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Looking back at 100 years of flight

  • Shuman Richard // Wikimedia Commons
    1/ Shuman Richard // Wikimedia Commons

    Looking back at 100 years of flight

    The aerospace industry today is looking to push the boundaries of air travel in unprecedented ways. Airplane manufacturers like Boeing as well as up-and-coming startups have suggested work on supersonic air travel, almost 15 years after the last flight of now-retired Concorde, a turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner. Whereas a mere 50 years ago, the idea of traveling to a faraway destination required weeks or months, technology has developed in such a way today that the idea of going from New York to London in a matter of a few hours does not seem so far-fetched.

    With this in mind, Stacker took a look at how the last 100 years of flight in America has developed over time. To compile historical data on American aviation starting in the 1950s and 1960s, Stacker used information from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, the International Civil Aviation Organization and Civil Aviation Statistics of the World (via the World Bank), and the U.S. Defense Manpower Data Center (historical data and more recent data).

    Read on about the historical events in aviation that helped shape travel as it’s known today.

    RELATED: Click here to see the cost of a plane ticket the year you graduated college

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    2/ SDASM Archives // Flickr

    1917

    Three years since the first scheduled passenger airline service took flight in 1914, the U.S. government decided to transport mail by air for the first time.

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    1918

    On May 14, 1918, an experimental airmail service left Long Island, New York for Washington D.C., with a stop in Philadelphia.

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    4/ John Oxley Library, State Library of Queensland. // Wikimedia Commons

    1919

    On May 15, 1919, the Post Office used planes left over from World War I to make the starting leg of the first transcontinental air service, from Chicago to Cleveland.

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    1920

    It wasn’t until Sept. 8, 1920 that the aircraft managed the difficult challenge of flying past the Rocky Mountains and the route was fully completed. According to Avjobs, by using airplanes, “the Post Office was able to shave 22 hours off coast-to-coast mail deliveries.”

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    1921

    Americans began trying to solve the issue of not being able to fly at night in 1921. That year, the Army used rotating beacons over an 80-mile distance that were visible to pilots to guide them at night.

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    1922

    The Army had originally taken charge of operating the beacons and overall guidance system, but the Post Office took over in 1922.

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    1923

    The beacons were first placed between Columbus and Dayton, Ohio, and then in 1923 more were placed between Chicago and Cheyenne, Wyoming. This new system was at least two days faster than delivering mail by train.

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    9/ Smithsonian Institution // Flickr

    1924

    By mid-decade the Post Office was flying about 14 million letters over 2.5 million miles per year.

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    1925

    In the first step toward the eventual privatization of the airline industry, the government passed the Contract Air Mail Act of 1925 (or the Kelly Act), which allowed the government to transfer airmail to private companies.

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    1926

    This year President Calvin Coolidge’s government worked to develop a national aviation policy, which became the Air Commerce Act of 1926. This allowed the Secretary of Commerce to designate air routes, develop air navigation systems, license pilots and aircraft, and investigate accidents.

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    1927

    On May 20, 1927, Charles Lindbergh completed the first nonstop transatlantic flight, from New York to Paris. It took 33 hours, 29 minutes, and 30 seconds.

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    1928

    Lindbergh’s successful flight sparked excitement about the aviation industry, and in the two years following, investments in aviation-related stocks tripled.]

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    1929

    The number of air passengers in the country—which were mostly made up of businessmen—grew from a measly 6,000 in 1926 to about 173,000 in 1929.

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    1930

    More legislation passed in 1930known as the Watres Actthat allowed the Post Office to base airmail rates on space or volume instead of weight.

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    1931

    During this period, Postmaster General Walter Brown held meetings about consolidating airmail routes that many called the “Spoils Conference,” because they only invited a few larger airlines, excluding smaller ones.

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    1932

    From 1928 through 1932, the plane used by most U.S. airlines was the Ford 5-AT Tri-motor 5-AT, which had 12 passenger seats.

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    1933

    Until the 1930s, airlines that touted routes solely for passenger travel were not profitable. But in 1933 the first modern passenger airliner, the 10-passenger Boeing 247, was built.

