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The first flight of a new aircraft type is always a historic occasion for the type. It is also one of the most dangerous, because the exact handling characteristics of the aircraft are generally unknown. The first flight of a new type is almost invariably flown by a highly experienced test pilot. First flights are usually accompanied by a chase aircraft, to verify items like altitude, airspeed, and general air-worthiness.

A first flight is only one stage in the development of an aircraft type. Unless the type is a pure research aircraft (such as the X-15), the aircraft must be tested extensively to ensure that it delivers the desired performance with an acceptable margin of safety. In the case of civilian aircraft, a new type must be certified by a governing agency (such as the Federal Aviation Administration in the United States) before it can enter operation.

Notable first flights

An incomplete list of first flights of notable aircraft types, organized by date, follows.

See also



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