First Flights

Test pilots take an aircraft that’s never flown before up into the air. Pretty dang cool stuff. This page of my flying quotation collection is what they had to say about it. All in chronological order of flight date — after giving due to a pair of brothers from Dayton, Ohio:

Success four flights thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from Level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform Press home Christmas.

Orville Wright, 17 December 1903. This first telegraph home had two transcription errors. It should have read 59 seconds and Orville’s name was spelled Orevelle. Bishop Milton Wright received the telegram at about 5:30 PM, and showed it to Katharine a few minutes later. Supper was delayed while the telegram was sent over to Lorin’s home and the news was telegraphed to Octave Chanute.


My brother climbed into the machine. The motor was started. With a short dash down the runway, the machine lifted into the air and was flying. It was only a flight of twelve seconds, and it was uncertain, wavy, creeping sort of flight at best; but it was a real flight at last and not a glide.

Orville Wright, describing the first flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft. How I Learned to Fly, as told to Lesie W. Quirk, Boys’ Life magazine, September 1914.

Boys' Life magazine

They done it! They done it! Damned if they ain't flew.

Johnny Moore, shouted while running to the village of Kitty Hawk. 17 December 1903.

Although a general invitation had been extended to the people living within five or six miles, not many were willing to face the rigors of a cold December wind in order to see, as they no doubt thought, another flying-machine not fly. The first flight lasted only twelve seconds, a flight very modest compared with that of birds, but it was, nevertheless, the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in free flight, had sailed forward on a level course without reduction of speed, and had finally landed without being wrecked.

Orville and Wilbur Wright, The Wright Brothers’ Aëroplane, The Century Magazine, September 1908.

The first in history

The course of the flight up and down was exceedingly erratic, partly due to the irregularity of the air, and partly to lack of experience in handling this machine.

Orville Wright, writing in the Flying and the Aero Club of America Bulletin, December 1913.

Those who understand the real significance of the conditions under which we worked will be surprised rather at the length than the shortness of the flights made with an unfamiliar machine after less than one minute’s practice. The machine possesses greater capacity of being controlled than any of our former machines.

Wilbur Wright, letter to Octave Chanute, from Kitty Hawk, 8 December 1903.

Nothing will ever equal that moment of joyous excitement which filled my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss. Escaped from the frightful torments of persecution and of calumny, I felt that I was answering all in rising above all.

Jacques-Alexandre-César Charles, after making man’s first ascent by hydrogen balloon in 1783. Quoted in the 1870 book Wonderful Balloon Ascents: Or, the Conquest of the Skies.

I was surprised at the silence and the absence of movement which our departure caused among the spectators, and believed them to be astonished and perhaps awed at the strange spectacle; they might well have reassured themselves I was still gazing, when M. Roziers cried to me—

‘You are doing nothing, and the balloon is scarcely rising a fathom.’

‘Pardon me,’ I answered, as I placed a bundle of straw upon the fire and slightly stirred it. Then I turned quickly, but already we had passed out of sight of La Muette. Astonished, I cast a glance towards the river. I perceived the confluence of the Oise. And naming the principal bends of the river by the places nearest them, I cried, ‘Passy, St. Germain, St. Denis, Sèvres!’

‘If you look at the river in that fashion you will be likely to bathe in it soon,’ cried Roziers. ‘Some fire, my dear friend, some fire!’

Marquis D’Arlandes, first flight in a hot air balloon, 21 November 1783. In the 1870 book Wonderful Balloon Ascents: Or, the Conquest of the Skies.


Nothing will ever equal that moment of joyous excitement which filled my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss. Escaped from the frightful torments of persecution and of calumny, I felt that I was answering all in rising above all.

To this sentiment succeeded one more lively still — the admiration of the majestic spectacle that spread itself out before us. On whatever side we looked, all was glorious; a cloudless sky above, a most delicious view around. ‘Oh, my friend,’ said I to M. Robert, ‘how great is our good fortune! I care not what may be the condition of the earth; it is the sky that is for me now.

