Q: What Fighter Pilot Used Gum on His Windscreen as a Gunsight?

The answer* is in a new Air & Space trivia book, guaranteed to win your bar bets.

Only a handful of Nieuport 28s survive (one is in the National Air and Space Museum), but there are many replicas today. Chuck Wentworth flies one built by a former Hollywood stunt pilot. (© Philip Makanna / Ghosts)
Air & Space Magazine | Subscribe

There’s one in every crowd. You know who we’re talking about: the know-it-all parading his knowledge of the most arcane facts. Who was the first person to dine in space? What American helicopter was the first to enter military service? When was the first model missile kit released for sale? Well, get ready to trump this annoying person with just one book: The Smithsonian Book of Air & Space Trivia, edited by Amy Pastan (Smithsonian Books, 2014). Nearly 300 questions—many accompanied by photographs of artifacts from the National Air and Space Museum—cover everything from aerospace pioneers to technological feats to controversies and calamities. So go ahead: Make that wager. We bet you’ll win. (*Answer: Frances “Gabby” Gabreski. The veteran flier, unfamiliar with the F-86’s controls, replaced the radar-controlled gunsight with a wad of chewing gum.)

What World War I airplane was the first fighter with an American unit to score an aerial victory?

The Nieuport 28. On April 14, 1918, Lieutenants Alan Winslow and Douglas Campbell of the 94th Aero Squadron, both piloting Nieuport 28s, each downed an enemy aircraft in a fight directly over their home airfield at Gengoult Aerodrome, near Toul, France.

Mission patches are now commonplace for NASA crews; the Gemini 5 crew was the first to design its own. (NASM)
The Fulton Airphibian on display at the National Air and Space Museum was restored by the inventor’s son. (Dane Penland)
Bill Shepherd, Yuri Gidzenko, and Sergei Krikalev blasted off from the Baikonur Cosmodrome in Kazakhstan on October 31, 2000, and docked with the station two days later. Since then, a total of 204 people have visited the station. (NASA)

How long was the first helicopter flight?

About 20 seconds. Frenchman Paul Cornu (1881–1944) is credited with being the first to get a helicopter into the air. Cornu’s craft looked like little more than a bicycle. In fact, its 24-horsepower engine drove a belt that enabled two horizontal bicycle wheels with paddle attachments to spin.

Who was the first American flier to loop the loop?

Lincoln Beachey. One of the most famous stunt pilots before World War I, Beachey (1887–1915) was hired in 1911 as a pilot to promote the Curtiss company’s airplanes.

What stunt plane was most often used for wingwalking in the 1920s?

The Curtiss JN-4D Jenny. At the end of World War I, the U.S. government began to sell off its surplus Jennys, the primary trainer for pilots. This made Jennys available to civilian pilots, many of whom became barnstormers in the 1920s. The slow-flying Jenny was perfect for wingwalkers, who hung onto the struts while performing daring feats.

Comment on this Story

comments powered by Disqus