All experienced pilots are nerds at heart. Just like a race car driver can give you details from a hundred different landmark moments, most pilots are pretty knowledgeable when it comes to the history of aviation. At SAFT, we encourage all of our learners – both young and old – to get really excited about the industry, its legacy, and its proudest moments.

Aviation, particularly commercial long-haul flying, has changed the world. There is no far flung corner of the planet that we can’t reach now and it has had a profound impact on just about everything that our cultures and societies hold dear. So, there is no overestimating the influence that developments in aviation have had, but which were the most important?

We’re going to take a trip down the memory runway and introduce you to some of the most groundbreaking moments in aviation history.


1783 – The First Balloon Flight

French brothers and inventors, Jacques and Joseph Montgolfier, were the first to build a basic, operational hot air balloon. Its inaugural flight lasted just ten minutes and travelled only a mile, but it paved the way for greater things to come. A few months later, the brothers became the first to safely sail a manned balloon.


1903 – The Wright Brothers Take to the Skies

It wasn’t until 1903, however (not much longer than a century ago), that the legendary Wright brothers made history on the sand dunes, in North Carolina. They were the first men in history to take to the skies in an airplane, after building a 12 horsepower biplane in their spare time. The initial four flights weren’t long ones (around a minute), but they changed everything. The year after, the two brothers were making longer flights and learning how to turn in the air.


1919 – The First Transatlantic Flight

After the Wright brothers opened up a world of possibilities, the aviation industry started to develop at a remarkably rapid pace. It was only fifteen years after Orville Wright made the first complete circle in the air that Commander Albert Read flew from Newfoundland to Portugal. It was the first transatlantic flight, but it would inspire many more. In the same year, the first London to Paris passenger service was launched.


1927 – Charles Levine Crosses the Atlantic

In 1927, one Charles A. Levine was bold enough to become the first (and only) commercial passenger on the inaugural transatlantic flight from New York to Germany. The flight went smoothly and caused great excitement among the general public, many of whom couldn’t wait to experience it for themselves.


1929 – James Doolittle Flies Blind

This is a moment that is often lost among the bluster and pomp of those first landmark flights, but it was a vital development and one which shaped the modern aviation industry. During this year, pilot Doolittle proved the worth of instrument guided flying systems by taking off and landing with no literal visibility.


1958 – The First Transatlantic Passenger Service

In October 1958, Pan American became the first airline in history to offer commercial trips across the Atlantic. The flights travelled from New York to Paris and the moment represents the beginning of the long haul passenger plane, as we know it now. Later that year, National Airlines launched the first intercontinental flight between New York and Miami.


2007 – Barrington Irving Breaks the Record

And, just to show that aviation records are still being beaten now, check out this landmark moment from pilot Barrington Irving. Just nine years ago, he became the youngest pilot to fly solo around the world, at the age of 25 years.