1880-1899 Master Index 1900

1890-1899 Chronology of Aviation History
Major Aviation Events


  • 31 July (USA) — During the month, L. Gathmann, of Chicago, explodes a shell that high altitude in an attempt to produce rain. [2]

  • 1 October (Washington, DC) — Pres. Harrison approves legislation creating the Weather Bureau and re-establishing the Signal Corps which is charged with collection and transmission of information, among other duties. Military aeronautics is then considered as among such means, and Army aeronautics is revived. [2]

  • 8 October (Columbus, Ohio) — Edward RickenBacker, American fighter ace in World War I is born in Columbus, Ohio.[3]

  • 9 October (Paris, France) — On this date, electrical engineer and inventor Clément Ader coaxed his bat-winged éole into the air for the first man-carrying powered brief “hop” into aeronautical history. The éole had a wing span of 46-feet, was powered by a 20-hp steam engine driving a bamboo propeller, with a gross T-O weight of 653-lbs. Had the craft actually flown, it most likely would have crashed since Adler did not provide any means for controlling it in the air. [3]


  • 1891 (Berlin, Germany) — Otto Lilienthal pilots a monoplane glider on its first tentative flight. [1]

  • 1891 — Samuel Pierpont Langley flies the Aerodrome No. 0, 1 and 2 powered unmanned model aircraft. [2]

  • 1891 — Otto Lilienthal flies about 25 m in his Derwitzer Glider. He begins a series of glider flights, attempting to develop a practical ornithopter. Although he did not achieve this goal, he became the first person to make repeatable, controlled flights in a series of heavier-than-air devices. First controlled glider flights in excess of 250 m. Performs the first well-documented and photographed flights. Breaks his spine after hundreds, nay thousands of flight. Leaves influential notebooks. [2]

  • 29 April (Japan) — Chuhachi Ninomiya flies the first model airplane in Japan, a rubber-band-powered model plane with a four-blade pusher propeller and three-wheeled landing gear. It makes flights of three and ten meters. The next day it flies 36 meters. [3]


  • 1892 (France) — Clément Ader is contracted by the French War Ministry to build an aircraft to be used as a bomber. [3]

  • 1892 (Germany) — Otto Lilienthal flies over 82-meters (90-yds) in his SÜdende-Glider. [3]

  • 1892 (Austria) — Austria's army gains a permanent air corps, the Kaiserlich und Königliche Militäraeronautische Anstalt ("Imperial and Royal Military Aeronautical Group"). [3]

  • 1892 (Great Britain) — Horatio Phillips built a steam-powered aircraft at Harrow which was tethered to the center of a circular track. It successfully left the ground, even when carrying 32 kg (72 lb) of ballast. [3]

  • February (France) — The first contract is awarded for the construction of a military airplane. Clément Ader is contracted by the French War Ministry to build a two-seater aircraft to be used as a bomber, capable of lifting a 75-kg (165-lbs) bombload. [3]

  • August (Satory, France) — Clément Ader flew 200 m uncontrolled in the Avion II (also referred to as the Zephyr or Éole II) at a field in Satory. [3]

  • 10 October (USA) — Balloon section is being organized with each telegraph train by Chief Signal Officer, Gen. A.W. Greely, who anticipates military airships and airplanes. [2]

  • 5 November (USA) — A wingless aerial torpedo is suggested by Prof. A. F. Zahm. [2]


  • 1893 (Germany) — Otto Lilienthal flies about 250 m in his Maihöhe-Rhinow-Glider. [3]

  • 1893 (Sydney, Australia) — Lawrence Hargrave demonstrates a human-carrying glider in Australia at an aeronautical congress in Sydney. It is based on the box kite, an invention of Hargrave's. It becomes an example for several scientific kites and aeroplane constructions. [3]

  • 1893 (England)— First experiments of the Englishman Philipps with a 50-wing-plane. [3]

  • 1-4 August (Chicago, Illinois) The International Conference on Aerial Navigation is held in Chicago, Illinois; Octave Chanute, Chairman; Dr. A.F. Zahm, Secretary. — [2]

  • 9 October (USA) — The Chief Signal Officer, General Greely reports the purchase of a Lachambre balloon for the Signal Corps balloon section. First ascents since the war are made at the Chicago Expedition from October 31, 1893. [2]


  • January (Germany) — German meteorologist Arthur Berson flies to 30,000 feet in a hydrogen balloon.

