Legends of the Air
During the era between the two World Wars, the history of aircraft pilots was greatly advanced with the plethora of aviation technology at the fingertips of pilots around the world. Leftover military training craft were adopted by thousands of aviators, most notably during the era of the barnstormers, pilots who conducted dangerous aerial stunts for crowds of patrons.
Perhaps the most famous aviator in history is Charles Lindbergh. As a young pilot for the U.S. Air Mail, Lindbergh stunned the nation by performing the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic aboard his single-seat Spirit of St. Louis. After being awarded the Medal of Honor, Lindbergh's fame became marred in infamy with the kidnapping and murder of his infant son as well as his isolationist political motivations with the America First movement prior to World War II.
Using his extreme wealth, Howard Hughes secured his place in the history of aircraft pilots with a wide variety of aviation exploits. He filmed the successful big-budget movie “Hell's Angels," which made use of dozens of aircraft in unique aerial shots. Later, Hughes built the H-1 Racer, which he used to set world speed records. He purchased and grew the Trans World Airlines company, helping to the develop the airline industry as it remains today. However, he is perhaps remembered for the invention of the H-4 Hercules, the largest plane constructed at the time. However, this seaplane became the joke of many designers who dubbed it the “Spruce Goose," after it failed to fly.
Establishing her role as an aircraft pilot was a challenge to Amelia Earhart. Previously, aviators were primarily women. However, with the fame she gained of flying solo across the Atlantic, she leveraged her public image by establishing an organization for women pilots, The Ninety-Nines. After teaching aviation at Purdue University, Earhart again attempted to expand her fame by attempting to fly around the world. In one of the most famous unsolved missing persons cases in history, Earhart disappeared near Howland Island in the Pacific in 1937.
Although the history of aircraft pilots includes literally countless numbers of groundbreaking individuals from military aviators to adventurers, the industry is dotted with dozens of legends. Each of these people, while influencing pilots of their own era, have also become focal points for new generations of fliers, ensuring the future of aviation will continue to hold stories as interesting as any in history.
Above left: Howard Hughes. (Supplied by the Library of Congress; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Howard_Hughes.jpg)
Above right: Amelia Earhart. (Supplied by the Library of Congress; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/2/2d/Amelia_earhart.jpeg)