High-Flying Feats: 5 Amazing Flights in Aviation History

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Looking back over the aeronautical achievements of the past 110 years, it is truly amazing to realize that human beings have only been masters of powered flight for a relatively brief time. We’ve had thousands of years to perfect such skills as, say, not killing each other over anything and everything, and we’re still terrible at it! With flight, though, we went from zero to sending probes into interstellar space in the veritable blink of an eye.

5 Cessna Held the First Place for the Longest Flight

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The record for the longest flight ever is held by … a Cessna. That’s right, a tiny little Cessna 172, the plane that looks like a remote-controlled toy until you’re up close to it. And it was set back in the late 1950s. Two pilots, who likely ran out of things to talk about pretty early into the endeavor, flew the little trooper in circles for 64 days without stopping. Their plane was refueled by a truck trundling along underneath it, and food and drink were sent up on a rope. This epic, albeit slow-moving and likely boring as hell, flight was all part of a publicity stunt set up by a Las Vegas casino. The prevailing wisdom must have been “If people hear about a plane that flies for a long time, then they’ll want to … gamble?”

4 Daredevil Felix Baumgartner Beat the World's Record for Altitude Skydiving

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The longest “flight” ever by a human being who didn’t bother to use a plane or spacecraft was achieved recently, in 2012. Daredevil Felix Baumgartner shattered world records for high altitude skydiving when he stepped off a platform suspended more than 128,000 feet in the air. That’s more than 24 miles … straight up. Baumgartner’s free fall lasted more than four minutes. Try sitting perfectly still for that long, and you’ll get some sense of what it was like for him. Except that you won’t actually at all.

3 Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXX - the Fastest flight

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On February 5, 1952, a record was set that is unlikely to ever be broken: the fastest ever flight by a piston-engine airplane. With its engine at full power in a steep dive, a Supermarine Spitfire Mk IXX achieved the speed of 690 mph. That’s within 80 mph of breaking the sound barrier in a propeller plane!

2 Thomas Knauff's Flight

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The most amazing non-powered flight in American history was achieved in 1983 by glider pilot Thomas Knauff, who piloted a glider on a journey more than 1,020 miles. That’s more than a third of the way across the entire continental United States without an engine! Not only is his record flight impressive for its distance and duration, but it also scores points for being eco-friendly.

1 Orville and Wilbur Wright's Flight

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The most impressive flight of a powered airplane goes to the granddaddy of them all: In 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright changed the history of the world in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina with the successful flight of their aptly named Flyer. Ah, if only they had known that within a few short generations, people would be complaining to flight attendants that their seatback TVs were stuck on MSNBC.