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    1934

    President Franklin Roosevelt sought to fix conflict among small and larger airlines by turning airmail back over to the Army, but too many accidents by pilots unfamiliar with routes caused the government to rethink this move. The Air Mail Act of 1934 sought to return airmail transport to the private sector—but this time with more regulations that forced companies to consider building up the passenger side of their businesses.

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    1935

    The first air traffic control tower was built in what is now New Jersey’s Newark International Airport.

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    1936

    The DC-3 debuted in 1936 with American Airlines as the first 21-person aircraft that made passenger air travel profitable. It became the most used plane in the country.]

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    1937

    Pressurized cabins had not yet been developed, so many airlines had to deal with queasy passengers and couldn’t fly higher than 10,000 feet.

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    1938

    The Civil Aeronautics Act of 1938 created the government’s Civil Aeronautics Authority, which helped regulate and instill order in the industry, as well as develop it long-term.

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    1939

    When Hitler invaded Poland in 1939, fewer than 300 air transport aircraft were in the United States. That number exploded throughout the course of World War II to about the creation of 50,000 planes per year.

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    1940

    The development of radar by British scientists began a few years before the war, and by 1940, radar transceivers along the U.K.’s east coast could detect German aircraft as it took off—from mainland Europe.

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    1941

    By this time, Americans used transponders aboard aircraft to determine whether inbound planes were machines of allies or enemies.

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    1942

    British pilot Frank Whittle designed the first jet engine in 1930 and 12 years later sent the first prototype to General Electric across the Atlantic.

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    1943

    Thanks to Whittle’s design, America developed its first jet plane, the Bell P-59, in 1943.

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    29/ Archives familiales de Dominique Hymans, fils de Max Hymans // Wikimedia Commons

    1944

    In December of this year, the landmark Convention on International Civil Aviation was drafted by 54 nations in Chicago to continue the development of international air travel safely and orderly. The Chicago Convention also planned establishment of the International Civil Aviation Organization to support a growing global transport network.

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    1945

    Lufthansa, after having been the airline to carry out the first nonstop trans-Atlantic commercial flight by a land-based aircraft in 1938, had its service suspended in 1945 due to the war. But it was given new life in 1953’54. 

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    1946

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 455,515 people

    This year, Transcontinental and Western Airlines, known as “The Trans World Airlines,” debuted its first nonstop commercial service from Los Angeles to New York.

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    1947

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 305,827 people

    On Sept. 18, 1947, the U.S. Air Force was founded.

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    1948

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 387,730 people

    This year the U.S. Air Force has 20,800 planesabout half of them combat aircraftdown from 68,400 aircraft at the end of the war in 1945.

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    1949

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 419,347 people

    The United States expanded its atomic bomb assembly teams from two to seven in 1949.

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    1950

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 411,277 people

    President Harry S. Truman ordered the development of the hydrogen bomb.

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    1951

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 788,381 people

    The English Electric Canberra made the first unrefueled crossing of the Atlantic, taking a mere 4 hours, 37 minutes.

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    1952

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 983,261 people

    The British jet “Comet” reached a speed of about 500 miles per hour flying from London to Johannesburg, South Africa.

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    1953

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 977,593 people

    The ‘50s were a time in which passengers paid what many would consider exorbitant prices for in-flight luxuries. A one-way flight to Europe was known to be more than $3,000 in today's dollars.

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    1954

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 947,918 people

    According to the Huffington Post, a 1950s-era flight attendant manual “mandated that stewardesses be single, stay under 125 pounds, and maintain ‘high moral standards’ during employment.”

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    1955

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 959,946 people

    Passengers during this time also didn’t have to show identification to fly and could get to the airport as close as 30 minutes before takeoff.

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    1956

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 909,958 people

    The rapid boom in the industry led to overcrowded airspace. In fact, in 1956 two planes crashed into each other over the Grand Canyon, killing 128 people.

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    1957

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 919,835 people

    Another luxury of ‘50s air travel was space—economy was more like today’s business class, with 3–6 inches more legroom than what passengers get today.

