Airliner - History

History

When the Wright brothers made the world’s first sustained heavier-than-air flight, they laid the foundation for what would become a major transport industry. Their flight in 1903 was just 11 years before what is often defined as the world’s first airliner. These airliners would change the world socially, economically, and politically in a way that had never been done before.

If an airliner is defined as a plane intended for carrying multiple passengers in commercial service, the Russian Sikorsky Ilya Muromets was the first official passenger aircraft. The Ilya Muromets was a luxurious aircraft with an isolated passenger saloon, wicker chairs, bedroom, lounge and a bathroom. The aircraft also had heating and electrical lighting. The Ilya Muromets first flew on December 10, 1913. On February 25, 1914, it took off for its first demonstration flight with 16 passengers aboard. From June 21 – June 23, it made a round-trip from Saint Petersburg to Kiev in 14 hours and 38 minutes with one intermediate landing. If it had not been for World War I, the Ilya Muromets would have probably started revenue flights that same year.

The second airliner was the Farman F.60 Goliath from 1919, which could seat up to 14 passengers, approximately 60 were built. The world's first all-metal aircraft was the Junkers F.13, also from 1919 with 322 built.

The Ford Trimotor was an important early airliner. With two engines mounted on the wings and one in the nose and a slabsided body, it carried eight passengers and was produced from 1925 to 1933. It was used by the predecessor to TWA, as well as other airlines long after production ceased. In 1932 the 14-passenger Douglas DC-2 flew and in 1935 the more powerful, faster, 21–32 passenger Douglas DC-3. DC-3s were produced in quantity for World War II and sold as surplus afterward.The Douglas DC-3 was a particularly important airplane, because it was the first airliner to be profitable without a government subsidy.

The first jet airliners came in the immediate post war era. Turbojet engines were trialled on piston engine airframes, such as the Avro Lancastrian and the Vickers VC.1 Viking, the latter becoming the first jet engine passenger aircraft in April 1948. The first purpose built jet airliners were the de Havilland Comet (UK) and the Avro Jetliner (Canada). The former entered production and service while the latter did not. The Comet was unfortunate in that metal fatigue caused by the square shape of the windows in early versions could cause crashes.

Jets did not immediately replace piston engines and many designs used the turboprop, rather than the turbojet or the later turbofan engines.

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