A Brief History
On August 1, 1977, former USAF and CIA pilot, Francis Gary Powers, died when his news helicopter crashed in Encino, California. Powers became famous worldwide when his U-2 spy plane was shot down over the Soviet Union in 1960, causing a scandal and sensation during the Cold War. Other pilots have achieved high levels of fame, and today we ask, “Which pilot is the most famous?”
Some nominees include:
Orville Wright, the first powered flight in 1903.
Manfred von Richthofen, aka, The Red Baron, leading World War I (WWI) fighter Ace, serving in the Luftstreitkräfte from 1915 to 1918.
Eddie Rickenbacker, leading US fighter Ace of WWI (1917-1918).
Jimmy Doolittle, aviation pioneer and leader of the Doolittle Raid in 1942.
Amelia Earhart, female aviation pioneer and advocate, who disappeared in 1937.
Charles Lindbergh, first to fly solo across the Atlantic in 1927.
Erich Hartmann, All-Time leading fighter Ace, serving in the Luftwaffe from 1940 to 1945.
Chuck Yeager, fighter pilot, record setting test pilot, and commander, serving in the Army Air Forces from 1941 to 1947 and then the Air Force from 1947 to 1975.
Note: Numerous readers/video viewers have nominated Chesley Burnett “Sully” Sullenberger III, the pilot of US Airways Flight 1549 that had to make an emergency landing on the Hudson River in 2009. His superb judgement and skills resulted in every single passenger and crewmember surviving the crash landing on the river, resulting in massive positive publicity and fame around the world.
Question for students (and subscribers): Who is your choice as the most famous pilot? Please let us know in the comments section below this article.
Your readership is much appreciated!
For more information, please see…
Butler, Susan. East To The Dawn: The Life of Amelia Earhart. Da Capo Press, 2009.
Doolittle Hoppes, Jonna. Calculated Risk: The Extraordinary Life of Jimmy Doolittle Aviation Pioneer and World War II Hero. Santa Monica Press, 2005.
The featured image in this article, a photograph by Mil.ru of Pilot Francis Gary Powers at the American High Altitude Lockheed U-2 reconnaissance aircraft, is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International license.
You can also watch video versions of this article on YouTube.