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    1958

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 871,156 people

    The number of accidents caused by overcrowdedness led to Congress’s passage of the Federal Aviation Act of 1958 and establishment of the Federal Aviation Agency, a safety regulatory agency.

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    1959

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 840,435 people

    A journalist came across a Trans World Airlines flight schedule from June of 1959, which stated that the price of a 12-hour trip from Los Angeles to New York cost $168.40$1,225 when adjusted for inflation.

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    1960

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 814,752 people

    In 1960, Patricia Banks became the second African-American flight attendant in the U.S. after winning a discrimination case against Capital Airlines. Ruth Carol Taylor was actually the first African-American flight attendant, which occurred as a response after Banks brought suit against the airline.

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    1961

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 821,151 people

    The first U.S. plane hijacking was done by Antulio Ramirez Ortiz using a gun and a steak knife. He rerouted the plane to Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba, as he had said that he was trying to warn Cuban President Fidel Castro that he was being targeted for assassination.

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    1962

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 884,025 people

    The U.S. suffered its first combat deaths in an aircraft, when a helicopter was shot down by enemy troops in Vietnam.

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    1963

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 869,431 people

    In a plane crash near Camden, Tennessee, country stars Patsy Cline, Cowboy Copas, Hawkshaw Hawkins, and one more person were killed.

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    1964

    Average domestic airline fare: $36.66 (inflation-adjusted: $289.36)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 856,798 people

    On April 11, 1964, Jerrie Mock became the first woman to successfully pilot a plane around the world.

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    1965

    Average domestic airline fare: $36.81 (inflation-adjusted: $285.97)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 824,662 people

    On March 18, 1965, Alexey Leonov of Russia took the first space walk.

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    1966

    Average domestic airline fare: $36.81 (inflation-adjusted: $277.17)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 887,353 people

    The Boeing 747 "Jumbo Jet" made its debut and could now carry hundreds of people, further revolutionizing mass air transport.

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    1967

    Average domestic airline fare: $36.97 (inflation-adjusted: $270.83)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 897,494 people

    In October, Venera 4 made the first controlled descent on the planet Venus.

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    1968

    Average domestic airline fare: $37.74 (inflation-adjusted: $265.37)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 904,850 people

    In December, Frank Borman, James Lovell, and William Anders became the first humans to orbit the moon.

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    1969

    Average domestic airline fare: $40.52 (inflation-adjusted: $270.20)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 862,353 people

    This year marked the history-altering date when first humans, astronauts Neil Armstrong and Edwin "Buzz" Aldrin, landed on the moon.

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    1970

    Number of passengers carried: 163,448,992 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $43.77 (inflation-adjusted: $276.06)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 791,349 people

    Pan American World Airway’s Boeing 747-100 jet seated as many as 450 passengers. It was 80% bigger than the largest jet up until that time, called the DC-8.

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    1971

    Number of passengers carried: 174,143,104 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $46.87 (inflation-adjusted: $283.16)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 755,300 people

    The Concorde successfully completed its first transatlantic journey.

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    1972

    Number of passengers carried: 191,325,408 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $48.10 (inflation-adjusted: $281.60)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 725,838 people

    The National Aeronautics and Space Administration, known as NASA, launched the space shuttle program for the first time.

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    1973

    Number of passengers carried: 202,309,200 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $49.80 (inflation-adjusted: $274.49)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 691,182 people

    Emily Howell Warner made history as the first female pilot hired for a commercial airlineFrontier Airlines.

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    1974

    Number of passengers carried: 207,612,400 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $53.98 (inflation-adjusted: $267.93)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 643,970 people

    Lt. Col. Sally Murphy became the first woman to qualify as a pilot for the U.S. Army.

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    1975

    Number of passengers carried: 204,900,400 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $58.78 (inflation-adjusted: $267.33)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 612,751 people

    In a show of peace, the first U.S.-Soviet flightknown as the Apollo-Soyuz Test Projecttook place.

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    1976

    Number of passengers carried: 223,017,296 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $63.57 (inflation-adjusted: $273.39)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 585,416 people

    In this year alone, the U.S. made its first and second landings on Marsfirst planet landingwith Viking 1 and 2.