Prof. Jacques Alexandre Cesare Charles, first free flight in a manned hydrogen balloon, 1 December 1783. Note: the exact adjective used by Prof. Charles to describe his emotions in French is not ‘exhilaration’ but “hilarite”, which can be translated as ecstasy, exhilaration, joy and/or excitement. In The Second Aerial Voyage — Roziers and Arlandes, Wonderful Balloon Ascents, 1870

When it first turned that circle, and came near the starting point, I was right in front of it; and said then, and I believe still, it was … the grandest sight of my life. Imagine a locomotive that has left its track, and is climbing up in the air right toward you — a locomotive without any wheels … but with white wings instead … a locomotive made of aluminum. Well, now, imagine this white locomotive, with wings that spread 20 feet each way, coming right toward you with a tremendous flap of its propellers, and you will have something like what I saw. The younger brother bade me move to one side for fear it might come down suddenly; but I tell you, friends, the sensation that one feels in such a crisis is something hard to describe.

Amos Ives Root, witness to the first time a heavier-than-air flying machine had flown a complete circle, in the journal Gleanings in Bee Culture, 1904.

Suddenly, Santos-Dumont points the end of the machine skyward, and the wheels visibly, unambiguously, leave the soil: the aeroplane flies. The whole crowd is stirred. Santos-Dumont seems to fly like some immense bird in a fairy tale.

Le Figaro newspaper, reporting on the first powered flight in public, 24 October 1906.

I thought I would keep it on the ground until I became familiar with it, but on account of the wind, I unexpectedly took to the air, and the first thing I knew, I was flying.

Arthur Pratt Warner, Beloit, Wisconsin. Warner was the first individual in the U.S. to purchase an aeroplane, a Curtiss biplane, that assembled himself. He had only intended to taxi when he made what was Wisconsin’s first flight, 4 November 1909.

I am the first pig to fly.

Sign on the wicker basket carrying the first recorded pig to fly. The pig’s name is sadly unknown to me, but the pilot was Claude Moore-Brabazon (later First Lord Brabazon of Tara) in a Viosin biplane from Shellbeach, the Short Brothers airfield at Leysdown on the Isle of Sheppey, Kent, UK. 4 November 1909.

first flying pig

It was great! First class! It was the finest experience I have ever had. I wish I could stay up for an hour, but I haven't the time this afternoon.

Theodore Roosevelt, Jr., first President of the United States of America to fly aboard an airplane, Kinloch Field, St. Louis, Missouri, (now, Lambert–St. Louis International Airport), to pilot Arch Hoxsey of the Wright demonstration team after he flew the former president in a Wright Model B on 11 October 1910. Widely reported, including in the New-York Tribune newspaper, 12 October 1910.

First Flying President

Roy, come and get this goddam cat!

Jack Irwan, radio operator of the America airship, the first operational radio communication from an aircraft in flight, 15 October 1910.

The gray tabby — named Kiddo — was snuck onboard by navigator Anthony Simon. The message was sent at the command of the airship’s chief engineer Malvin Vaniman. They were unable to transfer the cat, and so Kiddo was on board for the attempt to be first to cross the Atlantic. They did not make it, but lived to tell the tale, boarding a Royal Mail Ship sailing from Bernuda to New York. The airship sailed away alone.

Come and get this goddam cat

We are safely on the other side of the pond. The job is finished.

Lieutenant Commander Albert Read, radio transmission after first transatlantic air crossing, 27 May 1919.

That’s the best way to cross the Atlantic.

Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, first nonstop across the Atlantic, upon landing 15 June 1919.

What? Only sixteen hours! Are you sure?

Orville Wright, on hearing about the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic, 15 June 1919.

The hardships and perils of the past month were forgotten in the excitement of the present. We shook hands with one another, our hearts swelling with those emotions invoked by achievement and the glamour of the moment. It was, and will be, perhaps the supreme hour of our lives.

Sir Ross Smith, K.B.E., first monthlong flight from London to Australia.

Demonstrated publicly at the Cuatro Vientos airport in Spain, the craft amazed and fascinated the whole aeronautical world. It was safe. Once … it climbed too steeply and lost all its forward motion, which, for the conventional aeroplane, would have meant plummeting to earth. This did not occur.

