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7 Most Famous Pilots in Aviation History

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Aviation is a profession that many people dream of, but few ever truly master. Those few who master piloting are always special, but there are those who go above and beyond in their maneuvers in order to become historically significant.

In the years following the Wright brothers’ first flight, there have been numerous famous pilots of note. Here are some of the most famous pilots in the history of aviation.

1. Amelia Earhart

Amelia Earheart is one of the world’s most famous pilots and her legacy is still discussed to this day. Many are familiar with this groundbreaking pilot’s mysterious and unfortunate disappearance over the Pacific Ocean. This occurred during an attempt to circumnavigate the globe in an airplane in 1937.

From Underwood & Underwood // Wikimedia Commons

However, Earhart was famous for far more than her fate in the years before. She was the first woman to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1932, putting her on pretty even terms with Charles Lindbergh, even securing her the title of “Lady Lindy” following her success.

However, she had her very own accomplishments, as well. Earhart was the first person to ever fly nonstop from Honolulu to Oakland two years before her disappearance.

2. James H. Doolittle

James H. Doolittle was a pilot most famous for his many awards and accolades over his career. This well-known pilot has accumulated quite an impressive track record during his time in the air.

From USAF Test Pilot School // Wikimedia Commons

As someone who was obsessed with aviation from the age of 15, James H. Doolittle was always destined to be a great pilot. Naturally, that is exactly what he became, but always managed to push himself a little further in his air based pursuits. By the time of his retirement, Doolittle had earned the following awards: The Medal of Honor, Army Distinguished Service Medal-2, Silver Star, Distinguished Flying Cross-3, Bronze Star, Air Medal-4, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Of course, he earned those medals during his time in the military. After that chapter of his life, this world famous pilot began air racing. In his racing career, he continued to excel in piloting and won many major trophies of note.

3. Robert A. Hoover

Known as “The greatest stick-and-rudder man who ever lived” by James H. Doolittle, Robert A. Hoover was the subject of many awards and accolades during his career as a pilot. However, he truly showed the mettle of a master pilot following an incident that left him shot down over the Mediterranean in 1944.

From SDASM Archives // Flickr

This incident left him as a prisoner of war for 16 months in a German prison. He managed to escape that sticky situation when he escaped and promptly appropriated an FW 190 airplane. Despite having never piloted this aircraft before, he was able to fly himself to Holland where he was safe and free.

4. Louis Bleriot

Louis Bleriot was one of the most famous pilots back in the day. Airplanes are mass produced on a pretty wide scale these days, however that production had to start somewhere. The origin of mass produced planes started with a man known as Louis Bleriot, who secured a spot in the history books when he made a successful crossing of the English Channel in 1909.

From George Grantham Bain Collection // Wikimedia Commons

Not only was that a grand accomplishment of his, he crossed the Channel while flying in his Bleriot XI. This made the airplane a significant hit with the international community and was mass produced to fly in the battles of WWI and the design found its way across the globe, from the United States all the way to Australia.

5. Noel Wien

Something that can be admired about the human spirit is just how stubborn we can be when a passion grabs hold of our souls. Noel Wien is a good example of this spirit, as he continued flying between various airports despite losing 50% of his vision due to infection. Partially blinded, Wien was a famous pilot who proved that he could still fly competently and flew for some years after.

From Noel Merrill Wien // Facebook

However, he is more known for his feats of aviation involving the arctic. Not only did he help bring airplanes to Alaska, which is a region that uses them in great capacity today, but he was also the first person to fly commercially from Alaska to Siberia. Another one of Wien’s crowning achievements was to be one of the first people to fly north of the Arctic Circle, a significant achievement for his time.

6. Charles Lindbergh

This historic pilot earned his nickname of “Lucky Lindy” a few times. Most notably when he successfully piloted an aircraft across the Atlantic Ocean.

From Harris & Ewing // Wikimedia Commons

During this solo flight, Lindbergh flew from New York to Paris non-stop in a Ryan monoplane Spirit of Saint Louis. However, this victory came down to pure skill, rather than luck as the nickname would imply.

7. Jacqueline Auriol

Coming from a wealthy family, Jacqueline Auriol could do virtually anything she wanted in life. She made her decision on what that would be when she obtained her pilot’s license in 1948. Due to her fascination with aviation, Auriol become a well known stunt flier and test pilot.

From Wikimedia Commons

Sadly, the excellent pilot suffered a mishap during flight one day and experienced a brutal crash that left her hospitalized for three whole years. During those years, she underwent dozens of facial recognition surgeries as well as a long road to recovery. However, her love of aviation remained.

After her recovery, she went on to get a helicopter license and went on to be one of the few women in her time to break the sound barrier, as well as set five world speed records.

 

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