On This Day in Aviation History DECEMBER 20th

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1785 - 70 minutes after the ascent from the grounds of Heriot's Hospital in Edinburgh, Vincenzo Lunardi 's Balloon was forced down in the sea. He spent a long time in the North Sea until rescued by a passing fishing boat

1852 - Birth of David Schwarz, Croatian aviation pioneer. He created the 1st flyable rigid airship. It was also the 1st airship with an external hull made entirely of metal.

1879 - Birth of Earle Lewis Ovington, American aeronautical engineer, aviator and inventor, who piloted the 1st official airmail flight in the US.

1880 - Birth of Ugo Niutta, Italian WWI aviator.

1890 - Birth of Keith Macpherson Smith KBE, Australian aviator, who, along with his brother, Ross Macpherson Smith and two other men, became the 1st people to fly from England to Australia.

1892 - Birth of Otto Könnecke, German WWI flying ace, one of the founding pilots of Deutsche Luft Hansa and who had a great involvement in the development of the new Luftwaffe after WWI. -

1894 - Birth of John Joseph "Jack" Malone, Canadian WWI flying ace, Killed in action in his Sopwith pup. -

1895 - Birth of Harold Ross Harris, notable American test pilot and USAAF officer who held 26 flying records.

1896 - Birth of James Leith Leith, British WWI flying ace

1898 - Birth of Colin Peter Brown, Scottish WWI fighter ace and RAF high ranking officer. -

1908 - 1st flight of The Antoinette V, early French aircraft, development of the Antoinette IV -

1909 - 1st flight of the Antoinette VI, French experimantal monoplane, development of the Antoinette IV fitted with true ailerons. -

1910 - Servicio de Aviación Militar de Chile (Military Aviation Service of Chile), Precursor of the Chilean Air Force, is founded.

1916 - Death of Kurt Haber, German WWI flying ace, killed in action.

1916 - Death of Arthur Gerald "Gerry" Knight, Canadian WWI flying ace, killed in action in his D.H.2 -

1916 - The Vickers F.B.16A, British single-seat biplane fighter prototype is destroyed in a crash.

1916 - The US Army Balloon School is established in Fort Omaha, Nebraska.

1919 - Death of Paul Louis Malavialle, French WWI flying ace -

1920 - Birth of Harold Elwood “Bunny” Comstock, USAF WWII fighter ace and vietnam war pilot. -

1924 - 1st RCAF Wings Parade took place at Camp Borden, Ontario. W/C LS Breadner presented wings to F/L Higgins, P/O Carr-Harris, P/O Anderson, P.O Durnin, P/O Slemon, P/O Weaver.

1928 - Hubert Wilkins and Carl Eielson takes off from Deception Island with a Lockheed Vega for a 10-hour flight and flew over Graham Land, becoming the 1st Antarctic explorer to discover new land by air.

1932 - 1st flight of the Romano R-6, French 3 engine high wing transport monoplane prototype.

1934 - KLM Douglas DC-2-115A 'Ulver' crashes in bad weather into the desert at Rutbah Wells in Iraq, during a flight from Amsterdam, Netherlands to Jakarta, Indonesia, killing all 7 on board. -

1934 - American Elmer "Archie" Fowler Stone broke the World Seaplane Speed Record, 191 miles per hour over a 3 kilometer test course, flying a Grumman JF Duck.

1940 - 2 Supermarine Spitfires of No.66 Squadron inaugurate Rhubarb offensive sweeps (small-scale fighter or fighter-bomber attacks on ground targets) over France with a sortie against Le Touquet.

1941 - 1st combat of the American Volunteer Group, better known as the "Flying Tigers", when P-40s of the 1st and 2nd squadrons intercepted 10 unescorted Kawasaki Ki-48 "Lily" bombers of the 21st Hikotai raiding Kunming.

1942 - 1st night attack on Calcutta in India by Japanese bombers.

