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Any article on aviation pioneers needs to address the importance of the Wright Brothers. Although there is controversy regarding Wilbur and Orville's place in history in regards to the first powered flight of a fixed-wing aircraft, the two are generally credited with accomplishing the task in 1903. Regardless, that fateful day at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina changed the future for aviation with their creation of three-axis control of an aircraft. This allows pilots to steer and maintain equilibrium in the vehicles.
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Best known as the first man to fly solo across the Atlantic Ocean, Charles Lindbergh became one of the most famous aviators in history by piloting the single-engine monoplane Spirit of St. Louis. The flight took place on May 20 and 21, 1927, from New York to Paris.
Lindbergh started his career as a U.S. Air Mail pilot, flying for the postal service. He later joined the U.S. Army reserve and was awarded the Medal of Honor. Later in his life, Lindbergh became the center of the isolationist movement, working to prevent the nation from entering World War II. He was also involved with the “Crime of the Century” in which his infant son was kidnapped and murdered.
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Among other things, Howard Hughes was an aviation pioneer during the heyday of experimentation. Along with producing one of the first movies that featured dozens of aircraft, “Hell's Angels,” he also engineered and piloted numerous aircraft.
Perhaps his biggest success was the Hughes H-1 Racer, built by one of his companies in 1935. It set the world speed record the same year – the last time a private individual would do so. The records since have been broken by military craft. Hughes also gained infamy for building the H-4 Hercules, an all-wooden aircraft constructed in 1947. As the world's largest flying boat ever built, it made one flight. Critics nicknamed it the “Spruce Goose.”
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No article on aviation pioneers would be complete without addressing the profound influence of Amelia Earhart. Born in 1897, she became one of the most noted pilots in history as well as an author. Perhaps the most popular female pilot of all time, she accomplished more in her brief life than nearly any other aviation pioneer.
She was the first woman to be awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross, an armed forces medal, for her solo flight across the Atlantic. She also formed the Ninety-Nines, a group of pioneering female pilots, and became a member of the National Woman's Party, an organization that pushed for equal rights for women. In 1935, she joined Purdue University as part of the faculty. With funding from the school, Earhart attempted a flight around the world in 1937. Somewhere over the Pacific Ocean, near Howland Island, she disappeared with her navigator. She was declared dead two years later.
While these are just some of the aviation pioneers that changed the history of the science, they are perhaps among the most important.
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Amelia Earhart Official Website: http://www.ameliaearhart.com/
Charles Lindbergh: http://www.charleslindbergh.com/history/index.asp
"Wright Brothers" Smithsonian: http://www.nasm.si.edu/wrightbrothers/
"Howard Hughes" Famous Texans: http://www.famoustexans.com/howardhughes.htm
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First flight. (Supplied by the Library of Congress; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/86/First_flight2.jpg)
Lindbergh and the Spirit of St. Louis. (Supplied by the Library of Congress; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/3/38/LindberghStLouis.jpg)
Howard Hughes. (Supplied by Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/4/49/Howard_Hughes.jpg)
Amelia Earhart. (Supplied by Wikimedia Commons; Public Domain; http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d8/AE.jpg)