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Many cultures have built devices that travel through the air, from the earliest projectiles such as stones and spears, to more sophisticated buoyant or aerodynamic devices such as the boomerang in Australia, or kites. There are early legends of human flight such as the story of Icarus, and later, more credible claims of short-distance human flights including a kite flight by Yuan Huangtou in China, the parachute flight of Armen Firman, and the glider flight of Abbas Ibn Firnas.
The practicality of balloons was limited by the fact that they could only travel downwind. It was immediately recognized that a steerable, or dirigible, balloon was required. Although several airships, as steerable balloons came to be called, were built during the 1800s, the first aircraft to make routine flights were made by the Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont. Santos-Dumont effectively combined an elongated balloon with an internal combustion engine. On October 19, 1901 he became world famous when he flew his airship "Number 6" over Paris to win the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize. Santos-Dumont's success with airships proved that controlled and sustained flight was possible.
Aircraft began to transport people and cargo as designs grew larger and more reliable. In contrast to small non-rigid blimps, giant rigid airships became the first aircraft to transport passengers and cargo over great distances. The best known aircraft of this type were manufactured by the German Zeppelin company.
Great progress was made in airplane design during the 1920s and 1930s. One of the most successful designs of this period was the Douglas DC-3 which became the first airliner that was profitable carrying passengers exclusively, starting the modern era of passenger airline service. By the beginning of World War II, many towns and cities had built airports, and there were numerous qualified pilots available. The war brought many innovations to aviation, including the first jet aircraft and the first liquid-fueled rockets.
After WWII, especially in North America, there was a boom in general aviation, both private and commercial, as thousands of pilots were released from military service and many inexpensive war-surplus transport and training aircraft became available. Manufacturers such as Cessna, Piper, and Beechcraft expanded production to provide light aircraft for the new middle class market.
By the 1950s, the development of civil jets grew, beginning with the de Havilland Comet, though the first widely-used passenger jet was the Boeing 707. At the same time, turboprop propulsion began to appear for smaller commuter planes, making it possible to serve small-volume routes in a much wider range of weather conditions.
Yuri Gagarin was the first human to travel to space on April 12, 1961, while Neil Armstrong was the first to set foot on the moon on July 21, 1969.
Since the 1960s, composite airframes and quieter, more efficient engines have become available, but the most important innovations have taken place in instrumentation and control. The arrival of solid-state electronics, the Global Positioning System, satellite communications, and increasingly small and powerful computers and LED displays, have dramatically changed the cockpits of airliners and, increasingly, of smaller aircraft as well. Pilots can navigate much more accurately and view terrain, obstructions, and other nearby aircraft on a map or through synthetic vision, even at night or in low visibility.
On June 21, 2004, SpaceShipOne became the first privately funded aircraft to make a spaceflight, opening the possibility of an aviation market outside the earth's atmosphere.
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Job opportunities in the aviation industry are expected to grow over the next decade. Annual salaries for aviation professionals range from an average of $47,000 for commercial aviation office supervisors to more than $150,000 for high-level managers.
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Department of Transportation - Aviation Division
The Department of Transportation Aviation Division and Federal Aviation Administration are responsible for the safety of civil aviation and airways.
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Aviation Institute of Maintenance Career Information
The Aviation Institute of Maintenance (AIM) is part of a successful group of companies, which first began in Norfolk, Virginia, in 1969. We have maintained a tradition of excellence in education throughout our expansion of aviation career schools over more than four decades.