08 Feb 2014

This Week in Aviation History – February 2-9


Here’s our occasional roundup of interesting anniversaries and trivia about aviation history for the week of February 2nd.



1995 – February 9th: Space Shuttle astronauts Bernard A. Harris, Jr. (pictured) and Michael Foale become the first African-American and first Briton, respectively, to perform spacewalks during the Space Shuttle Columbia STS-55 mission.


1969 – February 9th: First flight of the Boeing 747 “Jumbo Jet” airliner takes place in Seattle, Washington. The wide-bodied, long-range transport is capable of carrying 347 passengers, and is the largest aircraft in commercial airline service in the world.

1939 – The Lockheed P-38 Lightning flew for the first time seventy-five years ago this week. The twin-boomed P-38 was fast, heavily armed and extremely versatile. The P-38 was the first American fighter capable of flying faster than 400 miles per hour. Turbo-supercharged engines with boom-mounted radiators gave the Lightning superb high-altitude performance and the tricycle landing gear made engine maintenance easier for maintainers and helped to reduce accidents during take-off and landing.

P-38 pilots executed the long-range intercept mission that killed Japan’s Admiral Yamamoto, who planned the Pearl Harbor attack. The P-38M variant was one of the fastest night fighters of World War II, and the F-4 and F-5 photo-gathering Lightnings were among the best reconnaissance aircraft of the war. The P-38 was flown by Majors Richard I. Bong and Thomas B. McGuire, America’s top-scoring aces of all time with 40 and 38 victories, respectively.