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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.

2. Second pilot to fly

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2. Second pilot to fly

You probably know the answer to this one; the first to fly was Orville Wright. The second to take to the air was his brother and the co-inventor of the airplane, Wilbur Wright. Wilbur would’ve been the first to the air, on Dec. 14, 1903, but on that first flight attempt, he stalled the plane and crashed it. After repairs, the brothers tried their luck again on Dec. 17, and this time it was Orville’s turn. His 120-foot-long hop is the most famous flight ever. Soon thereafter, it was Wilbur’s turn again, and he made the record-setting longest flight, of 175 feet, though that record only stood for an hour or so.

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