|On this date in 1949, the British De Havilland Comet, the world’s first commercial jetliner, took its maiden test flight in England. This historic flight would signal an eventual end to commercial planes using piston engines and the beginning of a revolution in commercial aviation. Comet’s inaugural test flight lasted 31 minutes and was generally hailed as a success, despite later safety incidents and deadly crashes. |
In the U.S., most piston engine airplanes had unpressurized cabins and were unable to reach heights sufficient to fly over storms like modern jets can, which meant the flying experience was sometimes unsettling. Professor Janet Bednarek of the University of Dayton wrote that due to bad weather, “Delays were frequent, turbulence common, and air sickness bags often needed,” on piston engine flights.
But by 1952, jet passenger service had officially begun with a 44-seat flight from London to Johannesburg operated by the British Overseas Aircraft Corporation. Jetliner service spread quickly, offering lower fares, more reliable service and increased safety. In 1955, for the first time ever, more Americans traveled by airliner than by train. By 1972, almost half of all Americans had flown – many business travelers, informally known as the “Jet Set,” would regularly zoom from coast to coast or across the ocean.
|ANSWER TO TODAY’S TRIVIA |
|B. 1891 |
|In 1891, a chemist from Des Moines, Iowa, named William Morrison invented an electric carriage capable of going 14 MPH. Read more about early electric cars in America here. |