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1950 Master Index 1952

1951 Chronology of Aviation History
Major Aviation Events


Events 1951


  • 1951 — Three aerial refueling points are installed on a modified USAF Boeing B-29 “Superfortress”, making it the world's first triple-point aerial tanker. During trials, it keeps six RAF Gloster “Meteor F.8” fighters continuously aloft simultaneously for four hours at a time. [1]

  • 1951 — President Harry S Truman presents the Collier Trophy to the USCG for its development of the helicopter. [1]

  • 1951 — With no aircraft left on order and no prospects for new orders, the Curtiss-Wright Corporation closes down its Aeroplane Division and sells all of its aircraft designs, projects, prototypes, and factories to North American Aviation. [1]

  • Early 1951 — The Royal Navy embarks a helicopter unit on an aircraft carrier for the first time, aboard HMS Indomitable. [1]

January 1951


  • January — USN aircraft from the aircraft carriers of Task Force 77 provide support to United Nations troops fighting on the front line in Korea, including long-range interdiction, emergency close air support, and air cover for landings and evacuations. [1]

  • January 1 — The USAF reestablishes the Air Defense Command. It also returns the Air Defense Command to the status of a major command, a status it has not held since December 1948. [1]

  • January 21 — The USAF F-84 Republic “Thunderjet” makes its first kill, when a Republic F-84 “Thunderjet” pilot Lieutenant Colonel William E. Bertram shoots down a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “Fagot” during the Korean War. [1]

  • January 31 — The month ends as the worst for the United Nations forces in Korea in terms of air losses, with 44 U.N. aircraft lost to enemy ground fire alone. More than 600 American aircraft have been lost in air-to-air combat or due to enemy ground fire since the Korean War began in June 1950. [1]

  • January 31 — On a flight in the privately owned North American P-51 “Mustang Excalibur III ” to investigate the jet stream, USN Captain Charles F. Blair, Jr., sets a record for a piston-engine aircraft by flying nonstop 3,478 miles (5,597 km) from New York City to London, England, in 7 hours 48 minutes at an average speed of 446 mph (718 km/hr). [1]

February 1951


  • February — The U.S. Joint Intelligence Committee reports that the Soviet Air Force has 20,000 aircraft to devote to the support of Soviet Army ground forces in the event of a war with the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and estimates that the Soviet Union will have 120 atomic bombs in 1952. [1]

  • February 21 — An English Electric “Canberra” becomes the first jet to make an unrefuelled crossing of the Atlantic, taking 4 hours 37 minutes. [1]

  • February 26 — USN carrier aircraft of Task Force 77 begin 38 consecutive days of attacks on enemy railroads and highways along the east coast of Korea. [1]

March 1951


  • March — The USN tank landing ship USS LST-799, fitted with a miniature flight deck, begins operations off Wonsan, Korea, with a detachment of two Sikorsky HO3S helicopters from Utility Helicopter Squadron 1 (UH-1). She becomes the first USN ship to operate in the role of a helicopter carrier. [1]

  • March 2 — USN Douglas AD “Skyraiders” of Attack Squadron 195 (VA-195) from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37) begin a lengthy series of raids against a railroad bridge across a deep ravine south of Kilchu, Korea, discovered earlier that day by their commanding officer, Lieutenant Commander Harold Carlson. They damage the southern approach to the bridge in their first strike. [1]

  • March 3 — The second strike by VA-195 against the Kilchu railroad bridge destroys one span, damages another span, and shifts two more spans out of line. Rear Admiral Ralph A. Ofstie, commanding Task Force 77, dubs the target “Carlson's Canyon. ” [1]

  • March 6 — The Martin aircraft company gains production rights to the English Electric “Canberra” as the B-57. [1]

  • March 7 — VA-195 makes its third strike against the railroad bridge in “Carlson's Canyon, ” dropping the northernmost of the two spans it had shifted in its March 3 attack. [1]

  • March 15 — VA-195 makes its fourth strike against the railroad bridge in “Carlson's Canyon,” destroying some wooden replacement spans, dropping a span at the southern end, and damaging the northern approach. Later in the month, USAF Boeing B-29 “Superfortresses” seed the valley floor with long-time-delay bombs. [1]

  • March 15 — A Qantas flying boat makes a survey flight from Sydney, Australia, to Valpara√≠so, Chile, via Easter Island, a first flight of this type across the South Pacific. [1]

  • March 21 — Flying a USN Grumman F9F “Panther ” of Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191) from the aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37), Ensign Floryan “Frank” Sobieski is blinded by enemy ground fire over Korea. Guided and encouraged by his wingman, Lieutenant, junior grade, Pat Murphy, and assisted by Princeton's landing signal officer, Sobieski lands safely aboard USS Princeton without being able to see. He later recovers full vision. [1]

