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Unfamous Aviation Seconds

We all know the planes and pilots that were first to do something monumental. But do you know who the second ones to those same achievements were? Neither did we. But their stories, when we can dig them up, are very cool.

The Douglas Skyrocket is the second supersonic plane model. Photo courtesy of NASA.
The Douglas Skyrocket is the second supersonic plane model. Photo courtesy of NASA.

We live in a country and a world that attaches big bonuses to finishing first, and that includes record-setting feats. In baseball, Babe Ruth’s name is famous. And if you’re a fan, and maybe even if you aren’t, you might know that Ruth was, in 1927, the first player to hit 60 home runs in a season. Did you also know that Ruth was also the first in the modern era of Major League Baseball history to reach the milestones of 30, 40 and 50 home runs in a season? But who was second? Off the top of my head, I know that Roger Maris, also a New York Yankee at the time, was the second to hit at least 60, in 1961. The other seconds? I’d have to look them up and likely wouldn’t recognize the names once I found them.

As far as aviation milestones are concerned, it’s pretty much the same deal. Chuck Yeager was first to bust the sound barrier (aka Mach 1), but who was second? And what was the second supersonic plane? Chances are you don’t know—we didn’t. Even more than that, it’s often really hard to find out who those unfamous seconds were. So, here, we salute those who came in second in the race to immortality.

4. Second to cross the Atlantic

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4. Second to cross the Atlantic

This one gets to the heart of why records can be so hard to wrap one’s head around. What is the record? What are the requirements and limitations and restrictions? Technically, Charles Lindbergh wasn’t the first to cross the Atlantic. Not even close. Before he made his famous crossing in 1927, which mesmerized the world, around 80 others had made the crossing by air, some of them admittedly in groups of aviators and/or in multiple aircraft. He was the first to fly solo and nonstop in a fixed-wing aircraft across the Atlantic, which he did on May 12, 1927. The second person to accomplish that same feat was none other than Amelia Earhart, who pulled it off on May 20, 1932.

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