Colonel H. F. Gregory, USAAF, witnessing the first autogiro.

Defeat and death stared him in the face and he gazed at it unafraid, intent only on the task he had set himself.

Russell Owen, rather breathless front page story in The New York Times, describing the departure of Charles Lindbergh from New York, 21 May 1927. At time of publication he was last “sighted passing St. John’s, N.F.” and the success of what became the first solo flight across the North Atlantic was unknown. The two-page dispatch started:

“A sluggish, gray monoplane lurched its way down Roosevelt Field yesterday morning, slowly gathering momentum. Inside sat a tall youngster, eyes glued to an instrument board or darting ahead for swift glances at the runway, his face drawn with the intensity of his purpose.

Death lay but a few seconds ahead of him if his skill failed or his courage faltered. For moments, as the heavy plane rose from the ground, dropped down, staggered again into the air and fell, he gambled for his life against a hazard which had already killed four men.”

Lindbergh Speeds

These phantoms speak with human voices — friendly, vapor-like shapes, without substance, able to vanish or appear at will, to pass in and out through the walls of the fuselage as though no walls were there … familiar voices, conversing and advising on my flight, discussing problems of my navigation, reassuring me, giving me messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life.

Charles A. Lindbergh, writing about his first solo flight across the Atlantic. The Spirit of St. Louis, 1953.

Are there any mechanics here?

Charles A. Lindbergh, first words upon arrival in Paris after first solo transatlantic flight, 10:22 local time 21 May 1927. Quoted in the 1993 biography of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Loss of Eden.

Newspapers at the time posted now discredited accounts with his first words being things like “Is this Paris?” and “I'm Charles Lindbergh”. Lindbergh’s second sentence was the usual query of the American tourist, “Does anyone here speak English?”

I was a passenger on the journey—just a passenger. Everything that was done to bring us across was done by Wilmer Stultz and Slim Gordon. Any praise I can give them … they ought to have. You can’t pile it on too thick … I did not handle the controls once, although I have had more than 500 hurs solo flying and once held the women’s altitude record. I do not believe that women lack the stamina to do a solo trip across the Atlantic, but it would be a matter of learning the arts of flying by instruments only, an art which few men pilots know perfectly now.

Amelia Earhart, advertised as the first flight of a woman across the Atlantic. Although she was promised time at the controls, Earhart never flew the plane during the over 20-hour flight with Wilmer 'Bill' Stultz and Louis 'Slim' Gordon. The New York Times, 19 June 1928.

Where am I?

In Gallegher’s pasture … have you come far?

From America.

Have you now?

Amelia Earhart, first solo flight by a woman across the Atlantic, upon arrival in an open field near Londonderry, Northern Ireland, 21 May 1932. Her question was answered by Danny McCallion, a foreman working the land. This is the version in the 2009 biography by Mary LovellThe Sound of Wings: The Life of Amelia Earhart.

Another biographer, Doris Rich, tells it slightly differently in her 1989 book Amelia Earhart. Danny McCallion answers, “Sure you’re in Derry, sir.” The sir an easy mistake to make to a pilot in a plane whose face was smeared in grease.

Where am I

I’m Douglas Corrigan. Just got in from New York. Where am I? I intended to fly to California.

Douglas 'Wrong Way' Corrigan, upon arrival at Dublin’s Baldonnel Airport in Ireland after his un-approved solo transatlantic flight. He maintained, with a mostly stright face, he had compass troubles. 18 July 1938. Quoted in his New York Times obituary, 14 December 1995.

Wrong Way NYT obit

The New York Post had a great headline when he returned to New York, 1 August 1938:

Wrong Way New York Post

I happened to be the man on the spot, but any of the rest of the fellows would have done what I did.

Jack Knight, first night mail flight, which was part of a record-setting transcontinental airmail relay.

This machine was a failure to the extent that it could not fly. In other respects it was a very important and necessary stepping stone.

Igor Ivanovitch Sikorsky, regards the first helicopter, built 1909.

