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Introduction to commercial aircraft

Aviation, the development and operation of heavier-than-air aircraft. The term “civil aviation” refers to the air-transportation service provided to the public by airlines, while “military aviation” refers to the development and use of military aircraft. A brief treatment of aviation follows. For full treatment of military aviation, see military aircraft. For civil aviation, see airplane: History of flight. The first man-made objects to fly were balloons, which were pioneered in France by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783. Some of the basic scientific principles of heavier-than-air flight were laid down in England in the early 19th century by Sir George Cayley.

After World War II, commercial aviation grew rapidly, using mostly ex-military aircraft to transport people and cargo. This growth was accelerated by the glut of heavy and super-heavy bomber airframes like the B-29 and Avro Lancaster that could be converted into commercial aircraft. The DC-3 also made for easier and longer commercial flights. The first commercial jet airliner to fly was the British de Havilland Comet. By 1952, the British state airline BOAC had introduced the Comet into scheduled service. While a technical achievement, the plane suffered a series of highly public failures, as the shape of the windows led to cracks due to metal fatigue. The fatigue was caused by cycles of pressurization and depressurization of the cabin, and eventually led to catastrophic failure of the plane's fuselage. By the time the problems were overcome, other jet airliner designs had already taken to the skies.