Ever since the possibility of taking to the sky crossed our imaginations, we have needed aviation logistics. From Leonardo da Vinci’s sketchings of the earliest ornithopter to today’s Bombardier Global 6000s, parts procurement, assembly, and supply chains have been imperative to a flight’s success. 

Greenwood Aerospace is your leader in aviation logistics, including aerospace supply chain management and facility ground support supply. We have partnered with all branches of the U.S.military and some of the largest defense contractors in the U.S. to support their aviation logistics.  Contact us for all your aviation logistics needs, or reach out by email at sales@governmentprocurement.com

Continue reading to discover everything you need to know about modern aviation logistics.

A Brief History of Manned Flight

The first manned flight in recorded history varies by definition. For most Americans, the obvious first flight occurred in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Some credit a different pair of brothers for manning the first official flight almost 150 years prior. Still others contend manned flight began as early as the 9th century. 

To understand the history of manned flight and aviation logistics, there are several key figures to know, such as: 

  • Abbas ibn Firnas
  • The Montgolfier Brothers
  • The Wright Brothers
  • Alberto Santos-Dumont
  • Yuri Gagarin
  • Burt Rutan

Abbas ibn Firnas’ Early Ornithopter

Many credit Leonardo da Vinci with the invention of the ornithopter, a single-manned flying contraption that mimics bird flight. Less people know of Abbas ibn Firnas, the man many believe is the true “Father of Aviation.”

Approximately 500 years before da Vinci diagrammed his ornithopter, ibn Firnas took to the sky in a man-made device based on birds’ wings. He succeeded in flying for over ten minutes before crashing back to earth, severely injuring himself and delaying any further flight attempts. Still, modern scholars argue this was the first manned flight in recorded history. 

The Montgolfier Brothers Invent the Hot Air Balloon

Nearly 150 years before the Wright Flyer’s maiden voyage, two French brothers launched their invention into the skies above Paris. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, inventors of the manned hot air balloon, achieved a flight of 3,000 feet and nearly 6 miles before its passengers landed safely outside the city. 

Many people point to this moment as the first powered flight due to the mechanisms of hot air balloon travel, with the note that the Wright brothers’ biplane predicated modern flight. 

The Wright Brothers’ Famous Flyer

Most Americans can point to an elementary school lesson or written assignment on the Wright brothers as their first encounter with the forefathers of modern flight. Their twelve-second, 120-foot flight launched the movement toward modern aviation, and the famous Wright Flyer still sits in the Smithsonian National Air and Space museum today.

A black-and-white diagram outlines the differences between the Wright brothers' famous biplane, the Wright Flyer, from their 1903 model to the  1905 version.
Early advancements in aviation logistics. Source: Wikimedia Commons, MLWatts

Five interesting facts about the Wright brothers:

  • A coin toss decided the first (failed) flight. Orville Wright was the first brother to attempt flight because he won a coin toss against his brother.
  • The Wright Flyer only flew for one day. The Wright brothers’ famed aircraft took off flight times on December 17, 1903, and then never flew again.
  • Neither Wright brother officially graduated high school.  Wilbur achieved the necessary schooling to graduate, but moved before receiving his high school diploma. Orville left school early to go into printing.
  • The brothers only shared one flight together. Respecting their father’s wish to not risk both brothers suffering injury or worse in a crash, Orville and Wilbur only flew together once. 
  • The Wright Flyer made it to the moon. Neil Armstrong honored the maiden flight by taking a small piece of cloth from the Wright Flyer’s left wing with him on his own trip to the moon.

Alberto Santos-Dumont Mirrors the Wright Brothers

The iconic “first flight” is often credited to the Wright brothers due to their powered, heavier-than-air biplane sustaining flight for twelve seconds. Some credit first flight status to another man: Alberto Santos-Dumont.

Santos-Dumont received recognition throughout Europe as the first to achieve powered flight after his 14-bis biplane flew for over 60 yards at a height of 15 feet. The contention that this was the true first flight–three years after the Wright brothers’ achievement–exists on a technicality. Some argue that since the Wright brothers needed assistance to lift off, and Santos-Dumont’s biplane launched unassisted, the title of "Father of Flight” belongs to the Brazilian.

Yuri Gagarin Walks in Space

After the first successful manned flights, it was a logical conclusion that humanity would aim higher. It is common knowledge that the first men to walk on the moon were American astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin. But it was Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin that left the Earth’s atmosphere first.

Piloting space capsule Vostok 1, Gagarin broke the Earth’s atmosphere, achieving a flight of 108 minutes before safely returning to Earth. 

Burt Rutan Offers Commercial Space Flights

Most aerospace enthusiasts are familiar with Virgin Group founder and eclectic billionaire Richard Branson, but fewer may know his co-founder, Burt Rutan. Before Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, and Blue Origin resignited the space race, Rutan’s Scaled Composites achieved the future of manned flight: commercial space travel. 

One hundred years to the day of the Wright brothers’ first flight, Rutan’s commercial space craft, SpaceShipOne, made its initial manned test run. Six months later, it achieved the first manned commercial spaceflight funded entirely by private parties. 

The red, white, and black SpaceShipOne capsule hanging in the National Museum of Air and Space.
SpaceShipOne, the first manned commercial aircraft to reach space. Source: Wikimedia Commons, Runner1928

The future of aviation will likely be faster, more efficient, and further-reaching than we can currently imagine. The uniting factor: all flight programs–manned, unmanned, air, space, and in between–will require state-of-the-art aviation logistics to keep their programs operating at peak performance.