Apart from a few tricky minutes in low cloud near the North Downs the journey over Folkestone and Boulogne down to Beauvais was uneventful but wet and hardly ever over 200 feet above ground … we eventually landed at Le Bourget at 10:15 a.m. In those days the airfield consisted of several canvas hangars, some wooden sheds and a lot of mud.

Jerry Shaw, first flight of a paying passenger from England to France.

We are safely on the other side of the pond. The job is finished.

Lieutenant Commander Albert Reed, USN, pilot of Curtiss NC-4 flying boat, after the first aerial crossing of the Atlantic, May 1919. Quoted in the 2013 book The Little Book of Aviation.

Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until in cleared the frame, and then at express-train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate. It looked almost magical as it rose, without any appreciably greater noise or flame, as if it said, “I’ve been here long enough; I think I’ll be going somewhere else, if you don’t mind.

Robert Goddard, regards the first rocket flight using liquid propellants at Aunt Effie's farm 17 March 1926.

Rather routine.

Frank Collbohm, Douglas Aircraft Company flight engineer, notation in the flight log during the first ever flight of the DC-3 Clover Field in Santa Monica, California, 17 December 1935.

One has the feeling of enormous safety. You don’t have the torque from the propeller. You have no noise; it's almost like little electric motors humming inside, and you feel sort of safe.

Erich Warsitz, first flight of the Heinkel 178, 27 August 1939. This was the first jet powered aircraft. Reported in AOPA Pilot magazine, June 1992.

That was what it was bloody-well designed to do, wasn’t it?

Sir Frank Whittle, right after watching the first take-off of a British jet aeroplane, 15 May 1941, in response to Chief Designer George Carter yelling “Frank, it flies!” From his 1953 book Jet: The Story of a Pioneer.

Frank Whittle

It’s only the beginning but the implications are terrific.

Gerald Sayer, first flight in the Gloster-Whittle E.28 jet, 15 May 1941.

The main impressions of my first jet-propelled flight were first of the simplicity of operation. The throttle was the only engine control; there were no mixture or propeller levers, supercharger or cooling-gill controls and the fuel system had simply one low-pressure valve between the tank and the engine pump, and one high-pressure valve between the pump and the engine. There was no electric booster pump. Secondly the absence of vibration or the sensation of effort being transmitted to the pilot’s seat was outstanding.

John Grierson, test pilot of the second E.28 jet aircraft, 1 March 1943. Quoted in Flight International magazine 13 May 1971.

It looked like a fiery sword going into the sky. There came this enormous roar and the whole sky seemed to vibrate; this kind of unearthly roaring was something human ears had never heard. It is very hard to describe what you feel when you stand on the threshold of a whole new era; of a whole new age… . It's like those people must have felt — Columbus or Magellan — that for the first time saw entire new worlds and knew the world would never be the same after this… . We know the space age had begun.

Dr. Walter Robert Dornberger, regards the first successful flight of the A-4 rocket, to the edge of space, 3 October 1942.

For the first time I was flying by jet propulsion. No engine vibrations. No torque and no lashing sound of the propeller. Accompanied by a whistling sound, my jet shot through the air. Later when asked what it felt like, I said, “It felt as though angels were pushing”.

General Adolf Galland, Luftwaffe, on his first flight in a jet, the Messerschmitt 262, May 1943.

Four months before Yeager passed Mach 1, a kids magazine wrote about the “terrifying barrier of sonic speed” and of a rocket plane that could “write aviation history”. The article had this great picture by William Heaslip:

Sound Barrier

Into the Unknown, Boys Life magazine, June 1947.

At 42,000' in approximately level flight, a third cylinder was turned on. Acceleration was rapid and speed increased to .98 Mach. The needle of the machmeter fluctuated at this reading momentarily, then passed off the scale. Assuming that the off-scale reading remained linear, it is estimated that 1.05 Mach was attained at this time.

(then) Captain Charles E. Yeager, Air Corps, formal typewritten test flight report on first supersonic flight, 14 October 1947. NACA tracking data and the XS-1's own oscillograph instrumentation later showed 'Glamorous Glennis' had attained Mach 1.06 at about 43,000 feet.

