90 years ago today, automaker Fritz von Opel flew the first manned rocket plane. The Opel RAK.1 (also known as the RAK.3, as it was his third design) was the world’s first purpose-built rocket-powered aircraft.

Grandson of the Opel company founder, he developed a rocket-powered car and train with the assistance of a pyrotechnics manufacturer and rocketry advocate Max Valier—but their most notable success was the RAK.1, designed and built by Julius Hatry.

Opel singlehandedly piloted the small glider with a wingspan of 36 feet, which was attached to sixteen solid rocket engines, in front of a large crowd at Rebstock airport near Frankfurt, Germany. It flew as fast as 93 mph (150 km/h) for almost a mile (1.5 km) in 75 seconds, before it landed hard, damaging the aircraft beyond repair. Opel planned to build a second rocket plane, but apparently lost interest before the project was completed. WATCH the short filmed flight… (1929)

More Good News on this Date:

  • Rumi, the beloved Persian poet and Sufi mystic of the thirteenth century was born (1207)
  • Mozart’s opera The Magic Flute premiered in Vienna, Austria (1791)
  • The American amateur astronomer Henry Draper made the first ever photograph of the Orion Nebula, using his 11-inch Clark Brothers photographic refractor with a 50-minute exposure, becoming a pioneer in the use of astrophotography (1880)
  • The author and Nobel Peace Prize winner Elie Wiesel was born (1928–2016)
  • League of Nations unanimously outlawed intentionally bombing civilians (1938)
  • The first animated sitcom created by Hanna-Barbera, The Flintstones, premiered on ABC in the US (1960)
  • Mexican-American labor leader César Chávez founded the United Farm Workers (1962)
  • Botswana – Independence Day (1966)
  • The UK’s first national pop radio station, BBC Radio 1 was launched in the UK to take over from the very successful pirate radio stations, which had been forced off-air by the government—and former pirate DJ Tony Blackburn of Radio Caroline became the first presenter on air (1967)
  • Roberto Clemente reached his 3,000th hit, the last of his baseball career, before his death in a plane crash while in route to deliver humanitarian aid to earthquake victims in Nicaragua (1972)
  • The first president chosen in free elections by the Serbian people, Vojislav Kostunica, was sworn in after defeating Slobodan Milosevic, Europe’s last dictator, by a wide margin (2000)
  • A giant squid in its natural habitat is photographed for the first time 600 miles south of Tokyo (2004)

And, on this day in 1968, the first Boeing 747 aircraft was rolled out of the assembly plant before the world’s press and the 26 airline company officials who had ordered the Jumbo Jet.

By Aldo Bidini, via GFDL license

The wide-body plane could be used as either a cargo aircraft—with its distinctive upper-deck accessible through an optional front cargo door—or as a passenger jet with an upper deck used for a first–class lounge or extra seating. Designed to transport 150 percent more people than the Boeing 707, it held the record for passenger capacity for 37 years. It exceeded critics’ expectations and as of this summer, 1,546 aircraft had been built, with 22 still on order.

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