  • June (England) — A man-lifting kite section is briefly established at the British Army's Balloon School, now located at Aldershot, Hampshire. [1]

  • 31 July (Kent, England) — Hiram Maxim launches an enormous biplane test rig (wingspan 32 m, 105 ft) propelled by two steam engines. It makes a short captive hop after running down a length of railway track. After that he stopped his experiments, which had already cost him around thirty thousands pounds. [1,3]

  • October (United States) — Samuel Pierpont Langley flies the unmanned Aerodrome No. 4 over the Potomac river a distance of 130 ft.[3]

  • November (Stanwell Park, New South Wales) — Lawrence Hargrave demonstrates stable flight with a tethered box kite. [3]

  • 4 December (Germany) — German meteorologist Arthur Berson climbs up with a balloon to 9,155 m.[3]

  • 1894 (Poland) — Czeslaw Tanski successfully flies powered models in Poland and begins work on full-size gliders.[3]

  • 1894 (Chicago) — Railway engineer Octave Chanute publishes Progress in Flying Machines, describing the research completed so far into flight. Chanute's book is a summary of many articles published in the "American Engineer and Railroad Journal", is a comprehensive account on the stage of development worldwide on the way to the aeroplane. [1,3]

  • 1894 (Germany) — Otto Lilienthal goes with his Normal soaring apparatus in the first serial production of a glider. With different aeroplane constructions he covers distances up to 250 m. [3]


  • 1895 (England) — Percy Pilcher makes his first successful flight in a glider named Bat. [3]

  • 1895 (France) — In the book L'Aviation Militaire, Cl&eracute;ment Ader writes … an aircraft carrier will become indispensable. Such ships will be very differently constructed from anything in existence today. To start with, the deck will have been cleared of any obstacles: it will be a flat area, as wide as possible, not conforming to the lines of the hull, and will resemble a landing strip. The speed of this ship will have to be at least as great as that of cruisers or even greater … Servicing the aircraft will have to done below this deck … Access to this lower deck will be by means of a lift long enough and wide enough to take an aircraft with its wings folded … Along the sides will be the workshops of the mechanics responsible for refitting the planes and for keeping them always ready for flight. [3]

  • 1895 (Russia) — By the mid-1890s, the Imperial Russian Navy has established “aerostatic parks” on the coasts of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea.[3]


  • 29 April (Cambridge, Massachusetts) — The first American wind tunnel begins operation at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT). [2]

  • 6 May (Washington, D.C.) — A steam-powered airplane model is flown by Samuel Langley, Washington, D.C. [1,2]

  • 6 May (Quantico, Virginia) — On this date, a self-taught astronomer, Samuel Pierpont Langley catapulted a model aircraft about 3,300 feet along the Potomac River at Quantico, Virginia. This proved once and for all the possibility of powered heavier-than-air flight. The steel model had a wing span of 14 feet, weighed 26-lbs, and was powered by a 1-hp steam engine driving two propellers. The craft was launched from the roof of Langley's houseboat at a height of 16 feet. [3]

  • June (Lake Michigan) — Augustus Herring and William Avery, with William Butusov, begin tests of Butusov's own glider and some of Octave Chanute's. [1]

  • June (Lake Michigan) — Octave Chanute organizes a flyer camp at Lake Michigan. Tested was a Lilienthal-glider (reconstruction) and a biplane built by Chanute, which was the basis for the further development of flight technique. [3]

  • 9 August (Germany) — Otto Lilienthal crashes during a routine flight in the hills of Stölln and dies next day because of a spinal injury. [3]

  • 10 August (Berlin, Germany) — On this date, German pioneer glider-builder and pilot, Otto Lilienthal died as a result of a gliding accident that took place the previous day. The accident occurred in the Rhinower hills near Stöllen, when he was caught in a gust of wind that caused his glider to stall and crash to the ground. [3]

  • October (Berlin, Germany) — ground testing of the first rigid airship, and all-aluminum craft designed by the Austro-Hungarian engineer David Schwarz and built by Carl Berg, begins in Berlin. Schwartz will die of a heart attack before seeing it fly. [3]

  • 28 November (Washington, D.C.) — Samuel Pierpont Langley's model flying machine, the unmanned Aerodrome N° 6, flies for 1-min 45-sec above the Potomac River. [1]

  • 1896 (Germany) — David Schwarz's rigid airship makes its first flight at Tempelhof field, but crashes. [3]

  • 1896 (Germany) — Germans August Parseval and Bartsch Sigsfeld invent the kite balloon for observations in strong winds. [3]


  • 11 June (North Pole) — Salomon Andrée, N. Strindberg and K. Fraenkel attempt an Arctic expedition to the North Pole by free balloon from Spitsbergen. He and two companions crash within three days but manage to survive for several months in the pack ice. Their remains are discovered in 1930 on White Island. It was possible to develop the located film material. [3]

  • 12 June (Berlin, Germany) — Friedrich Hermann Wölfert and his mechanic are killed in an accident when their airship powered by petrol caught fire at a demonstration at the Tempelhof field. [3]

  • 20 June (Kent, England) — Percy Pilcher is towed about 750 feet in the Hawk, the fourth of his hand gliders. [1]