  • March 27 — An Air Transport Charter Douglas “Dakota 3” crashes shortly after takeoff from Ringway Airport in Manchester, England, during a snowstorm, killing four of the six people on board. [1]

April 1951


  • April — United Nations intelligence estimates credit the People's Republic of China with 1,250 planes based in Manchuria, about 800 of them Soviet-built jets. Chief of Staff of the USAF General Hoyt Vandenberg expresses concern that the U.N. is close to losing air superiority over North Korea. [1]

  • April — The USN has activated 13 aircraft carriers from the National Defense Reserve Fleet to bolster its capabilities during the Korean War. [1]

  • April 1 — USN carrier-based jets are used as fighter-bombers for the first time as Grumman F9F “Panthers ” of Fighter Squadron 191 (VF-191) aboard USS Princeton (CV-37) attack a railroad bridge near Songjin, Korea, with 100- and 250-pound (45- and 113-kg) bombs. [1]

  • April 2 — The fifth and sixth strikes by USN Attack Squadron 195 (VA-195) against the almost-rebuilt railroad bridge in “Carlson's Canyon ” at Kilchu, Korea, leave only the concrete bridge piers standing. VA-195's campaign has defeated enemy attempts to repair the bridge. However, the North Koreans have built a bypass road with eight new bridges that are harder to hit and easier to repair, and keep their supplies moving, and VA-195 gives up on further strikes. VA-195's attacks on the bridge will inspire the 1953 novella “The Bridges at Toko-Ri ” by James Michener and the 1954 movie of the same name based on it. [1]

  • April 4 — USN aircraft carriers of Task Force 77 conclude 38 consecutive days of aerial interdiction in Korea, during which their aviators have claimed the destruction of 54 railroad and 37 highway bridges and to have ruptured railroad tracks in 200 other places. The railroad system along the east coast of North Korea has been reduced from carrying two-thirds to carrying one-third of North Korean and Chinese supplies since the attacks began on February 25. [1]

  • April 12 — 48 USAF Boeing B-29 “Superfortress ” bombers attack the Sinuiju Railway Bridge on the Yalu River. [1]

  • April 21 — Four Yak-9 fighters attack two USMC Vought F4U “Corsairs ” of Marine Fighter Squadron 312 (VMF-312) near Chinnampo, Korea. Marine Captain Philip C. DeLong shoots down two of them, while his wingman, Lieutenant H. Deigh, destroys one and damages the fourth. [1]

  • April 25 — Cubana de Aviación Flight 493, a Douglas DC-4, collides in mid-air with a USN Beech SNB-1 “Kansan ” on an instrument training flight near Naval Air Station Key West in Key West, Florida. Both planes crash, killing all 39 people on board the Douglas DC-4 and the entire four-man crew of the Beech SNB-1. [1]

  • April 30 — Six aircraft from the USN aircraft carrier USS Princeton (CV-37) attack the Hwachon Dam, attempting to destroy its sluice gates to prevent North Korea from shutting them and allowing the Pukhan River below to dry up so that North Korean and Chinese troops could cross the riverbed. Dropping one 2,000-pound (907-kg) bomb each, they punch a hole in the dam but miss the sluice gates. [1]

May 1951


  • May 1 — The only combat use of torpedoes during the Korean War occurs when USN Douglas AD “Skyraiders ” of Attack Squadron 195 (VA-195) from USS Princeton (CV-37), escorted by Vought F4U “Corsairs ” of Fighter Squadrons 192 and 193 (VF-192 and VF-193) from the same carrier, attack the Hwachon Dam with torpedoes, wrecking the center sluice gate and flooding the Pukhan River. All aircraft return safely. It is the only occasion on which naval aircraft have used torpedoes to attack a dam. No aerial torpedo attack has been conducted by any country since. [1]

  • May 20 — USAF Captain James Jabara becomes the first fighter ace to score his five victories in a jet (an North American F-86 “Sabre ”) against jets (Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “ Fagots ”). [1]

  • May 25 — No. 101 Squadron takes delivery of its first English Electric “Canberra B.Mk.2 ” bombers, becoming the first operational “Canberra ” unit and the first jet bomber squadron of RAF Bomber Command. [1]

  • May 29 — Flying the privately owned North American P-51 “Mustang Excalibur III ”, USN Captain Charles F. Blair, Jr., makes the first solo flight over the North Pole, flying nonstop 3,260 miles (5,250 km) from Bardufoss, Norway, to Fairbanks, Alaska. [1]

