Airplanes In world war i

"The airplane is useless for the purpose of war." -unknown British commander. At the start of the war, most people thought airplanes would never help the war effort, but as it progressed, better fighter airplanes were made and more and more people started to rely on them.

From 1914-1918, while the Great War (or WWI) was going on, airplanes made their first world wide appearance in a global conflict. Before WWI, many countries had used observation balloons. People in Germany made use of Zeppelins, which were large ridged airships, that took on strategic bombing raids. But these were the only kinds of air craft being put into action. When the war started, airplanes were mostly used just for scouting out artillery shells. People had not yet used airplanes to carry any sort of guns or bombs. But starting in 1914, people started to add personal weapons to aircraft. It started out with the use of bombs. The typical 1914 aircraft carried only small bomb loads, which were still very elementary and not very effective. Even with the simplest bombs, armed airplanes were still making a difference and even winning some small, but useful battles.

The first aircraft that was used in WWI was called Avro 540, made by the British company Avro. This was the first version the company Avro ever made and became very unpopular because of it's unstable quality. But not too long after that, the Avro K came out and became the most reliable fighter aircraft out there. The Americans bought about 52 of the Avro K airplanes. In time, manufactorors would make many different kinds of aircrafts for different purposes. The main ones are,

  • scouts
  • nightbombers
  • night fighters
  • ground attacks

At this time airplanes were still a new concept and some people still did not think that warfare should take a chance on airplanes. But with more and more models coming out, they were becoming more and more popular.


Many personal weapons were tested out on airplanes in WWI. The first was bombs. The pilot or co-pilot simply dropped the bombs over the side of the aircraft in what they thought was a good area. If the bomb even hit any where near the target, it was really good luck.

But with bombs being very inaccurate, people started to turn to other weapons. Some people tried throwing even grenades or grappling hooks out of the airplanes. But later in the war, people started to bring handheld weapons onto airplanes. They tried pistols and single shot rifles, but both were very inaccurate and couldn't fire multiple rounds.

In 1912, the British firm Vicker's first started experimenting with machine guns on aircraft. Vicker's machine guns were the pusher design. This design moved the engine and propeller behind the pilot so there was a space for the machine gun in the front without a propeller in it's way. Machine guns worked really well with airplanes because they could fire multiple rounds. But there was still work to do on the design, which was too slow to catch it's quarry and had extra drag.

Because the 'pusher' design had some faults, other experiments were conducted that had different designs such as the the synchronized machine gun (they knew exactly when the shots were to be fired). Some also tried the Lewis gun, which was practically impossible to synchronize because of its open bolt firing style. Along with open bolt firing style, experiments were done with closed bolt firing too.

Through all of the experimenting and use of aircrafts, there was still a risk. Both sides of the war made airplanes critical targets to shoot down. People got scared of flying airplanes due to the amount of deaths and crashes from the ones in war. Some even suggested taking out airplanes. Aces, or the people flying the airplanes, were mostly seen as heroes, since the use of airplanes was so new. But others thought they were crazy.

By the end of WWI, 185 air crafts were being made in military factories. Even with airplanes being so new to war, people could see that they were good for range, paving through enemy lines, and great at strategic bombing. Airplanes have played big roles in wars today and if people back in WWI wouldn't have been willing to take that risk, technology and air warfare would be very different in today's times.


Created with images by afaloon - "Battle of Britain Memorial Flight" • ahisgett - "Sopwith Triplane 1" • andrusdevelopment - "IMG_1745" • Dave Hamster - "Royal Aircraft Factory SE5a" • SidPix - "Nieuport 11"

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