Mach 1 part of Yeager's formal test report

Leveling off at 42,000 feet, I had thirty percent of my fuel, so I turned on rocket chamber three and immediately reached .96 Mach. I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach — then tipped right off the scale … We were flying supersonic. And it was a smooth as a baby's bottom; Grandma could be sitting up there sipping lemonade.

General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, regards first supersonic flight.

Hey Ridley, that Machometer is acting screwy. It just went off the scale on me.

General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, first radio transmission after going supersonic for the first time, a coded message indicating success, 1947.

It took a damned instrument meter to tell me what I'd done. After all the anticipation to achieve this moment, it really was a letdown. There should’ve been a bump in the road, something to let you know that you had just punched a nice, clean hole through the sonic barrier. The Ughknown was a poke through Jell-O. Later on, I realized that this mission had to end in a letdown because the real barrier wasn’t in the sky but in our knowledge and experience of supersonic flight.

General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, Yeager: An Autobiography, 1985.

As we went through mach one, the nose started dropping, so we just cranked that horizontal stabilizer down to keep the nose up. We got it above mach one, and once we got it above the speed of sound, then you have supersonic flow over the whole airplane, so you have no more shock waves on it that are causing buffeting…You really don’t think about the outcome of any kind of a flight, whether it's combat, or any other kinds of flights, because you really have no control over it… You concentrate on what you are doing, to do the best job you can, to stay out of serious situations. And that's the way the X-1 was.

General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, regards the first supersoninc flight, interview, 1 February 1991

… Your seat pushed you firmly in the back. Even then there is none of the shuddering brazen bellow of the high-powered piston engine … Combined with a seemingly uncanny lack of vibration, this gives the impression almost of sailing through space, the engines with their glinting propeller discs utterly remote from the quiet security of this cabin.

Derek Harvey, first turboprop airliner (Vickers-Armstrong Viscount).

Millions wonder what it is like to travel in the Comet at 500 miles an hour eight miles above the earth. Paradoxically there is a sensation of being poised motionless in space. Because of the great height the scene below scarcely appears to move; because of the stability of the atmosphere the aircraft remains rock-steady … One arrives over distant landmarks in an incredibly short time but without the sense of having traveled. Speed does not enter into the picture. One doubts one’s wristwatch.

C. Martin Sharp, first jet airliner (the de Havilland Comet 1).

She flew like a bird, only faster.

Alvin M. 'Tex' Johnston, Boeing test pilot, climbing down from the cockpit of the Boeing Model 367-80 after its first flight, 15 July, 1954. It would become the B707 for the airlines and the KC-135 for the USAF.

I flipped on the data switch that started the onboard cameras and the all-important flight instrumentation that would record the aircraft's flight parameters throughout. Usually, at about this time, I began to wish very much that I had taken Mother’s advice and had actually attended dental school.

William Bridgeman, The Lonely Sky: The Personal Story of a Record-Breaking Experimental Test Pilot, 1955. Flying the Douglas D-558-2 Skyrocket in 1951 he broke the record for highest speed and altitude by a piloted plane.

William Bridgeman LIFE cover


Yuri A. Gagarin, shouted as Vostok 1 lifted off, 12 April 1961. Translation: let’s Go!

I saw for the first time the earth’s shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black… the feelings which filled me I can express with one word — joy.

Yuri A. Gagarin

Okay, José, you’re on your way!

Deke Slayton, at Mission Control, to Alan Shepard at liftoff of Freedom 7, first American in space, 5 May 1961. José is a joke, a reference to comedian Bill Dana’s astronaut character José Jiménez. Bill had become a friend, and his character an unofficial mascot, of the actual Mercury astronauts.

Roger, liftoff, and the clock is started.

Alan B. Shepard Jr., replying, 09:34:13 EST 5 May 1961.

The Moon is essentially gray — no color — looks like plaster of paris — soft of gray sand.

James Lovell, Apollo 8, first transmission from first lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.

Looks like a sand pile my kids have been playing in for a long time — it's all beat up — no definition — just a lot of bumps and holes.

William Anders, Apollo 8, first lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.

I tell you, we’re going to be busy for a minute.

