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Looking back at 100 years of flight

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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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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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Harris & Ewing // Wikimedia Commons

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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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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U.S. Air Force photo // Wikimedia Commons

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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SDASM Archives // Flickr

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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IIP Photo Archive // Flickr

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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SDASM Archives // Flickr

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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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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Smithsonian Institution // Flickr

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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Vojenské dějiny Československa // Wikimedia Commons

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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John M. Noble // Wikimedia Commons

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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U.S. Navy // Wikimedia Commons

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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Matson (G. Eric and Edith) Photograph collection // Wikimedia Commons

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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SDASM Archives // Flickr

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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U.S. Army // Wikimedia Commons

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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SDASM Archives // Flickr

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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Charles M. Daniels // Wikimedia Commons

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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Nationaal Archief // Wikimedia Commons

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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Public.Resource.Org // Flickr

1935

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

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YouTube

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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Richard // Flickr

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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U.S. Navy // Wikimedia Commons

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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Harris & Ewing // Wikimedia Commons

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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Saidman, RAF // Wikimedia Commons

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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Bill Larkins // Flickr

1941

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

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British Government // Wikimedia Commons

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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USAAF // Wikimedia Commons

1943

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

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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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RuthAS // Wikimedia Commons

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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Smithsonian Institution // Flickr

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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U.S. Air Force photo

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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D. Miller // Flickr

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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SDASM Archives // Flickr

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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U.S. Navy // Wikimedia Commons

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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Aeroprints.com // Wikimedia Commons

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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Ministry of Information official photographer // Wikimedia Commons

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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RuthAS // Wikimedia Commons

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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Chalmers Butterfield // Wikimedia Commons

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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State Library of Wetern Australia // Wikimedia Commons

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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Grand Canyon National Park // Flickr

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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EditorASC // Wikimedia Commons

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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Leaflet // Wikimedia Commons

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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MilborneOne // Wikimedia Commons

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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RuthAS // Wikimedia Commons

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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EditorASC // Wikimedia Commons

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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manhhai // Flickr

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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YouTube

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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George H. Cook // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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Phillip Capper // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA on The Commons // Flickr

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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MercerMJ // Wikimedia Commons

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 jetseated 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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Fonds André Cros // Wikimedia Commons

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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Royce Bair // Flickr

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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YouTube

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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edk7 // Flickr

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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G B_NZ // Flickr

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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Rossbarranco // Wikimedia Commons

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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Phillip Capper // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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Pedro Vera // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA on The Commons // Flickr

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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U.S. Air Force // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center // Flickr

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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Aero Icarus // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA/COBE Science Team // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA Hubble Space Telescope // Flickr

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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Monica King // Wikimedia Commons

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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YouTube

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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Aero Icarus // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA/JPL // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA Hubble Space Telescope // Flickr

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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Bill Abbott // Flickr

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA/Crew of STS-132 // Wikimedia Commons

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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NASA // Wikimedia Commons

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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Aero Icarus // Wikimedia Commons

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.

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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.”

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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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