History of Aviation Part Four: World War II to 1980s

Many historians declare World War II as a turning point in the history of aviation, since it is believed the sheer force of the Allies’ air power defeated the Axis powers.  Despite Germany’s boastings that their air force exceeded the enemies’, the large-scale bombings and development of planes based on weapons systems brought an Allied success.  After the war, many available ex-military planes led to an increase in commercial aviation.

Pratt and Whitney

History-of-Aviation-Part-Four-300x200During the war, Pratt and Whitney engines powered several different fighters and bombers, including the Corsair.  In October 1940, the Corsair became the first single-engine fighter plane to exceed 400 miles per hour in level flight.  The Pratt and Whitney R-2800 also powered the Hellcat, Thunderbolt, and Marauder – also serving as the engine in the first twin-engine, radar-equipped night fighter named the Black Widow.  In order to meet the needs of combat, engines were retrofitted to use higher-rating fuels of octane to obtain the necessary power.

First Sustained Jet Service

On September 15, 1956, Aeroflot became the first airline to operate jet service on a regular basis.  The development of the Boeing 707 offered more comfort and safety than previous planes, further enhancing passenger jet service.  In the history of aviation, this is considered the start of the Jet Age.

Cold War

With the advent of the atom bomb, the history of aviation took another turn as countries scrambled to protect themselves against the threat of nuclear attack.  Aircraft quickly developed with long-range bombing capabilities, as well as actual countermeasures to attack with.  In the 1950s, the shift changed from airplane protection to surface-to-air missiles protection, and eventually to guarding against intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Progression of standard aviation slowed significantly throughout the 1960s and ’70s as aviators focused on space travel.  Commercial air travel no longer concentrated on developing bigger, faster engines but more on passenger comfort and safety.  However, advancements continued in the areas of fuel economy and cost reduction in an effort to promote passenger travel on aircraft.  For more information on the history of aviation, join Covington Aircraft’s social community on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.


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