Neil Armstrong, one of the first transmissions from Tranquility Base. 20 July 1969.

The first flight was relatively uneventful. Just one emergency, and another minor problem. A canopy-unsafe light illuminated at Mach 1.2 on the way t o1.5 at 50,000 feet, and later, during a fly-by requested by Johnson, fuel siphoning occurred. Not bad, as initial test flights go.

Robert J, Gilliland, regards the first flight of the SR-71 Blackbird, 22 December 1964.

Beautiful. A little turbulance but she soaks it up.

Jack Waddell, Boeing test pilot, radio transmission during the first test flight of the B747, 9 Feburary 1969, six years to the day of the first flight of the B727. The test pilots deliberately wore business suits rather than flight suits to visually demonstate the safety of the new airliner. Reported as 747 Goes Aloft for First Time; It’s Beautiful, The Seattle Times, 10 February 1969.

747 test flight

It handled magnificently. It’s a pilot’s dream.

Jack Waddell, test pilot, press intervew following the first flight of the Boeing 747, 9 February 1969. Reported for example in ‘Jumbo Jet’ Flies First Time; Flaw in Flap Noted, The New York Times, 10 February 1969.

747 Test Flight

The plane has a very light, responsive touch. I'd call it a two-finger airplane.

Waddell Wallick, Boeing 747 test pilot, describing the first flight to the press, 9 February 1969. Asked which two fingers, he “obligingly held up his left hand with forefinger and thumb curled as if gripping the control wheel”, Boeing magazine, March 1969.

Pilot Jack Waddell eased throttles forward; Co-Pilot Brian Wygle called out speeds as a gentle giant of the air began to move; Flight Engineer Jess Wallick kept eyes glues to the gauges. The Boeing Model 747 Superjet gathered speed. The nose lifted. After 4,300 feet—less than half the 9,000 foot runway—main gear of the plane left the concrete. At 11:34 a.m., with a speed of 164 miles an hour, quietly and almost serenely, the age of spacious jets began.

Boeing Magazine, First Flight, March 1969.

Boeing Magazine March 1969

Finally the big bird flies, and I can say now that it flies pretty well.

André Turcat, Concorde test pilot, in both French and English, emerging from the cockpit after the first flight of Concorde prototype 001, Toulouse, France, 2 March 1969.

Concorde flight flight

It was wizard — a cool, calm, and collected operation.

Brian Trubshaw, Concorde test pilot, on the ground after first flight of a British-built concorde, prototype 002. RAF Fairford, 9 April 1969.

The powered flight took a total of about eight and a half minutes. It seemed to me it had gone by in a lash. We had gone from sitting still on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center to traveling at 17,500 miles an hour in that eight and a half minutes. It is still mind-boggling to me. I recall making some statement on the air-to-ground radio for the benefit of my fellow astronauts, who had also been in the program a long time, that it was well worth the wait.

Bob Crippen, regards first flight of the Space Shuttle, STS-1.

This vehicle is performing like a champ. I’ve got a super spaceship under me.

Bob Crippen, astronaut, pilot of STS-1, Space Shuttle Columbia, in orbit, 12 April 1981.

This is the world’s greatest all electric flying machine. I’ll tell you that. That was super!

John Young, STS-1 Commander, as the rolled the first Space Shuttle to a stop on Edwards Dry Lake Bed, 14 April 1981.

STS-1 Landing

The dream is alive.

John Young, astronaut, after landing the first Space Shuttle STS-1 at Edwards Dry Lake Bed, 14 April 1981.

Everything went very well. If anything, it was fairly routine. I think I'll just go home and relax.

John Armstrong, Boeing test pilot, first flight of the 757, FAA registration N757A, on 19 February 1982. Reported in The New York Times newspaper 22 February 1982. A problem with the number 2 engine (right wing) required an air restart during the flight. The prototype landed at Paine Field, Everett, Washington, after 2 hours, 31 minutes. The article added this:

“I’ve been over it so many times that actually I feel a lot more comfortable in my airplane than in my own car. We know basically what it’s going to fly like.”

757 fight flight newspaper article

Edwards Tower, this is Voyager One. we’re ready to go.

