The Montgolfier Bros and Manned Flight, 1783

A model of the Montgolfier brothers’ balloon at the London Science Museum.
The brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier developed a hot air balloon in Annonay, Ardeche, France, and demonstrated it publicly on September 19, 1783, making an unmanned flight lasting 10 minutes.
After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first balloon flight with humans aboard, a tethered flight, performed on or around October 15, 1783, by Jean-Francois pilatre de Rozier who made at least one tethered flight from the yard of the Reveillon workshop in the Faubourg Saint-Antoine.
Later that same day, Pilatre de Rozier became the second human to ascend into the air, reaching an altitude of 26 m (85 ft), the length of the tether.
The first free flight with human passengers was made a few weeks later, on November 21, 1783.
King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but de Rozier, along with Marquis François d’Arlandes, petitioned successfully for the honor.
The first military use of a hot air balloon happened in 1794 during the battle of Fleurus, when the French used the balloon for observation.
Source: Hot air balloon | encyclopedia article by TheFreeDictionary

Airships from the Past.

Here’s a gallery of beautiful air vehicles of the past
Vintage Photos of Zeppelins in History (1)Pax, a colorful airship, constructed by a Brazilian inventor named Augusto Severo. The inventor was killed in Paris in 1902 when the airship rose steeply and exploded. (Photo by Henry Guttmann/Getty Images)
Vintage Photos of Zeppelins in History (10)
USS Los Angeles, upside down after a turbulent wind from the Atlantic, Lakehurst, New Jersey, 1926 (AP)
Vintage Photos of Zeppelins in History (15)R101, a British airship completed in 1929, crashed on 5 October 1930 in France during its very first overseas voyage. 48 of the 54 people were died on board.

via vintage everyday: aviation.

Amelia Earhart, first woman to fly Atlantic.

A Guardian photographic highlight:
On 21 May 1932, Amelia Earhart became the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic.
She had meant to fly to Paris but bad weather and mechanical problems forced her to land in a field near Londonderry, Ireland. “After scaring most of the cows in the neighborhood,” she said, “I pulled up in a farmer’s back yard.”

American aviator Amelia Earhart is surrounded by a crowd of wellwishers and pressmen while being congratulated on her solo flight in a Lockeed Vega by Andrew Mellon, United States ambassador to Britain.
Image Credit: Photograph by Topical Press Agency/Getty Images.
Source: Amelia Earhart – picture of the day | US news | The Guardian

First Class Air Travel in the 1930s.

Flying was very expensive. Most people still rode trains or buses for intercity travel.
Only business travellers and the wealthy could afford to fly. America’s airline industry expanded rapidly, from carrying only 6,000 passengers in 1930 to more than 450,000 by 1934, to 1.2 million by 1938.
Still, only a tiny fraction of the travelling public flew.
The very first aircraft were narrow and long, and the passenger seats were perceived as an innovation, a kind of luxury and an optional extra, like caviar sandwiches with butter.
The first seats were the most common chairs, seat belts were not.
At first, the passengers were sitting right behind the pilot, there was no partitions.
Source: Here’s What First Class Air Travel Looked Like in the 1930s ~ vintage everyday

A History of Big: Massive Aircraft, 1936.

In the history of aircraft, there’s big, really big, and then Hughes H-4 (“Spruce Goose”) big.
Then there’s the ocean-going aircraft above, found on p. 529 in the 1936 volume of Popular Mechanics.
The nameless aircraft would be more than 375′ long and have a wingspan of 550′.
By comparison, an aircraft called the “Stratolaunch” now under construction and designed by Burt Rutan, would have a wingspan of 385′.
The “Spruce Goose” was 319′ wide and 216′ long; the 747-8 was 249’wide and 242′ long; and the Airbus A 380-800 stands 262′ wide and 236′ long.
In short, of planes having flown, this fabulous thing with the 550′ wings would be twice their size.
That said, this giant aircraft was limited not by imagination but by flight of technological fancy.
It was supposed to require a crew of 100, fly at only 12k feet at 300mph, and make it across the Atlantic in 11 hours.
So, the size was certainly awesome by today’s standards; the tech business end of it, not so much.
In any event, the image is quite striking:
Source: JF Ptak Science Books: A History of Big: Massive Aircraft, 1936

Airship R33, Selby, England, 1919.

pervaya-mirovaya-vojna-3-24-990x718An observer in the tail tip of the English airship R33 on March 6, 1919 in Selby, England. (Bibliotheque nationale de France)
World War I was the first major conflict to see widespread use of powered aircraft — invented barely more than a decade before the fighting began.
Airplanes, along with kites, tethered balloons, and zeppelins gave all major armies a new tactical platform to observe and attack enemy forces from above.

R33shed

via vintage everyday.