Great Aviation Quotes: Quotable Flyer: Pilot and Flying Quotations
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First Flights


Picture of original Wright telegraph

Success four flights thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind started from Level with engine power alone average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform Press home Christmas.

— Orville Wright, 17 December 1903. This first telegraph home had two transcription errors. It should have read 59 seconds and Orville's name was spelt 'Orevelle.' Bishop Milton Wright received the telegram at about 5:30 PM, and showed it to Katharine a few minutes later. Supper was delayed while the telegram was sent over to Lorin's home and the news was telegraphed to Octave Chanute.

With a short dash down the runway, the machine lifted into the air and was flying. It was only a flight of twelve seconds, and it was uncertain, wavy, creeping sort of flight at best; but it was a real flight at last and not a glide.

— Orville Wright, first flight of a heavier-than-air aircraft.

They done it! They done it! Damned if they ain't flew.

— Johnny Moore, shouted while running to the village of Kitty Hawk. 17 December 1903.

The course of the flight up and down was exceedingly erratic, partly due to the irregularity of the air, and partly to lack of experience in handling this machine.

— Orville Wright

Those who understand the real significance of the conditions under which we worked will be surprised rather at the length than the shortness of the flights made with an unfamiliar machine after less than one minute's practice. The machine possesses greater capacity of being controlled than any of our former machines.

— Wilbur Wright

I was surprised at the silence and the absence of movement which our departure caused among the spectators, and believed them to be astonished and perhaps awed at the strange spectacle; they might well have reassured themselves. I was still gazing when M. Rozier cried to me — "You are doing nothing, and the balloon is scarcely rising a fathom."

"Pardon me," I answered, as I placed a bundle of straw upon the fire and slightly stirred it. Then I turned quickly but already we had passed out of sight of La Muette. Astonished I cast a glance towards the river. I perceived the confluence of the Oise. And naming the principal bends of the river by the places nearest them, I cried, "Passy, St. Germain, St. Denis, Sevres!"

 "If you look at the river in that fashion you will be likely to bathe in it soon," cried Rozier. "Some fire, my dear friend, some fire!"

— Marquis D'Arlandes, first flight of a hot air balloon, 21 November 1783.

Nothing will ever equal that moment of exhilaration which filled my whole being when I felt myself flying away from the earth. It was not mere pleasure; it was perfect bliss…

— Prof. Jacques Alexandre Cesare Charles, first free flight in a manned hydrogen balloon, December 1, 1783. Note: the exact adjective used by Prof. Charles to describe his emotions in French is not "exhilaration" but "hilarite'," which can be translated as ecstasy, exhilaration, joy and/or excitement.

All was glorious — a cloudless sky above, a most delicious view around… . How great is our good fortune! I care not what may be the condition of the earth; it is the sky that is for me now.

— Prof. Jacques Alexandre Cesare Charles, first free flight in a manned hydrogen balloon, 1 December 1783.

I cannot describe the delight, the wonder and intoxication, of this free diagonal movement onward and upward, or onward and downward….The birds have this sensation when they spread their wings and go tobogganing in curves and spirals through the sky.

— Alberto Santos-Dumont, first dirigible flight.

When it first turned that circle, and came near the starting point, I was right in front of it; and said then, and I believe still, it was … the grandest sight of my life. Imagine a locomotive that has left its track, and is climbing up in the air right toward you — a locomotive without any wheels … but with white wings instead … a locomotive made of aluminum. Well, now, imagine this white locomotive, with wings that spread 20 feet each way, coming right toward you with a tremendous flap of its propellers, and you will have something like what I saw. The younger brother bade me move to one side for fear it might come down suddenly; but I tell you, friends, the sensation that one feels in such a crisis is something hard to describe.

— Amos Ives Root, witness to the first time a heavier-than-air flying machine had flown a complete circle, in the journal 'Gleanings in Bee Culture,' 1904.