  • 11 July (Spitzbergen) — Swedish balloonists disappear over Arctic — Three aeronaut's have vanished after taking off from Spitzbergen in an attempt to make the first flight over the North Pole. Nothing has been heard of expedition leader Salomon August Andrée or his two companions Nils Strindberg and Knut Fraenkel since they lifted off from the north shore of Danes Island shortly after 1:30 p.m. Observers at the launch site say three trail ropes, designed to provide ballast and keep the balloon at low altitude, fell off, allowing the balloon to fly much higher than planned. Andrée was a meticulous organizer, and he had gone to great lengths to build safety measures into his 170,000 ft³ capacity balloon, the Ornen. The upper hemisphere of the balloon was made of three layers of double Chinese silk and the lower of a single Chinese silk skin. Special safety features were incorporated to stop the blocking of the valves by snow and icing up of the balloon. It is now feared that Andrée and his fellow explorers will not be able to survive in the bitter conditions of the Arctic. [1]

  • 14 October (France) — Clément Ader attempts to fly his new, twin-engine Avion III also referred to as Aquilon or the éole III before French Army officials. A gust of wind topples the aircraft and it crashes. The Army is not impressed and withdraws funding. [1,3]

  • 3 November (Hungary) — The first flight in a rigid airship is made by Ernst Jägels, flying an all-aluminium craft designed by David Schwarz and built by Carl Berg. It is damaged beyond repair while landing.

  • 1897 (Sweden) — Carl Rickard Nyberg starts working on his Flugan. [3]


  • 29 April (USA) — The War and Navy Departments examine Langley's work, approve, and the Board of Ordinance and Fortification makes two allotments of $25,000 each to build his airplane. [2]

  • 1898 (France) — Santos-Dumont flew his first balloon design, the Brésil. [3]

  • 1898 (Washington D.C.) — The Langley Aerodrome is commissioned by the United States Army Signal Corps.[3]

  • 20 September (Paris, France) — Alberto Santos-Dumont makes a flight in his airship N° 1, It ends in a crash. [1]

  • 7 October (Paris, France) — On this date, the Aéro-club de France was established to represent France's flyers. [1,3]

  • 22 October (Lake Michigan) — Augustus Herring, now working without Octave Chanute, pilots a powered biplane based on Chanute's 1896 glider on a short, uncontrolled flight. He made a similar flight on 10 October.[1]

  • 22 December (Washington, D.C.) — The Secretary of War approves a Fort Myers site for barracks, officer quarters, administration building and a balloon house to concentrate Signal Corps schools at one point. [2]

  • 1898 (France) — The French Navy Torpedo boat tender Foudre operates a spherical balloon experimentally during naval maneuvers in the Mediterranean Sea. [3]


  • 1899 (Germany) — Scientists Otto Lilienthal, who believes ornithopters - flapping-wing machines - are the key to powered flight, publishes his book Bird Flight as the Basis of the Flying Art. [1]

  • April (Pennsylvania, United States) — Gustave Whitehead claimed to have flown his steam powered aircraft a distance of 500 m in Pennsylvania with a passenger. [3]

  • 1899 (England) — Samuel Cody begins experiments with kites big enough to lift a person. [3]

  • 1899 (Stanford Hall, England) — Percy Pilcher flies various gliders and is close to completing a powered machine when he is tragically killed when his glider crashes at Stanford Hall, England after a tail strut fails. The flight was intended as a display of powered flight, but when the engine was not ready in time, Pilcher used a team of horses to pull the glider into the air. [3]

  • 24 July-5 August (Dayton, Ohio) — In order to realize their quest for powered flight, the Wright Brothers needed a system that could easily twist the wings without weakening the structural strength of the airframe. The solution came to Wilbur when he was absentmindedly twisting an empty inner tube box, and noticed that it retained its lateral stiffness under heavy twisting of the opposite ends. Wilbur reasoned that a set of properly rigged biplane wings should work in the same way. The wings could be twisted across the chord (width) of the wing without loss of strength and stiffness along the length of the span. A small horizontal stabilizer on the front interplane struts gave some pitch control. To test this aerodynamic control concept, the Wright Brothers fabricated a test kite to help validate their designs. The wingspan of the 1899 kite was 5 feet with a 13-inch chord. It was “flight” test between 24 July and 5 August 1899. [1,3]

  • 2 October (Leicestershire, England) — Britain's premier pioneer glider-builder and pilot Percy Pilcher died on this date as a result of a gliding accident. He was the first Englishman to lose his life in an "heavier-than-air" craft. [1,3]

  • November (England) — The British Army's 1st Balloon Section embarks for South Africa to fight in the Boer War. The second 2nd left in September. [1]

Works Cited

  1. Gunston, Bill, et al. Chronicle of Aviation. Liberty, Missouri: JL Publishing Inc., 1992. 14-17
  2. Parrish, Wayne W. (Publisher). "United States Chronology". 1962 Aerospace Yearbook, Forty-Third Annual Edition. Washington, DC: American Aviation Publications, Inc., 1962, 446-469.
  3. Wikipedia, Timeline of Aviation — 19th Century
  4. Shupek, John (photos and card images), The Skytamer Archive., Whittier, CA
  5. Wikipedia, John Wise (balloonist)
  6. United States Navy, Naval History & Heritage Command. USS George Washington Parke Custis

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