Event 85

1939 AD

First jet plane
This is the Heinkel He 178, the world’s first turbojet powered aircraft. It was part of the German Air Force during World War II, and it was first flown on August 27, 1939.
Credit: Photo from NASA, courtesy of Wikipedia.

A jet engine differs from a conventional internal combustion engine for a propeller aircraft by producing much higher thrust values through the use of an air-breathing reaction engine which drives a gas turbine (turbojet). They can generally fly faster and higher than propeller-driven aircraft, and today some fly even faster than three times the speed of sound (Mach 3). The first flight of a first jet-engine airplane was in Germany in 1939 with the flight of the prototype of the Heinkel He 178. Towards the end of World War II the Germans developed the first practical jet aircraft fighter planes, the Messerschmitt Me 262, the first jet to see military action. Fortunately for the Allies, these jets came too late to make a major difference in the war, and Germany was defeated. After the war, jet technology advanced rapidly, and today most of our commercial and military planes are some form of jet aircraft.

Jet aircraft revolutionized air travel, being faster, safer, and usually with a longer flight range and carrying capacity than conventional aircraft. Transoceanic flights became much more common beginning after World War II, although the first commercial airliners were propeller-driven. The first commercial jet airliner was the British de Havilland DH 106 Comet, which was introduced to the BOAC airlines in 1952, flying from London to Johannesburg, South Africa. The first American jet aircraft was the Boeing 707, introduced in 1958. Jet aircraft also revolutionized military warfare, with today’s major fighters and bombers being jet-powered.



A cross-country trip from New York to Los Angeles would have taken several hard months by wagon train, several long days by automobile or train, but just several relatively pleasant hours (depending on the service and the food) by jet aircraft. We can also cross the Atlantic to Europe in just a few hours, or get to almost anywhere in the world within a day’s travel time. This is truly remarkable. Jets have revolutionized the way we travel, making our trips faster and (statistically) much safer than other modes of transportation, and capable of carrying hundreds of passengers. And anybody who has ever flown over Manhattan, the Caribbean Islands, the Grand Canyon, Yosemite Valley, or the Golden Gate on a clear day has been treated to spectacular views that our ancestors could only have dreamed of.






This is about the Wright brothers and their role in the development of the first airplane.

This webpage is about the first airplane.

This is an article about how airplanes work.

This is a German history of the first aircraft.



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