Innovative Aircraft

  • By Peter Tyson
  • Posted 01.18.05
  • NOVA

From the Wright Flyer in 1903 to SpaceShipOne just a century later, airplane design has tended to advance by leaps and bounds. Government funding has spurred progress, as with the development of the world's first jet fighter. But innovations in the commercial sector also have been significant—witness the supersonic jet travel of Concorde. Here, take a look at one aviation historian's* list of each decade's most revolutionary plane.

Launch Interactive Printable Version

Blackbird, Concorde, Predator—see planes that broke the mold in the history of aviation.

*Thanks to Tom Crouch of the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C., who offered the list of aircraft described in this feature while humbly acknowledging that others might differ with his choices.

This feature originally appeared on the site for the NOVA program Supersonic Dream.



(Wright Flyer, Fokker E.III)
Courtesy of Rosebud's Early Aviation Archive
(Junkers F 13)
© Johann Visschedijk,
(Boeing B-17, Boeing 707)
© Boeing
(Me 262)
Courtesy of
(SR-71, F-117)
© Lockheed Martin Space Systems Company
© NewsCast
(RQ-1 Predator)
© U.S. Department of Defense
© Scaled Composites LLC

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