Suddenly, Santos-Dumont points the end of the machine skyward, and the wheels visibly, unambiguously, leave the soil: the aeroplane flies. The whole crowd is stirred. Santos-Dumont seems to fly like some immense bird in a fairy tale.

— 'Le Figaro,' first powered flight in public, 24 October 1906.

I thought I would keep it on the ground until I became familiar with it, but on account of the wind, I unexpectedly took to the air, and the first thing I knew, I was flying.

— Arthur Pratt Warner, Beloit, Wisconsin. Warner was the first individual in the U.S. to purchase an aeroplane, a Curtiss biplane, that assembled himself. He had only intended to taxi when he made what was Wisconsin's first flight, 4 November 1909.

I headed for this white mountain, but was caught in the wind and the mist … I followed the cliff from north to south, but the wind, against which I was fighting, got even stronger. A break in the coast appeared to my right, just before Dover Castle. I was madly happy. I headed for it. I rushed for it. I was above ground!

— Louis Bleriot, first across the English Channel.

We are safely on the other side of the pond. The job is finished.

— Lieutenant Commander Albert Read, radio transmission after first transatlantic air crossing, 27 May 1919.

That's the best way to cross the Atlantic.

— Sir Arthur Whitten Brown, first nonstop across the Atlantic, upon landing 15 June 1919.

What? Only sixteen hours! Are you sure?

— Orville Wright, on hearing about the first nonstop flight across the Atlantic, 15 June 1919.

The hardships and perils of the past month were forgotten in the excitement of the present. We shook hands with one another, our hearts swelling with those emotions invoked by achievement and the glamour of the moment. It was, and will be, perhaps the supreme hour of our lives.

— Sir Ross Smith, K.B.E., first from London to Australia.

Demonstrated publicly at the Cuatro Vientos airport in Spain, the craft amazed and fascinated the whole aeronautical world. It was safe. Once … it climbed too steeply and lost all its forward motion, which, for the conventional aeroplane, would have meant plummeting to earth. This did not occur.

— Colonel H. F. Gregory, USAAF, witnessing the first autogiro.

Midway in Yokohama Bay we passed the volcano O Shima which was putting out great clouds of steam, and soon afterwards through a rift in the clouds we could see Japan's famous Fujiyama with the sun shining on its snow capped dome some 12,400 feet above sea level — a truly beautiful sight.

— Lt. Leslie Arnold, first around the world.

These phantoms speak with human voices … able to vanish or appear at will, to pass in and out through the walls of the fuselage as though no walls were there … familiar voices, conversing and advising on my flight, discussing problems of my navigation, reassuring me, giving me messages of importance unattainable in ordinary life.

— Charles Lindbergh, first solo across the Atlantic.

Where am I?

— Charles A. Lindbergh, upon arrival in Paris.

I was a passenger on the journey…just a passenger. Everything that was done to bring us across was done by Wilmer Stultz and Slim Gordon. Any praise I can give them they ought to have…I do not believe that women lack the stamina to do a solo trip across the Atlantic, but it would be a matter of learning the arts of flying by instruments only, an art which few men pilots know perfectly now…

— Amelia Earhart, first flight of a woman across the Atlantic.

I'm Douglas Corrigan. Just got in from New York, where am I? … I intended to fly to California.

— 'Wrong Way' Corrigan , upon arrival in Ireland after his un-approved solo transatlantic flight. He maintained he had 'compass troubles.'

Where am I?
In Gallegher's pasture … have you come far?
From America.

— Amelia Earhart, first solo flight by a woman across the Atlantic, upon arrival in an open field near Londonderry, Northern Ireland.

Somewhat to my dismay Everest bore that immense snow plume which means a mighty wind tearing across the summit, lifting clouds of powered snow and driving it with blizzard force eastward. Up went the machine into a sky of indescribable blue till we came on a level with the great peak itself, This astonishing picture of Everest, its plume now gradually lessening, its tremendous southern cliffs flanked by Makalu, was a sight which must remain in the mind all the years of one's life.

