Conquering Air and Space

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was a tactical fighter introduced in 1976. This aerial combat plane is still in use today. See more pictures of flight.
U.S. Department of Defense

In a global economy, wars in the Middle East can affect gas prices everywhere. Increased prices were a shock at the gas station pump for the average driver, but they became a matter of life or death for airlines. Where in the past fuel eco­nomy had been just one of the performance factors to consider when designing or buying a new airliner, it now became paramount. But, regardless of the cost of fuel, both the Concorde and the Tupolev Tu-144 supersonic transports entered passenger service.

Flight Pictures


The high fuel prices hit the military, too, and flying times were cut all over the world. Older aircraft were being retired by the thousands. The U.S. military, in the midst of considering the lessons learned in Vietnam, came up with the requirement for two new fighters: the expensive McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle for air superiority work and the less expensive General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon for ground attack and other tasks. Both would serve the United States well for decades to come, and both would be used by many allied nations around the world. The Soviet Union responded, as usual, with its own excellent MiG and Sukhoi designs, while France, also as usual, continued to develop and expand their line of Dassault fighters.

International cooperation was in the wind, and the effort proven in the building of the Anglo-French Concorde spread to other types including the Panavia Tornado and the SEPECAT Jaguar. Ultimately the idea would result in the fantastic line of Airbus Industrie transports.

As the century of flight progressed into its eighth decade, it was natural that some of the great pioneers would pass on. Charles Lindbergh died at the age of 72 and Willy Messerschmitt at age 80.

But even as the famous passed on, other new names emerged. Dr. Paul MacCready and his team created the Gossamer Condor to win the Kremer Prize for piloted aircraft. Piloted by Bryan Allen, the shimmering aircraft flew a figure-eight course around two points one half mile apart. The flight had far more than human-interest value. It would lead to a steady series of solar-powered research aircraft.