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World War I Flight Timeline

1916-1917 Flight Timeline

The Gotha G V had two 260-horsepower Mercedes engines and a top speed of 88 miles per hour.
The Gotha G V had two 260-horsepower Mercedes engines and a top speed of 88 miles per hour.
Peter M. Bowers Collection

Nov­ember 18, 1916 Seven JN-4s, originating in New York City, complete the first cross-country National Guard flight.

November 20, 1916 Ruth Law sets a world record for female pilots by flying from Chicago to New York in 8 hours, 55 minutes, 35 seconds.


November 21, 1916 The Breguet 14 makes its first flight.

January 5, 1917 The Smithsonian Institution gives Robert Goddard a $5,000 grant for rocket work.

January 16, 1917 Baron Manfred von Richthofen is awarded the Pour le Mérite (Blue Max) medal.

January 19, 1917 The Gallaudet Aircraft Company (a direct ancestor of today's General Dynamics) is formed.

February 11-12, 1917 A German D.F.W. shoots down two enemy bombers in the first successful night fighting between aircraft.

February 13, 1917 The Aircraft Manufacturers Association is formed to permit cross-licensing of patents for the war effort.

March 6, 1917 The first Airco (de Havilland) D.H.4s arrive in France.

March 25, 1917 Billy Bishop gets his first victory (he will go on to become the leading surviving British ace with 72 victories).

April 1917 "Bloody April": 150 RFC aircraft are destroyed, primarily by Albatros D III fighters.

April 5, 1917 The potent Bristol F2B "Brisfit" fighter moves into combat on the western front with the RFC.

April 6, 1917 The United States declares war on Germany. Rated 14th of world air powers, the United States has only 83 pilots and 109 obsolete aeroplanes in service.

April 9, 1917 Dayton-Wright Aircraft Company is formed to manufacture Liberty-powered DH-4 biplanes.

April 12, 1917 The Breguet 14, a famous French bomber, arrives at the front.

May 1917 French squadrons begin to receive the SPAD XIII, a famous fighter.

May 6, 1917 Albert Ball, the top British ace of the time, scores his 44th victory; he is killed the next day.

May 18, 1917 The U.S. Navy experiments with self-sealing fuel tanks, using double-walled tanks with layers of felt, gum rubber, and Ivory-soap paste.

May 20, 1917 The Curtiss-designed "Large America" flying boat is the first airplane to sink a German submarine (U-36).

May 25, 1917 Twenty-one Gothas raid England in the first mass bombing; 95 people are killed.

June 1917 The first of the German "Giant" bombers, a Staaken R VI, is delivered.

June 13, 1917 Fourteen Gothas raid London, killing 162 civilians and injuring 432. The populace demands a home defense system.

July 1917 Sopwith Camel fighters, the most successful planes based on number of kills (1,294), go into action.

July 21, 1917 Congress ap-proves a gigantic $640 million for S.C. Aviation Service. This amount is eight times more than all U.S. aviation allocations since 1898.

July 26, 1917 The Rich­thofen Flying Circus, a group of elite pilots, forms.

August 2, 1917 Squadron Commander E. H. Dunning lands a Sopwith Pup on the deck of the HMS Furious, becoming the first pilot to land on a moving ship. He is killed five days later trying to repeat this effort.

August 11, 1917 Billy Bishop earns the Victoria Cross for his role in an attack on an enemy airfield.

August 21, 1917 The first two Fokker triplanes arrive at Baron Manfred von Richthofen's base.

August 21, 1917 The first Liberty engine is flown in a L.W.F. Model F plane.

August 30, 1917 German ace Werner Voss flies a Fokker Dr I triplane into combat for the first time, scoring three aerial victories.

­September 1917 A prototype of the Handley Page O/400--the best British bomber of the war--flies for the first time.