aviation timeline



World Aviation in 1981

18 January
A Bell Model 222, delivered to Omniflight Helicopters, is the company's 25,000th production helicopter.

28 January
Pan American World Airways (Pan-Am) begins a twice weekly New York to Beijing service.

1 February
Donald W. Douglas, founder of the Douglas Aircraft Company, dies aged 88.

12 February
The helium-filled balloon 'Jules Verne', piloted by Americans Max Anderson and Don Ida, lifts off from Luxor in Egypt, in an attempt to circumnavigate the globe. Two days later the attempt is aborted after 2,900 miles of travel.

18 February
John K. Northrop, founder of Northrop Aircraft, dies.

28 March
Air France flies it's last service using the Aérospatiale (Sud-Aviation) Caravelle, almost 22 years after the type entered service.

3 April
Juan Trippe, the founder of Pan American World Airways (Pan-Am) and air travel pioneer, dies aged 81.

12 April
Space Shuttle Columbia is successfully launched from Cape Canaveral for its first mission.

20 May
© National Air & Space MuseumHughes Helicopters announces the beginning of construction of a prototype helicopter that will use pressurised air instead of a standard tail rotor.

7 June
Eight Israeli General Dynamics F16s, escorted by F15s attack the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in Iraq.

15 June
The Pakistani Foreign Minister announces the purchase of General Dynamics F16s for the national air force.

3 July
Aeroflot inaugurates its first international service with the Ilyushin Il86 on the airline's Moscow-East Berlin route.

23 July
A new helicopter altitude record is set by Charles Praether, flying an Augusta A109A at a height of 6,096 metres (20,000 feet).

3 August
The Boeing company delivers its 4,000th jetliner, a 727-200, for Ansett Airlines of Australia.

6 August
The United States President Ronald Reagan sacks all striking Air Traffic Controllers.

19 August
United States Navy (USN) Grumman F14 Tomcat aircraft shoot down two Libyan fighters in Gulf of Sirte off the Libyan coast.

3 September
McDonnell Douglas delivers its 1,000th DC9 aircraft, a Super 80 (HB-INO), to Swissair.

7 September
Edwin A. Link, inventor of the Link Trainer, dies aged 77. The Link Trainer was the first flight simulator.

15 September
The 494th Tactical Fighter Squadron at RAF Lakenheath in Suffolk, becomes the first United States Air Force (USAF) squadron to be equipped with the Pave Tack munitions laser guidance system.

20 September
The People's Republic of China launches three satellites into orbit with a single-booster rocket, making this is the first multiple launch achieved by China.

22-24 September
An Ilyushin Il86, captained by G. Volokhov, sets new class speed records in the 1,000 kilometres and 2,000 kilometres closed circuit categories at 962kph (597mph) and 975kph (606mph) respectively.

9 October
Superchicken III, a helium-filled balloon piloted by Fred Gorrell and John Shoecroft, completes the first non-stop trans-America balloon flight, taking 55 hours 25 minutes.

16 October
McDonnell Douglas finishes construction of the first full-scale AV-8B Harrier II development aircraft at St Louis in Missouri.

4 November
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) aborts the second flight of Space Shuttle Columbia 31 seconds before launch due to a computer mis-match.

13 November
Ben Abruzzo, Larry Newman, Ron Clarke and Rocky Aoki crew the helium-filled balloon Double Eagle V in the first manned balloon crossing of the Pacific Ocean. However, severe weather forces a crash-landing on completion of the journey - a distance 5,209 miles from Nagashima in Japan to Covello in California.

25-26 November
Hot-air balloon 'Semiramis', piloted by Frenchmen Hélène Dorigny and Michel Arnould, who set a new hot-air balloon distance record of 1,154 kilometres (717 miles).

5 December
Jerry Mullen considerably extends the closed circuit distance record in Fédération Aéronautique Internationale (FAI) class C1d for piston-engined aircraft, flying 16,104 kilometres (10,007 miles) in 73 hours 2 minutes in an aircraft named 'Phoenix'.

17 December
A Hughes OH6A helicopter, using controllable pressurised air release instead of a tail rotor, makes a successful first flight.