1942 - The 'Oboe' ground controlled blind bombing system is 1st tested by Bomber Command in a raid on a power station at Lutterade in the Netherlands by 6 de Havilland Mosquitoes of No.109 Squadron RAF Bomber Command.

1944 - USAF Air Transport Command’s Women Airforce Service Pilots (WASP) organization is disbanded.

1945 - Death of Leonard Coombes Hammond, American WWI flying ace -

1948 - 1st flight of the Sikorsky S-54, American experimental helicopter. -

1952 – A USAF Douglas C-124 Globemaster II flying out of Moses Lake Washington (Larson AFB) and taking Airmen home to Texas for the holidays as part of "Operation Sleigh Ride" crashed not long after takeoff. A total of 87 airmen were killed

1954 - 1st flight of the Convair YF-102A Delta Dagger, major redesign of the initial F-102 which was sufficient for the Air Force to allow production.

1957 - 1st flight of The Boeing 707, American mid-size, narrow-body swept-wing with podded four engines jet airliner, Boeing's 1st jet airliner.

1967 - 1st flight of The SITAR GY-100 Bagheera (or Gardan GY-100 Bagheera), French 2+2 low-wing, cantilever monoplane of conventional layout with fixed, tricycle undercarriage light prototype aircraft -

1968 - North American X-15 program is officialy cancelled.

1969 - Death of Fritz (Friedrich) Stamer, German Pilot and aircraft designer, 1st soaring-teacher at the Wasserkuppe, he flew the 1st rocket airplane and constructed a wide range of gliders. During WWII he was an instructor for military transport glider pilots.

1969 - North Vietnamese Flying ace Nguyen Van Coc scores his 9th and last victory with his MiG-21, shooting down a USAF AQM-34 Firebee. It is possible that due to Vietnamese pilots being unfamiliar with these drones, this could have been a OV-10 Bronco whose two crewmembers perished when it was shot down in the same area.

1972 - 1st flight of the Aérospatiale SN-601 'Corvette', french twin engine business jet. -

1972 - North Central Airlines Flight 575 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 and Delta Air Lines Flight 954 Convair CV-880 collided in foggy weather on a runway at O'Hare International Airport in Chicago, Illinois, killing 10 (all in Flight 575). As the North Central DC-9 rolled down the runway, visibility was about one-quarter mile (0.4 km). It had reached a speed of about 140 knots (161 mph, 259 km/hr) when its captain, peering ahead into the fog just after 6:00:03 p.m. CST, spotted Delta Flight 954 taxiing on the runway about 1,600 feet (488 m) ahead. Although the DC-9 lifted into the air, it was too late to avoid contact with the CV-880.

1983 - Ozark Air Lines Flight 650 McDonnell Douglas DC-9-31 struck a snow plow on the runway while landing in a snow storm at Sioux Falls Regional Airport killing the truck driver. The leaking fuel from the wing briefly created a fireball that engulfed the airplane. The plane spun through 180° before coming to rest off the runway to the left of the center line.

1989 - Operation Just Cause, United States invasion of Panama, begins. The US Air Force’s F-117 A Nighthawk stealth fighter and the US Army’s AH-64 Apache attack helicopter make their combat debuts.

1992 - Death of Aubrey Beauclerk Ellwood, british WWI fighter ace and senior RAF commander. -

1995 – American Airlines Flight 965 Boeing 757-223 crashes into a mountain 50 km north of Cali, Colombia killing 160, due to navigational errors by the flight crew.

1999 - Launch of ACRIMSAT (Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor Satellite), NASA's Earth Observing System.

2003 - Death of Alan Eugene Magee, American WWII airman who survived a 22,000-foot (6,700 m) fall without parachute from his damaged B-17 Flying Fortress.

2010 - 1st flight of the Northrop Grumman MQ-8C Fire X, Evolution of the unmanned autonomous helicopter to provide reconnaissance, situational awareness, and precision targeting support for ground, air and sea forces.