June 1951


  • June — The USAF takes delivery of its first Republic F-84G “Thunderjet, ” the first fighter with a built-in aerial refueling probe, the first single-seat aircraft capable of carrying a nuclear bomb, and the last straight-wing aircraft to enter USAF service. [1]

  • June 1 — British European Airways commences helicopter services between London and Birmingham. [1]

  • June 5 — The USAF, USN, and USMC begin “Operation Strangle”, a day-and-night air interdiction campaign against enemy roads, bridges, and tunnels across the width of the Korean Peninsula between 38 degrees 15 minutes North and 39 degrees 15 minutes North. It will continue until February 1952, but without the success hoped for it. [1]

  • June 20 — The first aircraft with variable-sweep wings, the Bell X-5, makes its first flight, at Edwards Air Force Base, California. No attempt is made to change the sweep of its wings during the flight. [1]

  • June 20 — The first aircraft completely designed and built in Canada, the first example of the Avro Canada CF-100 “Canuck Mark 2”, flies for the first time. [1]

  • June 22 — The Pan American World Airways Lockheed L-049 “Constellation Clipper Great Republic”, operating as Flight 151, crashes into a hill near Sanoyie, Liberia, killing all 40 people on board. [1]

  • June 30 — The Douglas DC-6 “Mainliner Overland Trail”, operating as United Airlines Flight 610, crashes into Crystal Mountain, 50 miles (80 km) north-northwest of Denver, Colorado, killing all 50 people on board. [1]

July 1951


  • July — The world's first trials of a steam catapult take place aboard the British aircraft carrier HMS Perseus. [1]

  • July — No. 25 Squadron RAF becomes the world's first jet night-fighter squadron when it takes delivery of the de Havilland “Vampire NF.10” night fighter. [1]

  • July — Covered by the British light cruiser HMS Kenya and frigate HMS Cardigan Bay (K630), a USN landing craft equipped with a special crane recovers the pieces of a Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “Fagot” that had crashed near Cho-do in northwestern Korea. [1]

  • July 3 — USN Lieutenant junior grade John K. Koelsch and his crewman, Aviation Mate Third Class George M. Neal, are shot down in an Sikorsky HO3S helicopter by enemy ground fire while trying to rescue USMC Captain James V. Wilkins, who had been shot down behind enemy lines and was badly burned. Koelsch and Neal rig a litter to carry Wilkins out of the area, but eventually are captured on July 12, and Koelsch dies on October 16, 1951, while in captivity. For his actions, Koelsch posthumously becomes the first helicopter pilot to receive the Medal of Honor. [1]

  • July 6 — Aerial refueling is used under combat conditions for the first time, with a Boeing KB-29 “Superfortress” tanker refueling four Lockheed RF-80 “Shooting Star” reconnaissance aircraft over North Korea. [1]

  • July 21 — Flying in heavy rain, icing conditions, and limited visibility, the Canadian Pacific Air Lines Douglas DC-4 CF-CPC disappears during a United Nations flight from Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada, to Anchorage, Territory of Alaska, in the United States with 37 people on board. No wreckage or bodies are ever found. [1]

  • July 27 — Flying from Edwards Air Force Base, California, on its fifth flight, the first aircraft with variable-sweep wings, the Bell X-5, changes the sweep of its wings in flight for the first time. [1]

August 1951


  • August — The Royal Navy's first operational jet aircraft squadron, No. 800 Squadron, takes delivery of its first jets, Supermarine “Attackers.” [1]

  • August — The Canadian “Blue Devils” aerobatic team is disbanded. [1]

  • August 1 — Japan Air Lines is formed. [1]

  • August 7 — Bill Bridgeman sets a new airspeed record in the Douglas D-558-2 “Skyrocket” of Mach 1.88 (1,245 mph, 1,992 km/h). [1]

  • August 15 — Bill Bridgeman sets a new altitude record in the Douglas D-558-2 “Skyrocket” of 74,494 ft (22,706 m). [1]

  • August 15 — British European Airways commences the world's first turboprop freight services using a modified Douglas DC-3 fitted with two Rolls-Royce “Dart” engines. [1]

  • August 22 — The aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9) joins Task Force 77 off the northeast coast of Korea. Embarked aboard USS Essex is Fighter Squadron 172 (VF-172), equipped with McDonnell F2H-2 “Banshee” fighters. It is the first deployment of the “Banshee” to a war zone. [1]

  • August 24 — United Airlines Flight 615, a Douglas DC-6B, crashes into Tolman Peak near Decoto, California, killing all 50 people on board. [1]