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    1977

    Number of passengers carried: 240,144,992 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $67.28 (inflation-adjusted: $271.69)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 570,695 people

    A horrific accident between a KLM Dutch Airlines and Pan-Am aircraft caused 234 and 317 passenger deaths, respectively, as well as 14 crew members of the KLM plane.

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    1978

    Number of passengers carried: 273,025,504 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $70.38 (inflation-adjusted: $264.13)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 569,712 people

    With the U.S. Airline Deregulation Act, Congress ended the government’s regulation of airline prices and routes.

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    1979

    Number of passengers carried: 313,624,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $76.10 (inflation-adjusted: $256.49)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 559,455 people

    Congress passed the Aviation Safety and Noise Abatement Act of 1979, providing resources to assure more safety and quiet flights.

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    1980

    Number of passengers carried: 295,329,088 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $105.18 (inflation-adjusted: $312.34)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 557,969 people

    The first solar-powered plane, the Solar Challenger, which was designed by American aeronautical engineer Paul Beattie MacCready, flew successfully.

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    1981

    Number of passengers carried: 281,086,400 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $132.40 (inflation-adjusted: $356.42)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 570,302 people

    The following year, the Solar Challenger flew 163 miles across the English Channel.

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    1982

    Number of passengers carried: 290,992,608 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $146.01 (inflation-adjusted: $370.25)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 582,845 people

    The first flight around the world in a helicopter was completed by Americans H. Ross Perot Jr. and Jay Coburn.

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    1983

    Number of passengers carried: 315,600,096 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $154.36 (inflation-adjusted: $379.25)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 592,044 people

    This year was monumental in diversification of the aviation industry: Guy Bluford became the first African-American astronaut and Sally Ride became the first American female astronaut.

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    1984

    Number of passengers carried: 340,191,488 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $163.64 (inflation-adjusted: $385.41)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 597,125 people

    Joseph Kittinger made the solo transatlantic balloon flight, from Carbon, Maine, to Savona, Italy.

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    1985

    Number of passengers carried: 372,059,104 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $174.01 (inflation-adjusted: $395.72)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 601,515 people

    This year marked the first flight of the Space Shuttle Atlantis.

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    1986

    Number of passengers carried: 414,554,496 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $181.12 (inflation-adjusted: $404.39)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 608,199 people

    On Jan. 28, 1986, the Challenger space shuttle explosion killed seven astronauts. Later investigations revealed it wasn’t exactly an explosion: “what actually happened was much more complicated.”

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    1987

    Number of passengers carried: 441,832,704 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $189.94 (inflation-adjusted: $409.14)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 607,035 people

    British Airways became privatized in February of this year.

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    1988

    Number of passengers carried: 454,202,912 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $192.10 (inflation-adjusted: $397.36)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 576,446 people

    Despite the harrowing event of the Challenger incident two years prior, space shuttle Discovery made its first flight.

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    1989

    Number of passengers carried: 453,161,504 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $203.55 (inflation-adjusted: $401.68)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 570,880 people

    The first satellite to measure radiation from the original “Big Bang,” named Cosmic Background Explorer, was launched.

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    1990

    Number of passengers carried: 464,574,016 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $229.54 (inflation-adjusted: $429.74)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 535,233 people

    The Hubble Space Telescope was deployed in April of 1990, which NASA says “marked the most significant advance in astronomy since Galileo's telescope.”

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    1991

    Number of passengers carried: 452,015,904 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $240.05 (inflation-adjusted: $431.28)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 510,432 people

    Marta Bohn-Meyer was hired as the first female crew member of the SR-71 Blackbird.

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    1992

    Number of passengers carried: 466,964,992 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $240.05 (inflation-adjusted: $418.68)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 470,315 people

    In May, the Space Shuttle Endeavour took its first flight, allowing the first three-person spacewalk.

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    1993

    Number of passengers carried: 469,926,112 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $276.40 (inflation-adjusted: $468.06)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 444,351 people

    On April 28, 1993, the U.S. Secretary of Defense announced that women were permitted to enter combat.