A History of American Aviation Logistics 

Mapping the recorded history of aviation logistics would take volumes. The first manned flight dates back to the 9th century, and unmanned flight predates ornithopters by hundreds of years

Modern American aviation logistics can be traced to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina and the Wright Flyer’s maiden flight, but several key developments predate–and postdate–the iconic first powered flight, such as:

  • The military origins of logistics
  • The invention of manpowered aircraft
  • Air freight aviation logistics  
  • Commercial airlines take off
  • Aviation logistics becomes a billion dollar industry

The Military Installs Modern Logistics

We can trace a crude form of logistics back to the Egyptian pyramids, but modern logistics as we know it is often attributed to the British and American militaries circa World War I.  

A war fought on an unprecedented scale, the Allied troops needed to leverage every option to secure victory against the Central Powers. Their greatest advantage being their access to resources–thanks to the production capabilities of the U.S., Japan, Great Britain, and Russia–the Allied forces implemented a supply chain to move weapons, ammunition, and vehicles to the frontlines. 

Many contend modern logistics predates WWI, with military forces transporting forces and supplies ever since Mesopotamians invented roads. Logistics on the scale and functionality as we understand it today more closely resembles the Allied’s use of supply chain management. 

The Wright Brothers Invent the Manpowered Aircraft

Aviation logistics require one important element, namely the “aviation” part. The Wright brothers began developing their powered aircraft in 1899, finally producing a flight-ready plane a short four years later. On December 17, 1903, the Wright Flyer took to the skies for its twelve-second flight, becoming the first recorded manpowered, heavier-than-air flight in human history. 

The first flight–and many notable subsequent flights–occurred between the Wright brothers’ invention and the start of WWI, but it was the increasing commercial and military use of aircraft combined with the need for a supply chain that ushered in an era of aviation logistics.

The USPS Employs Aviation Logistics for Air Freight

The first widespread use of aircraft capabilities occurred when the U.S. Postal Service employed planes for cargo shipments. Less than a decade after the Wright Flyer took flight, a U.S. department store flew product from Dayton, Ohio 65 miles east to Columbus. That same year, the U.S. Postmaster General developed an interest in mail via air freight, and the postal service began experimenting with small parcel deliveries. 

Within the next decade, scheduled airmail service became an integral part of the USPS, and the union of aviation logistics and widespread aircraft usage became the norm. 

A Timeline of Aviation Logistics via Air Freight:

Commercial Airlines Begin to Take Off

Once airmail had proven viable for carrying cargo, more commercial and private flights began experimenting with passenger air travel. On the first day of 1914, the first recognized airline, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, carried its lone passenger, the mayor of St. Petersburg (who had won the right in a charity auction), from St. Petersburg, Florida to nearby Tampa. 

While air travel slowly became more commonplace, the expensive and uncomfortable nature of commercial flights delayed its popularity until the mid-1950s. It wasn’t until 1955 that airplanes surpassed trains for commercial travel, and another 20 years passed before the “jet set” lifestyle became a popularized way of life. 

Aviation logistics grew with the increasing demand for commercial air travel. In the initial days of air travel, takeoff and landing distances were inconsequential or entirely water-based. By WWII, entire complexes and airports were necessary to accommodate air travel, and all forms of aviation logistics–from government procurement to aerospace parts storage and distribution–became a thriving industry.

Aviation Logistics Becomes a Billion Dollar Industry

The logistics industry’s value exceeded $8 trillion worldwide in 2021, and is expected to more than double by 2027. Aviation logistics is a large portion of that market, facilitating international trade and travel today more than ever in human history. 

Greenwood Aerospace was founded over forty years ago to facilitate your aerospace program’s needs, including aviation logistics. Read on to discover all the resources we offer to assist and manage your aviation logistics needs.

What Greenwood Aerospace Offers for Aviation Logistics

Today, the demands of aviation logistics are as varied as the aircraft. Logistics have extended beyond their beginnings on the battlefield, and now include:

Greenwood Aerospace familiarizes our management team with all forms of aviation logistics to ensure your flight program operates at peak efficiency. Our logistics services include:

  • Supply chain support
  • Streamlined project management
  • Purchasing and assembly coordinators

Supply Chain Support

Our expert logistics team support your supply chain needs by identifying and filling gaps in your commercial and defense supply chains. We circumnavigate surpluses and shortages to provide quick procurement and aircraft parts distribution. We ensure you receive the parts you need when you need them with our centralized project management process.

Streamlined Project Management

By centralizing our project management, we are able to procure aircraft parts and accessories faster and cost-effectively. Greenwood Aerospace maintains an extensive network of suppliers to fulfill all contracts–from long-term contracts to one-time purchases.

We are a leading aircraft parts supplier, and our expert aviation logistics team ensures your program remains in flight and on time.

Purchasing and Assembly Coordinators

With over forty years experience in aviation logistics, parts procurement, and aircraft parts assembly, our expert team ensures all kits are fully assembled and ready for immediate use. 

Our team also acts on your behalf as purchasing representatives to procure parts or aircraft as needed. We leverage our specialized knowledge and extensive network of suppliers to provide you cutting-edge service and procurement solutions.

Contact Greenwood Aerospace to Manage Your Aviation Logistics

Ready to partner with Greenwood Aerospace to handle your aviation logistics? We bring decades of experience, AS9120B certification, and System for Award Management (SAM) registration to our valued contractors. Contact us now, and we will reply as fast as your flights launch. 

Interested in long-term logistics short-term contracts, or have other government procurement needs? Request a quote or email us at sales@governmentprocurement.com, and one of our experienced representatives will get back to you shortly.

We look forward to hearing from you!