  • August 25 — For the first time in the Korean War, USN fighters escort USAF Boeing B-29 “Superfortress” bombers as Grumman F9F “Panthers” of Fighter Squadron 51 (VF-51) and McDonnell F2H-2 “Banshees” of Fighter Squadron 172 (VF-172) from the aircraft carrier USS Essex (CV-9) cover Boeing B-29 “Superfortresses” on a raid on Rashin, Korea. They encounter no enemy aircraft. [1]

September 1951


  • September 13 — The USMC's first transport helicopter squadron, Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161), conducts history's first mass helicopter resupply mission in “Operation Windmill I”, lifting 18,484 pounds (8,384 kg) of equipment to a USMC battalion on the front line in Korea and evacuating 74 casualties, all in one hour, using Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters. [1]

  • September 15 — A stunt plane piloted by USAF First Lieutenant Norman Jones crashes into the crowd at an air show in Flagler, Colorado, when Jones attempts a loop or slow roll from an altitude of 200 feet (61 meters). Jones, six other adults, and 13 children die in the second-deadliest air show accident in U.S. history. [1]

  • September 16 — A damaged USN McDonnell F2H-2 “Banshee” attempting to land on USS Essex (CV-9) crashes into a group of aircraft parked on the carrier's deck, killing seven sailors. [1]

  • September 13 — In “Operation Windmill II”, Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) lifts 12,180 pounds (5,525 kg) of equipment to a USMC unit on the front line in Korea in 18 flights over the course of one hour, using Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters. [1]

  • September 21 — In “Operation Summit”, the USMC makes the world's first mass combat deployment by helicopter, when Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) uses 12 Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters to land 224 or 228 U.S. Marines and 17,772 pounds (8,061 kg) of equipment onto Hill 844 near Kansong, Korea. [1]

  • September 27 — In “Operation Blackbird”, the USMC makes the world's first nighttime combat troop lift by helicopter and the only large-scale night helicopter lift of the Korean War, when Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) uses Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters to land 223 U.S. Marines in a landing zone in Korea in 2 hours 20 minutes. [1]

  • September 28 — The USMC loses a transport helicopter operationally for this first time in history when a Sikorsky HRS-1 of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) is destroyed in a crash during a night training flight in Korea. All three men on board escape without injury. [1]

October 1951


  • October — Based on information supplied by Korean guerrillas, eight Douglas AD “Skyraiders” from USN Fighter Squadron 54 (VF-54) attack a meeting place of Communist leaders in Kapsan, North Korea, with 1,000-pound (454-kg) bombs and napalm. Intelligence evaluation indicates that 500 Communists are killed. [1]

  • October — A USN helicopter from the battleship USS Iowa (BB-61) flies 10 miles (16 km) inland to rescue a downed pilot from the aircraft carrier USS Bon Homme Richard (CV-31), a very lengthy rescue mission for the time. [1]

  • October — Communist aircraft inflict significant damage on the Royal Navy frigate HMS Black Swan while she is operating in the Han River in Korea. [1]

  • October 3 — Helicopter Antisubmarine Squadron 1 (HS-1), the USN's first anti-submarine warfare helicopter squadron, is commissioned. [1]

  • October 11 — In “Operation Bumble Bee”, 12 Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) relieve an entire USMC battalion on the front line in Korea, with each helicopter carrying six Marines at a time 15 miles (24 km) to the front and bringing six Marines at a time out to the rear area on the return trip. In under six hours, they transport a total of 958 Marines. [1]

  • October 15 — In “Operation Wedge”, Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of the USMC's Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) supply a surrounded South Korean Army unit with 19,000 pounds (8,618 kg) of ammunition and evacuate 24 casualties. [1]

  • October 22 — In “Operation Bushbeater”, the USMC makes the first use of vertical envelopment tactics when patrol teams of the 1st Marine Division use 40-foot (12-meter)-long knotted ropes to descend from Sikorsky HRS-1 helicopters of Marine Transport Helicopter Squadron 161 (HMR-161) in Korea. Two of the helicopters lose lift over rough terrain and crash, but no one aboard is injured. [1]

  • October 23 — Ten USAF Boeing B-29 “Superfortresses” attack an airfield in North Korea; three are shot down, four make emergency landings in South Korea, and three badly damaged aircraft return to Okinawa. It is the last daylight combat mission flown by the Boeing B-29 “Superfortress”. [1]

  • October 25 — Japan Airlines launches commercial operations within Japan, using three Northwest Airlines Martin 2-0-2 aircraft flown by Northwest crews. [1]

