Determining the “best” aviators in history is definitely a tall order, but there are a few notable figures (in no particular order) that every aviation fan should know about.
Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier
Many historians agree that this little-known French gentlemen was truly the first modern aviator. He wasn’t flying a plane though. Jean-Fracois was the first man to every free-fly in a hot air balloon. His first flight took place in November of 1783. He was a bold man, willing to literally go to new heights to chase his dreams of flying. In an unfortunate turn of events, Jean-Francois was all the first person to pass due to aviation as well. He lost his life during an attempt to fly across the English Channel in his hot air balloon.
Amelia Earhart (Lady Lindy)
Any aviator would be remiss to not include Ms. Earhart in their list of greatest aviators of all time. In 1932, she became the first woman to fly (unaccompanied) across the Atlantic Ocean. Three years later in 1935, she became the first to fly continuously from Honolulu to Oakland. Just two years later, Amelia attempted to do what was then considered unthinkable, and started a flight around the world. Sadly, she disappeared over the Pacific Ocean, and was never heard from again.
Known as the daredevil of test piloting, Chuck Yeager became the first man to successfully fly faster than the speed of sound. He was also known for helping with the testing of one of the first experimental rocket-powered airplanes.
James (Jimmy) Doolittle
Jimmy Doolittle was another speed demon & daredevil. When he was 15 years old, he built his own glider and jumped off of a cliff. Not surprisingly, he crashed terribly, but that deter him. Later in life, Jimmy set several records for flight speeds and made huge contributions to “instrument flying”. But his claim to fame was the “Doolittle Raid”, an air raid over Tokyo in April 1942. He led sixteen bombers off of the rolling deck of an aircraft on a mission to Japan.
Charles Lindbergh (Lucky Lindy)
Charles was the first man to cross the Atlantic Ocean alone. In May 1927, his solo flight took him from New York to Paris, and directly into the hearts of millions.