectively, flew over Everest on April 3, 1933.
First flight by a liquid-fueled rocket-powered aircraft: The Heinkel He 176, piloted by Erich Warsitz, made its maiden flight on June 20, 1939.
First flight by a turbojet-powered aircraft: The Heinkel He 178, piloted by Erich Warsitz, made its maiden flight on August 27, 1939.
First aerial combat engagement with a jet fighter: The Messerschmitt Me 262A-1a twin-jet fighter, Werknummer (serial number) 130 017 flown by Leutnant Alfred Schreiber, serving with the Ekdo 262 service test unit at Lechfeld Air Base, Bavaria, engaged an RAF de Havilland Mosquito twin-piston engined reconnaissance aircraft of 540 Squadron on July 26, 1944, in an inconclusive combat sortie.
First combat sortie by any rocket-powered military aircraft: The Messerschmitt Me 163B Komet interceptor aircraft of I. Gruppe/JG 400 from Brandis in Germany on July 28, 1944.
Heavier than air; 1947–present
First human to break the sound barrier: Chuck Yeager first exceeded the speed of sound in level flight in a Bell X-1 on October 14, 1947.
First nonstop around-the-world flight: B-50A Superfortress Lucky Lady II, commanded by Capt. James Gallagher, flew around the world from 26 February to 2 March 1949, taking off and landing at Carswell AFB, Texas. The Superfortress refuelled inflight four times from KB-29M tankers.
First British all-female airline flight crew: An all-female crew, captained by Caroline Frost, flew for British Air Ferries from Southend to Düsseldorf on October 31, 1977.
First supersonic scheduled passenger flights: Concorde, the world’s first supersonic passenger transport, made two simultaneous maiden flights – from London to Bahrain, and from Paris to Rio de Janeiro – on January 21, 1976.
First non-stop, un-refueled fixed-wing aircraft flight around the Earth: Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager, aboard the Rutan Model 76 Voyager, December 14–23, 1986. The flight took 9 days, 3 minutes and 44 seconds.
First deployment of an FAA-certified whole-plane parachute recovery system: Scott D. Anderson successfully flew all 7 inflight test deployments of the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System (CAPS). The tests were done in a Cirrus SR20 during the summer of 1998; the plane became type certified in October of that year.
First solo non-stop fixed-wing aircraft flight around the Earth: Steve Fossett flew from Salina, Kansas, eastbound and back, on a Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, between February 28 and March 3, 2005, taking a total time of 67 hours.
First piloted overnight solar-powered flight in a fixed-wing aircraft: Andre Borschberg piloted the Solar Impulse 1 for a continuous flight of more than 24 hours, between 7 July and 8 July 2010.
First piloted non-stop solar-powered transatlantic flight: Bertrand Piccard flew from New York City to Seville in the Solar Impulse 2 between 20 June and 23 June 2016.
First circumnavigation of the world by a piloted fixed-wing aircraft using only solar power: Solar Impulse 2 between March 2015 and July 2016; Borschberg and Piccard alternated piloting stages of the journey.