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    1994

    Number of passengers carried: 514,924,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $286.92 (inflation-adjusted: $473.75)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 426,327 people

    Vicki Van Meter became the youngest person to pilot a transatlantic flight at 12 years old.

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    1995

    Number of passengers carried: 533,512,096 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $293.42 (inflation-adjusted: $471.12)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 400,409 people

    United Airlines introduced the first Boeing 777 planes into service, the longest long-range wide-body twin jets in the world.

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    1996

    Number of passengers carried: 571,072,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $278.68 (inflation-adjusted: $434.62)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 389,001 people

    Astronaut Shannon Lucid set the U.S. record for the longest stay in space at more than two years.

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    1997

    Number of passengers carried: 590,571,392 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $288.39 (inflation-adjusted: $439.69)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 377,385 people

    NASA's Mars Pathfinder and Sojourner Rover landed on Mars for the first time in order to perform geological research.

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    1998

    Number of passengers carried: 588,170,880 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $307.77 (inflation-adjusted: $462.03)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 367,468 people

    The Hubble Space Telescope, launched eight years before, took the first image of a planet outside of Earth’s solar system.

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    1999

    Number of passengers carried: 634,364,608 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $325.71 (inflation-adjusted: $478.40)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 360,510 people

    The Boeing 717 was introduced into service with AirTran Airways, with twin engines and a single aisle.

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    2000

    Number of passengers carried: 665,327,414 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $339.62 (inflation-adjusted: $482.60)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 355,601 people

    In November 2000, Commander Yuri Gidzenko, Commander Bill Shepherd, and flight engineer Sergei Krikalev became the first people to live on the International Space Station.

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    2001

    Number of passengers carried: 622,187,846 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $324.20 (inflation-adjusted: $447.94)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 363,692 people

    This year, the International Space Station celebrated its first birthday, and Polly Vacher became the first woman to travel around the world in a small plane via the Pacific Ocean.

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    2002

    Number of passengers carried: 598,410,415 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $314.78 (inflation-adjusted: $428.17)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 369,112 people

    On Nov. 26, 2002, Commander John B. Herrington became the first Native American person to take a space walk, thanks to the space shuttle Endeavour.

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    2003

    Number of passengers carried: 588,997,110 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $316.21 (inflation-adjusted: $420.52)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 375,859 people

    The Concorde made its last journey on Oct. 24, 2003. This year also marked the 100th anniversary of the first controlled flight.

  • NASA photo by a STS-116 crewmember // Wikimedia Commons
    89/ NASA photo by a STS-116 crewmember // Wikimedia Commons

    2004

    Number of passengers carried: 678,110,608 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $308.09 (inflation-adjusted: $399.10)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 376,813 people

    U.S. President George W. Bush shared his vision for the future of NASA and space exploration, which included plans to retire the International Space Station by 2010 and return to the moon by 2020. Ultimately, President Bush said, the next steps would be “human missions to Mars and to worlds beyond.”

  • Altair78 // Wikimedia Commons
    90/ Altair78 // Wikimedia Commons

    2005

    Number of passengers carried: 720,547,738 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $307.54 (inflation-adjusted: $385.33)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 353,696 people

    The world record for the longest nonstop flight by a commercial plane was set by a Boeing 777-200LR Worldliner. It flew from Hong Kong to London in 22 hours and 42 minutes.

  • NASA // Wikimedia Commons
    91/ NASA // Wikimedia Commons

    2006

    Number of passengers carried: 725,530,965 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $327.91 (inflation-adjusted: $398.01)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 348,953 people

    The International Space Station welcomed its first female tourist, Anousheh Ansari, on board for eight days. She was doing human physiology tests for the European Space Agency.

  • Quentin Douchet // Wikimedia Commons
    92/ Quentin Douchet // Wikimedia Commons

    2007

    Number of passengers carried: 744,302,310 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $324.57 (inflation-adjusted: $383.12)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 333,495 people

    The Airbus A380 “superjumbo” jet enters service for Singapore Airlines as the largest commercial airplane in the world, making its first stops in New York and Los Angeles.