— Lt. Col. L. V. Stewart Blacker, first flight over Everest.

I happened to be the man on the spot, but any of the rest of the fellows would have done what I did.

— Jack Knight, first night mail flight, which was part of a record-setting transcontinental airmail relay.

This machine was a failure to the extent that it could not fly. In other respects it was a very important and necessary stepping stone.

— Igor Ivanovitch Sikorsky, regards the first helicopter, built 1909.

Apart from a few tricky minutes in low cloud near the North Downs the journey over Folkestone and Boulogne down to Beauvais was uneventful but wet and hardly ever over 200 feet above ground … we eventually landed at Le Bourget at 10:15 a.m. In those days the airfield consisted of several canvas hangars, some wooden sheds and a lot of mud.

— Jerry Shaw, first flight of a paying passenger from England to France.

Even though the release was pulled, the rocket did not rise at first, but the flame came out, and there was a steady roar. After a number of seconds it rose, slowly until in cleared the frame, and then at express-train speed, curving over to the left, and striking the ice and snow, still going at a rapid rate. It looked almost magical as it rose, without any appreciably greater noise or flame, as if it said, "I've been here long enough; I think I'll be going somewhere else, if you don't mind.

— Robert Goddard, regards the first rocket flight using liquid propellants at Aunt Effie's farm 17 March 1926.

Rather routine.

— Frank Collbohm, Douglas Aircraft Company flight engineer, notation in the flight log during the first ever flight of the DC-3 Clover Field in Santa Monica, California, 17 December 1935

One has the feeling of enormous safety. You don't have the torque from the propeller. You have no noise; it's almost like little electric motors humming inside, and you feel sort of safe.

— Erich Warsitz, first flight of the Heinkel 178, reported in 'AOPA Pilot,' June 1992. This was the first jet powered aircraft. 27 August 1939.

It's only the beginning but the implications are terrific.

— Gerald Sayer, first flight in the Gloster-Whittle E28 jet, 1941.

It looked like a fiery sword going into the sky. There came this enormous roar and the whole sky seemed to vibrate; this kind of unearthly roaring was something human ears had never heard. It is very hard to describe what you feel when you stand on the threshold of a whole new era; of a whole new age… . It's like those people must have felt — Columbus or Magellan — that for the first time saw entire new worlds and knew the world would never be the same after this… . We know the space age had begun.

— Dr. Walter Robert Dornberger, regards the first successful flight of the A-4 rocket, to the edge of space, 3 October 1942.

For the first time I was flying by jet propulsion. No engine vibrations. No torque and no lashing sound of the propeller. Accompanied by a whistling sound, my jet shot through the air. Later when asked what it felt like, I said, "It felt as though angels were pushing".

— Generalleutnant Adolf Galland, on his first flight in a jet, the Messerschmitt 262, May 1943,

At 42,000' in approximately level flight, a third cylinder was turned on. Acceleration was rapid and speed increased to .98 Mach. The needle of the machmeter fluctuated at this reading momentarily, then passed off the scale. Assuming that the off-scale reading remained linear, it is estimated that 1.05 Mach was attained at this time.

— (then) Captain Charles E. Yeager, Air Corps, formal typewritten test flight report on first supersonic flight, 14 October 1947. NACA tracking data and the XS-1's own oscillograph instrumentation later showed 'Glamorous Glennis' had attained Mach 1.06 at about 43,000 feet.



Mach 1 part of Yeager's formal test report

Leveling off at 42,000 feet, I had thirty percent of my fuel, so I turned on rocket chamber three and immediately reached .96 Mach. I noticed that the faster I got, the smoother the ride. Suddenly the Mach needle began to fluctuate. It went up to .965 Mach — then tipped right off the scale … We were flying supersonic. And it was a smooth as a baby's bottom; Grandma could be sitting up there sipping lemonade.

