This time Baltic Aviation Academy would like to dedicate the current column to the most important people in aviation – pilots. Most likely aviation would not have developed to the present point without their courage and passion for the blue skies.
Before commencing with its list of the greatest pilots in history, Baltic Aviation Academy would like to note that Otto Lilienthal (‘The Father of Flight’) who was the first person to make well-documented, repeated and successful gliding flights as well as the Wright brothers (Orville and Wilbur) who were the first to build a successful plane in 1903 did not appear in the list. Why? These personas with their great input into the aviation history simply could not fit under any category and could have not been compared with any others.
1. Baroness Raymonde de Laroche
This woman had changed the aviation history by simply getting a pilot’s license. It may seem like a not such big a deal, except for one fact – she was the first woman in the world to do that. The first time she manoeuvred an aircraft was in 1909 with her friend C. Voisin’s aircraft. This aircraft could only accommodate a single person, so she operated the plane by herself while he stood on the ground and gave instructions. In 1910 the baroness Raymonde de Laroche received her pilot licence and was the first woman to achieve that in the entire history of aviation.
2. James H. Doolittle
You might say that James H. Doolittle had been an aviation enthusiast from a very early age. When he was merely 15 he built a glider, jumped off a cliff and… crashed. Despite his failure he decided to gather the pieces of the broken glider, drag them home, repair the thing and climb on a cliff and… crash once again. Regardless of these setbacks, James H. Doolittle had grown to be known for his solo crossing of the continental United States in de Havilland DH-4 in less than 24 hours, in 1922. In 1927 he performed his first outside loop with a Curtiss Hawk. The most important achievement of this pilot was established in 1929 when J. Doolitle flew from takeoff to landing only referring to the instruments as: Paul Kollsman’s altimeter, Elmer Sperry’s artificial horizon, and directional gyro.
3. Noel Wien
This man should be very well known across in Alaska. He was the one to introduce an airplane to this region in 1924 and now Alaska has a higher ratio of aircraft and pilots to the residents than any other state. He was the first in Alaska and Canada to fly north of the Arctic Circle, first to fly Arctic Coast commercially and to fly from North America to Siberia. N. Wien lost his eye due to an infection However, he managed to hold his medical certificate and continued flying until 1955.
4. Jean Mermoz
Jean Mermoz was a French Air Force aviator and served in the 11th regiment in Syria. After his military service Jean Mermoz came back to France and became an airmail pilot. He set a goal for an aircraft designer Pierre Latecoere to design an airmail line linking Europe with Africa and South America. And that is how J. Mermoz and others started flying over the Andes. Despite the tough flying conditions he became the project’s main pilot, determined to reach the Pacific Ocean, and, after multiple stops, he managed to reach Santiago, Chile. During that time (in 1928), in order to save time, he decided to fly during the night, using light beacons and flares as guides. After that night flight mail delivery was no longer restricted to daylight-only operations.
5. Charles Lindbergh
There is no doubt that one of the greatest aviators in history is Charles Lindbergh, also known as the “Lucky Lindy”. He is the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean, flying non-stop from New York to Paris, alone in May of 1927. The flight was made in a specially built Ryan monoplane Spirit of St. Louis.
6. Amelia Earhart
Amelia Earhart, a.k.a. “Lady Lindy”, was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932. She received the U.S. Distinguished Flying Cross for this record. She was also the first to fly nonstop from Honolulu to Oakland in 1935. A. Earhart disappeared over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island during an attempt to make a circum navigational flight of the globe in 1937 in a Purdue-funded Lockheed Model 10 Electra, over the central Pacific Ocean near Howland Island.
7. S.Darius and S. Girenas
We are very proud to present these two great Lithuanian names. S.Darius and S.Girenas were Lithuanian pilots to perform the first flight over the Atlantic Ocean. On July the 15th, 1933, they flew across the Atlantic Ocean, covering the distance of 3,984 miles (6,411 kilometres) without landing in 37 hours and 11 minutes (107.1 mph). At that time their flight as far as the distance of non-stop flights was concerned ranked as the second and, in terms of duration of flight, they were fourth in the entire history of aviation of the time. After successfully flying 6,411 km, their plane crashed due to undetermined circumstances, 650 km from its destination, Kaunas, Lithuania.
8. Chuck Yeager
Chuck Yeager is a noted test pilot who is known for being the first one to fly faster than the sound in 1947. It should be mentioned that before that some of the attempts to do such a thing had ended in the deaths of other pilots. After the war, Yeager became a test pilot of many types of aircraft including experimental rocket-powered aircraft.
9. Jacqueline Auriol
Jacqueline Auriol was a daughter of a wealthy French shipbuilder and a daughter-in-law of the president of France Vincent Auriol. As a result of her admiration for aviation she got her pilot’s license in 1948 and became an accomplished stunt flier and test pilot. Sadly, in 1949 J.Auriol suffered a crash after which she spent 3 years in hospital and had a few dozens of reconstructive face surgeries. Even after such a major crash and long recovery process she got a helicopter license and in 1950 became the first woman pilot in the France military Flight Test Centre. In addition to that she was one of the few women to break the sound barrier and set five world speed records in the 1950s and 1960s.
10. Emily Howell Warner
In 1976 Emily Howell Warner became the first female to command a commercial flight. Frontier Airlines made a bold move for those times and placed E.H. Warner as a captain in a major American passenger flight. Before that she had been a pilot of a Boeing 737 working for the United Postal Service. Emily Howell Warner is also known as an examiner for the FAA.
toptenz.net (Top 10 Famous Aviators In History);
mnn.com (8 famous female aviators);
airspacemag.com (10 Great Pilots).