  • ISS crew // Wikimedia Commons
    93/ ISS crew // Wikimedia Commons

    2008

    Number of passengers carried: 701,779,551 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $343.02 (inflation-adjusted: $389.86)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 327,382 people

    This year was historic for women in space. The Expedition 16’s return marked the first time women were the dominant sex on a spacecraft, with Commander Peggy Whitson, flight engineer Yuri Malenchenko, and spaceflight participant So-yeon Yi on board. Whitson was the first female commander of the International Space Station and broke the record for the longest time spent in space for a U.S. astronaut377 days.

  • NASA // Wikimedia Commons
    94/ NASA // Wikimedia Commons

    2009

    Number of passengers carried: 679,423,408 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $311.46 (inflation-adjusted: $355.31)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 333,408 people

    This year marked the Hubble Space Telescope’s last servicing mission and the last non-International Space Station shuttle flight.

  • NASA Image of the Day // Wikimedia Commons
    95/ NASA Image of the Day // Wikimedia Commons

    2010

    Number of passengers carried: 720,497,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $334.93 (inflation-adjusted: $375.77)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 334,198 people

    Tech company SpaceX launched the Falcon 9 rocket and achieved Earth orbit during the summer of 2010, instilling confidence in the future of a privatized aerospace industry.

  • Official U.S. Navy Page // Flickr
    96/ Official U.S. Navy Page // Flickr

    2011

    Number of passengers carried: 730,796,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $364.41 (inflation-adjusted: $396.49)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 333,162 people

    July 8, 2011 saw the final journey of space shuttle Atlantis, marking the endbefore Endeavour’s domestic flightof the entire space shuttle program.

  • Andrew "FastLizard4" Adams
    97/ Andrew "FastLizard4" Adams

    2012

    Number of passengers carried: 736,699,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $376.62 (inflation-adjusted: $401.39)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 332,834 people

    In September 2012, space shuttle Endeavour took its last flight on top of a Boeing 747 from Florida to Los Angeles, effectively ending the 30-year NASA shuttle program.

  • Clemens Vasters // Wikimedia Commons
    98/ Clemens Vasters // Wikimedia Commons

    2013

    Number of passengers carried: 743,171,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $379.99 (inflation-adjusted: $399.08)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 330,485 people

    The Airbus A350 made its maiden flight while more than 10,000 spectators watched, ending eight years of service and costing about $15 billion.

  • NASA Goddard Space Flight Center // Wikimedia Commons
    99/ NASA Goddard Space Flight Center // Wikimedia Commons

    2014

    Number of passengers carried: 762,710,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $390.54 (inflation-adjusted: $403.74)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 316,332 people

    NASA announced an initiative in 2014 called the New Commercial Spaceflight Initiative. This would allow companies to have more access and use of NASA’s resources in order to further the U.S. aerospace industry and objectives.

  • NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute // Wikimedia Commons
    100/ NASA/Johns Hopkins University Applied Physics Laboratory/Southwest Research Institute // Wikimedia Commons

    2015

    Number of passengers carried: 798,222,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $378.43 (inflation-adjusted: $390.73)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 311,357 people

    The first close-up photos of Pluto were taken by New Horizons as it conducted a flyby, revealing that the “planet” was larger than was believed.

  • SpaceX Photos // Wikimedia Commons
    101/ SpaceX Photos // Wikimedia Commons

    2016

    Number of passengers carried: 824,039,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $352.42 (inflation-adjusted: $359.32)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 317,883 people

    The United Nations’ International Civil Aviation Organization proposed the first limits on aircraft carbon dioxide emissions in an effort to address climate change. Later in the year, SpaceX completed its mission to land a spent rocket booster on a ship at sea after four unsuccessful attempts.

  • Matt Kieffer // Flickr
    102/ Matt Kieffer // Flickr

    2017

    Number of passengers carried: 849,403,000 people

    Average domestic airline fare: $347.86 (inflation-adjusted: $347.86)

    Strength of U.S. Air Force: 322,787 people

    In 2017, consumers used and benefited from air travel more than ever, and spent about 1% of the world gross domestic product on air transport, according to the International Air Transport Association. In addition, the year was called the safest on record for commercial passenger air travel, with zero accident deaths.

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