When flight first began, I seriously doubt that anyone had any idea how far it would go. Many people said, “If God had wanted us to fly, He would have given us wings!” Of course, wings can be added…if you know how to add them. The Wright brothers figured out how to add those wings, and how to make them fly. Nevertheless, any kind of long distance fight was still far in the future, back then.
Then, on July 25, 1909, Louis Blériot took off from a field in France, and flew his flimsy monoplane northward for half an hour, and landed near Dover Castle in England. The flight…at the time, daring beyond belief…caused a sensation in Britain. No one thought it could be done, and much less that a mere 40 years later, a plane would actually make a non-stop around the world trip…successfully. Nevertheless, forty years later, Captain James G. Gallagher and a 13-man crew took off from Carswell AFB, Texas, in a B-50 bomber named Lucky Lady II. Four days later they landed back at Carswell. This achievement, the first nonstop flight around the world, also stirred the public imagination.
Neither event involved a major breakthrough in technology, but each was significant for other reasons. Blériot’s flight lasted a mere 37 minutes. In several demonstration flights in France during the previous year, Wilbur Wright had stayed aloft much longer. Blériot was the first to use a combination of hand/arm-operated joystick and foot-operated rudder control, that is in use to the present day, for the basic format of aerodynamic aircraft control systems. Blériot was also the first to make a working, powered, piloted monoplane. In 1909 he became world-famous for making the first airplane flight across the English Channel.
Lucky Lady II took off from Carswell Air Force Base in Fort Worth, Texas. A B-50 Superfortress, Lucky Lady II flew the first nonstop round-the-world flight. The aircraft averaged 249 miles per hour on its 23,452 mile flight. The Lucky Lady II was refueled four times in the air by B-29 tanker planes and on March 2 returned to the United States after 94 hours in the air. It was a record breaking flight. Of course, the record would not last forever. In December 1986, Voyager, a lightweight propeller plane constructed mainly of plastic, landed at Edwards Air Force Base in Muroc, California, having completed the first global flight without refueling. Flight will most likely never stop improving.