Roger, Voyager One. you’re cleared for takeoff. ATC clears Voyager One from Edwards Air Force Base to Edwards Air Force Base via flight plan route. Maintain 8,000. Godspeed.

Takeoof for the first around the world non-stop and non-refueled. Dick Rutan and ATC. 14 December 1986. They landed nine days later.

Our A320 behaved even better than expected — it is both delightfully responsive and reassuringly stable to fly, qualities which fly-by-wire brings together for the first time in an airliner. Never before have we enjoyed a first flight so much, and we are confident that airline pilots well feel the same way.

Pierre Baud, Airbus VP Flight and Chief Test Pilot, first flight of a fully fly-by-wire airliner, Toulouse, France, 22 February 1987.

A320 first flight

The way the public sees it is this. If we don’t leave, we are idiots. If we do leave but don’t succeed in our mission, we are incompetent. But if we do succeed, it's because it was easy and anyone could have done it.

Bertrand Piccard, first to balloon around the world, 1999.

I am with the angels and just completely happy.

Bertrand Piccard, Swiss pilot of Breitling Orbiter 3, first to balloon around the world, 20 March 1999.

I am going to have a cup of tea, like any good Englishman.

Brian Jones, British pilot of Breitling Orbiter 3, first to balloon around the world, regards what he is going to do next, 20 March 1999.

I feel good.

Yang Liwei, first Chinese astronaut in space, in his first report from space, 34 minutes after the launch. 15 October 2003. Reported by the Xinhua News Agency.

It was a mind-blowing experience, it really was — absolutely an awesome thing… . As I got to the top I released a bag of M&Ms in the cockpit. It was amazing … Looking out that window, seeing the white clouds in the LA Basin, it looked like snow on the ground.

Mike Melvill, first to fly into space in a private aircraft, 21 June 2004.

It was absolutely perfect. You can handle this large aircraft as you can handle a bicycle.

Jacques Rosay, test pilot, regards the A-380 first flight, 28 April 2005.

I showed it is possible to fly a little bit like a bird.

Yves Rossy, first person to cross the English Channel strapped to a jet-powered wing. The 22 mile journey took 13 minutes. 26 September 2008

We learned more about this airplane in the first 10 minutes of flying than we have in the last 100 days.

Michael H. Carriker, test pilot, first flight of the Boeing 787, Boeing Field, 15 December 2009.

The airplane flew beautifully. There were no surprises.

Randall L. Neville, test pilot, first flight of the Boeing 787, Boeing Field. As a highly experienced test pilot and former director of Flight Operations for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Neville knew the wonder of ‘no surprises’ on a first flight, 15 December 2009.

Trust me, when you stand up there on top of the world, you become so humble. It’s not about breaking records any more. It’s not about getting scientific data. It's all about coming home.

Felix Baumgartner, first supersonic skydive. Quoted in 24 Miles, 4 Minutes and 834 M.P.H., All in One Jump, The New York Times, 14 October 2012.


Totally uneventful. It was a very successful first flight. To be honest, it was a little bit boring.

Fernando Alonso, Airbus Senior VP, head of the flight & integration center, test engineer on the first flight of the A350 XWB, 14 June 2013.

Taking on the impossible is not necessarily easier, but it's more satisfying, it’s more motivating and, in the end, it’s more important.

Todd Reichert, who along with Cameron Robertson and the AeroVelo team did the ‘impossible’, and built a human-powered helicopter that flew 10 feet into the air and hover in one place for 60 seconds, 13 June 2013. They won the American Helicopter Society’s Igor I. Sikorsky Human-Powered Helicopter Prize, along with $250,000. Quoted in Scientific American, November 2014.

In Wired magazine he also said: “It isn’t really about the prize. It’s about satisfaction of finishing something that you have set yourself to.”

human-powered helicopter

The 737 Max just felt right in flight, giving us complete confidence that this airplane will meet our customers’ expectations.

Ed Wilson, Boeing Chief Pilot, after flying the first test flight of the Boeing 737 MAX, Boeing Field, 29 January 2016.

B737 MAX first flight


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