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The maiden flight of an aircraft is the first occasion on which an aircraft leaves the ground under its own power. The same term is also used for the first launch of rockets.

The first flight of a new aircraft type is always a historic occasion for the type and can be quite emotional for those involved. In the early days of aviation it could be dangerous, because the exact handling characteristics of the aircraft were generally unknown. The first flight of a new type is almost invariably flown by a highly experienced test pilot. First flights are usually accompanied by a chase plane, to verify items like altitude, airspeed, and general airworthiness.

A first flight is only one stage in the development of an aircraft type. Unless the type is a pure research aircraft (such as the X-15), the aircraft must be tested extensively to ensure that it delivers the desired performance with an acceptable margin of safety. In the case of civilian aircraft, a new type must be certified by a governing agency (such as the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States) before it can enter operation.

Notable first flights (aircraft)[edit]

Wright Flyer on December 17, 1903
Boeing 737 on April 9, 1967
Concorde on March 2, 1969
Airbus A380 on April 27, 2005

An incomplete list of first flights of notable aircraft types, organized by date, follows.

Notable first flights (rockets)[edit]

  • October 4, 1957 - Sputnik, first orbital rocket.
  • December 22, 1960 - Vostok-K, first human-rated rocket (first manned flight April 12, 1961).
  • November 9, 1967 - Saturn V, most powerful rocket launched so far, was used to launch humans to the Moon.
  • April 12, 1981 - Space Shuttle, first partially reusable launch system, largest payload at the time of its maiden flight.
  • December 21, 2004 - Delta IV Heavy, largest payload at the time of its maiden flight.
  • February 6, 2018 - Falcon Heavy, largest payload at the time of its maiden flight, partially reusable. [2]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Gary Bradshaw. "Thomas Moy's Aerial Steamer, 1874. lifted six inches (15 centimeters) off the ground". U.S. Centennial of Flight. Retrieved 2016-02-18.
  2. ^ Harwood, William (6 February 2018). "SpaceX Falcon Heavy launch puts on spectacular show in maiden flight". CBS News. Retrieved 6 February 2018.


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