November 1951


  • November — A Royal Navy de Havilland “Sea Hornet N.F.21” night fighter of No. 809 Squadron, Fleet Air Arm, flies nonstop from Gibraltar to Lee-on-Solent, England, at an average speed of 378 miles per hour (609 km/hr). [1]

  • November — Thanks to wartime mobilization of United States Naval Reserve aviators, 75 percent of USN Korean War sorties are being flown by Naval Reserve personnel. [1]

December 1951


  • December — A USAF Republic XF-91 “Thunderceptor” becomes the first American combat aircraft to break the sound barrier in level flight. [1]

  • December 1 — Flying Officer Bruce Gogerly of No. 77 Squadron, Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF), flying a Gloster “Meteor”, shoots down a Soviet-piloted Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “Fagot”, the first of four air-to-air kills for RAAF pilots during the Korean War. [1]

  • December 12 — Alaska Air becomes the first airline to fly over the North Pole. [1]

  • December 13 — USAF Major George Davis of the 334th Fighter Squadron shoots down four Mikoyan-Gurevich MiG-15 “Fagots” in a single day. [1]

  • December 28 — The U.S. Joint Intelligence Committee reports that in an offensive against North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) forces, the Soviet Union would employ over 20,000 aircraft, which would be capable of attacking Western Europe, Scandinavia, Italy, the Balkans, Turkey, the Middle East, Canada, and the United States. [1]

  • December 31 — The USAF Strategic Air Command has an inventory of 1,165 aircraft, including 658 bombers. [1]

1951 First Flights


  • January 3 — Brochet MB.100 [1]

  • January 23 — Douglas XF4D-1, prototype of the Douglas F4D “Skyray” [1]

  • February 6 — Valmet “Vihuri” [1]

  • February 14 — Republic F-84F “Thunderstreak” [1]

  • February 23 — Dassault “Mystère” [1]

  • March 7 — Fouga “Gemeaux I” [1]

  • March 12 — Fairey “Delta 1” [1]

  • March 15 — SNCASO SO.4000 [1]

  • March 15 — Sud-Ouest SO.30R [1]

  • March 20 — McCulloch MC-4 [1]

  • April 26 — Lockheed X-7 [1]

  • May 18 — Vickers “Valiant” prototype (WB210) [1]

  • May 18 — Fokker S.14 “Machtrainer” [1]

  • June 20 — Bell X-5, first aircraft with swing wings [1]

  • June 21 — Handley Page HP.88 [1]

  • July 16 — Iberavia I-11 (EC-AFE) [1]

  • July 20 — Hawker “Hunter” prototype (WB188) [1]

  • August 5 — HAL HT-2, India's first indigenously designed basic trainer. [1]

  • August 5 — Supermarine “Swift” (WJ960) [1]

  • August 7 — McDonnell F3H “Demon” (BuNo 125444) [1]

  • August 31 — Supermarine Type 508 (VX133) [1]

  • September 7 — Auster B.4 (G-AMKL) [1]

  • September 20 — Grumman XF9F-6, prototype of the Grumman F9F-6, later F-9, “Cougar” [1]

  • September 26 — de Havilland “Sea Vixen” (WG326) [1]

  • October 5 — Convair CV-340 [1]

  • November 26 — Gloster “Javelin” prototype (WD804) [1]

  • December 10 — Fiat G.80, Italy's first true jet [1]

  • December 10 — Kaman K-225, first turbine-powered helicopter [1]

  • December 12 — de Havilland Canada DHC-3 “Otter” prototype (CF-DYK-X) [1]

  • December 27 — North American XFJ-2B, prototype of the FJ-2 “Fury” [1]

1951 Aircraft Entering Service


  • February — Avro “Shackleton” with No. 120 Squadron, RAF Coastal Command, and No. 236 Operational Conversion Unit, RAF [1]

  • May 24 — English Electric “Canberra” with the RAF's No. 101 Squadron [1]

  • June — Northrop F-89 “Scorpion” with the USAF's 84th Fighter-Interceptor Squadron [1]

  • June 20 — Avro Canada CF-100 “Canuck Mark 2” [1]

  • July — de Havilland “Vampire NF.10” with the RAF's No. 25 Squadron. [1]

  • August — Gloster “Meteor NF.11” with the RAF's No. 29 Squadron [1]

  • August 22 — Supermarine “Attacker” with 800 Naval Air Squadron, the Fleet Air Arm's first jet [1]

  • October 17 — Avro Canada CF-100 “Canuck” with the RCAF [1]

  • December 17 — Lockheed “Super Constellation” with Eastern Air Lines [1]

  • December 28 — Grumman F9F-6 “Cougar” with the USN [1]

Works Cited


  1. History and Timeline: Wikipedia. 1951 in aviation

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