— General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, regards first supersonic flight.

Hey Ridley, that Machometer is acting screwy. It just went off the scale on me.

— General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, first radio transmission after going supersonic for the first time, a coded message indicating success, 1947.

As we went through mach one, the nose started dropping, so we just cranked that horizontal stabilizer down to keep the nose up. We got it above mach one, and once we got it above the speed of sound, then you have supersonic flow over the whole airplane, so you have no more shock waves on it that are causing buffeting…You really don't think about the outcome of any kind of a flight, whether it's combat, or any other kinds of flights, because you really have no control over it… You concentrate on what you are doing, to do the best job you can, to stay out of serious situations. And that's the way the X-1 was.

— General Charles 'Chuck' Yeager, regards the first supersoninc flight, interview, 1 February 1991

… Your seat pushed you firmly in the back. Even then there is none of the shuddering brazen bellow of the high-powered piston engine … Combined with a seemingly uncanny lack of vibration, this gives the impression almost of sailing through space, the engines with their glinting propeller discs utterly remote from the quiet security of this cabin.

— Derek Harvey, first turboprop airliner (Vickers-Armstrong Viscount).

Millions wonder what it is like to travel in the Comet at 500 miles an hour eight miles above the earth. Paradoxically there is a sensation of being poised motionless in space. Because of the great height the scene below scarcely appears to move; because of the stability of the atmosphere the aircraft remains rock-steady … One arrives over distant landmarks in an incredibly short time but without the sense of having traveled. Speed does not enter into the picture. One doubts one's wristwatch.

— C. Martin Sharp, first jet airliner (the de Havilland Comet 1).

She flew like a bird, only faster.

— Alvin M. "Tex" Johnston, Boeing test pilot, climbing down from the cockpit of the Boeing Model 367-80 after its first flight. It would become the B707 for the airlines and the KC-135 for the USAF. 15 July, 1954.

(translation: Let's Go!)

— Yuri A. Gagarin, shouted as Vostok 1 lifted off, 12 April 1961.

I saw for the first time the earth's shape. I could easily see the shores of continents, islands, great rivers, folds of the terrain, large bodies of water. The horizon is dark blue, smoothly turning to black… the feelings which filled me I can express with one word — joy.

— Yuri A. Gagarin

You're on your way, Jose!

— Deke Slayton, at Mission Control, to Alan Shepard at liftoff of Freedom 7, first American in space, 5 May 1961.

Roger, liftoff, and the clock is started.

— Alan B. Shepard Jr., replying, 09:34:13 EST 5 May 1961.

The Moon is essentially gray — no color — looks like plaster of paris — soft of gray sand.

— James Lovell, Apollo 8, first transmission from first lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.

Looks like a sand pile my kids have been playing in for a long time — it's all beat up — no definition — just a lot of bumps and holes.

— William Anders, Apollo 8, first lunar orbit, 24 December 1968.

I tell you, we're going to be busy for a minute.

— Neil Armstrong, one of the first transmissions from Tranquility Base. 20 July 1969.

The first flight was relatively uneventful. Just one emergency, and another minor problem. A canopy-unsafe light illuminated at Mach 1.2 on the way t o1.5 at 50,000 feet, and later, during a fly-by requested by Johnson, fuel siphoning occurred. Not bad, as initial test flights go.

— Robert J, Gilliland, regards the first flight of the SR-71 Blackbird, 22 December 1964.

Pilot Jack Waddell eased throttles forward; Co-Pilot Brian Wygle called out speeds as a gentle giant of the air began to move; Flight Engineer Jess Wallick kept eyes glues to the gauges. The Boeing Model 747 Superjet gathered speed. The nose lifted. After 4,300 ft — less than half the 9,000 ft runway — main gear of the plane left the concrete. At 11:34 a.m., with a speed of 164 miles an hour, quietly and almost serenely, the age of spacious jets began.

— Boeing Magazine, first flight of the B-747.

The powered flight took a total of about eight and a half minutes. It seemed to me it had gone by in a lash. We had gone from sitting still on the launch pad at the Kennedy Space Center to traveling at 17,500 miles an hour in that eight and a half minutes. It is still mind-boggling to me. I recall making some statement on the air-to-ground radio for the benefit of my fellow astronauts, who had also been in the program a long time, that it was well worth the wait.

— Bob Crippen, regards first flight of the Space Shuttle, STS-1.

This vehicle is performing like a champ. I've got a super spaceship under me.

— Bob Crippen, pilot of Space Shuttle Columbia, 12 April 1981.

The dream is alive.

— John Young, after landing the first Space Shuttle STS-1 at Edwards, 14 April 1981.

Edwards Tower, this is Voyager One. We're ready to go.

Roger, Voyager One. You're cleared for takeoff. ATC clears Voyager One from Edwards Air Force Base to Edwards Air Force Base via flight plan route. Maintain 8,000. Godspeed.

— First around the world non-stop and non-refueled. Dick Rutan and ATC.

Our A320 behaved even better than expected — it is both delightfully responsive and reassuringly stable to fly, qualities which fly-by-wire brings together for the first time in an airliner. Never before have we enjoyed a first flight so much, and we are confident that airline pilots well feel the same way.

— Pierre Baud, first flight of a fully fly-by-wire airliner.

The way the public sees it is this. If we don't leave, we are idiots. If we do leave but don't succeed in our mission, we are incompetent. But if we do succeed, it's because it was easy and anyone could have done it.

— Bertrand Piccard, first to balloon around the world, 1999.

I am with the angels and just completely happy.

— Bertrand Piccard, Swiss pilot of Breitling Orbiter 3, first to balloon around the world, 20 March 1999.

I am going to have a cup of tea, like any good Englishman.

— Brian Jones, British pilot of Breitling Orbiter 3, first to balloon around the world, regards what he is going to do next, 20 March 1999.

I feel good.

— Yang Liwei, first Chinese astronaut in space, in his first report from space, 34 minutes after the launch. 15 October 2003. Reported by the Xinhua News Agency.

It was a mind-blowing experience, it really was — absolutely an awesome thing… . As I got to the top I released a bag of M&Ms in the cockpit. It was amazing … Looking out that window, seeing the white clouds in the LA Basin, it looked like snow on the ground.

— Mike Melvill, first to fly into space in a private aircraft, 21 June 2004.

It was absolutely perfect. You can handle this large aircraft as you can handle a bicycle.

— Jacques Rosay, test pilot, regards the A-380 first flight, 28 April 2005.

I showed it is possible to fly a little bit like a bird.

— Yves Rossy, first person to cross the English Channel strapped to a jet-powered wing. The 22 mile journey took 13 minutes. 26 September 2008

We learned more about this airplane in the first 10 minutes of flying than we have in the last 100 days.

— Michael H. Carriker, test pilot, first flight of the Boeing 787, Boeing Field, 15 December 2009.

The airplane flew beautifully. There were no surprises.

— Randall L. Neville, test pilot, first flight of the Boeing 787, Boeing Field. As a highly experienced test pilot and former director of Flight Operations for the U.S. Air Force Test Pilot School, Neville knows the wonder of 'no surprises' on a first flight. 15 December 2009.

Totally uneventful. It was a very successful first flight. To be honest, it was a little bit boring.

— Fernando Alonso, Airbus Senior VP, head of the flight & integration center, and test engineer on the first flight of the A350 XWB. 14 June 2013.

Taking on the impossible is not necessarily easier, but it's more satisfying, it's more motivating and, in the end, it's more important.

— Todd Reichert, who along with Cameron Robertson did the 'impossible,' and built a human-powered helicopter that flew 10 feet into the air and hover in one place for 60 seconds. June 2013. Quoted in Scientific American November 2014.



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