Modern logistics in aviation reach all corners of the aerospace industry—from foreign military sales to advanced parts procurement intelligence. Employing a team of experts to manage your aviation logistics, such as parts procurement, packaging, and supply chains, is instrumental in a flight program’s success. 

Greenwood Aerospace is your leader in aviation logistics, including aerospace supply chain management and 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

In this article, we cover the ins and outs of modern logistics in aviation, including:

  • A brief history of modern logistics in aviation
  • Exploring modern American logistics in aviation
  • What Greenwood Aerospace provides for logistics in aviation

Discover everything you need to know about modern logistics in aviation below.

A Brief History of Modern Logistics in Aviation: Manned Aircraft

Tracing manned flight back to its origins is almost an impossible task. Man dreamed of flight since the days of Greek mythology, when Ovid recorded the famous myth of Icarus. Common sense would tell us the first human to see a flying bird began puzzling out the logistics of manned air travel, and the first recorded aircraft, the ornithopter, supports this theory.

For most of us, the obvious first manned aircraft was the iconic Wright Flyer, the fixed-wing aircraft flown by the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on December 17, 1903. Others credit a different pair of brothers for manning the first official flight almost 150 years prior in their invention, the hot air balloon. Still others contend manned flight began centuries earlier, with the bird-like ornithopter. 

To understand the history of modern logistics in aviation, there are several key aircraft to know, such as: 

  • Ornithopters
  • Hot Air Balloons
  • Fixed-wing Aircraft
  • Rotary-wing Aircraft
  • Spacecraft

We explore each aircraft and its modern equivalent in this article, mapping the history of modern logistics in aviation through manned flight.

The Earliest Known Manned Aircraft: The Ornithopter

The first recorded attempts at manned flight emulated the flapping of birds’ wings, as early engineers crafted large, feathered and wooden wings to flap after takeoff. Naturally, the initial tries proved unsuccessful, as many pilots failed to counterbalance their own weight with the strength of the wings. 

 A man stands on top of a feather-winged ornithopter, preparing to demonstrate as another man looks on.
Manned aircraft dates back to Da Vinci's Ornithopter concept, with some contending it began even earlier. Image source

Many credit Leonardo da Vinci with the invention of the ornithopter, citing his diagrams of the aircraft as evidence. Less people know of Abbas ibn Firnas, the man many believe is the true “Father of Aviation.” 

Ibn Firnas achieved flight for over ten minutes roughly 500 years before da Vinci lived. Although many modern scholars argue this was the first manned flight in human history, it was far from a success. Ibn Firnas failed to plan for landing, and the resulting crash severely injured him, ending any subsequent flights.

The ornithopter today: Advancements in fixed-wing and heavier-than-air aircraft made ornithopter travel obsolete. Today’s equivalents can be found in sport and recreation, as modern-day ornithopters can be found in wingsuit BASE jumping and hang gliding.

Early Advancements in Manned Aircraft: Hot Air Balloons

Over a century before the Wright brothers took to the sky for 12 seconds, two French brothers launched their invention into the skies above Paris: the hot air balloon. 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 logistics of hot air balloon travel, with the note that the Wright brothers’ biplane predicated modern flight. The achievement of powered, heavier-than-air travel—not to mention the advanced travel implications—favors the Wrights as forefathers of manned flight over the Montgolfiers, but the French brothers still hold a necessary place in modern logistics in aviation. 

The hot air balloon today: The concept of long-distance flight by hot air balloon was supplanted by more cost-effective and efficient air travel. Today, hot air balloons are primarily relegated to hobbyist and 

Fixed-Wing Aircraft: From the Wright Flyer to the F-35

Most Americans credit the Wright brothers with the advancement 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. 

The iconic “first flight” is often credited to the Wright brothers due to their powered, heavier-than-air biplane sustaining flight for twelve seconds. Although scholars contend if it was truly first, the Wright Flyer set in motion modern aviation, impacting everything from travel to warfare to shipping and distribution.

Fixed-wing aircraft today: Tracking the history of fixed-wing aircraft can and does take volumes. Majors milestones in fixed-wing aircraft since the invention of the Wright Flyer include:

As the modern era space race continues, combat aircraft, such as the F-35, are becoming stealthier and more efficient, commercial airliners are decreasing travel time, and delivery aircraft are implementing new software and advanced technology to streamline delivery. Modern logistics in aviation are improving to keep pace, and Greenwood Aerospace is here to help.

A gray F-35 Lightning II in flight
The future of logistics in aviation will impact all industries, especially the military. Image source

Rotor-Wing Aircraft Assists and Enhances Fixed-Wing Air Travel

Even with advancements in aerospace technology occurring yearly—and even monthly—fixed-wing aircraft still encountered limitations. By 1939, a new aircraft was implemented to assist fixed-wing missions, especially in combat: the helicopter. 

Within a decade, commercial licenses were granted to mass produce rotor-wing aircraft, with Bell Aircraft Corporation introducing its Model 47. By the 1950s, helicopters were commonplace in combat, providing cover, evac, and airdrops in the Korean and Vietnam Wars

Rotor-wing aircraft today: Rotor-wing aircraft provide more close-to-the-ground functionality than fixed-wing aircraft, allowing pilots to accomplish everything from crop dusting to emergency life flights. The AgustaWestland AW119 Koala serves police forces and Life Flight crews, the Bell 206 helps farmers dust cropland, and, of course, the Sikorsky Black Hawk provides necessary combat aid in warzones. 

While fixed-wing aircraft will remain the preferred method of commercial travel for the foreseeable future, rotor-wing aircraft have a versatility and accomplished history that will remain relevant for decades to come. 

Modern Logistics in Aviation: Space and Beyond

Much like the Wright brothers serving as the American forefathers of modern flight, many point to the Apollo missions as the leap from airspace to space. Millions of Americans can name astronauts Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin as the first men on the moon with Apollo 11, and many can cite Soviet astronaut Yuri Gagarin as the first man to leave Earth’s atmosphere. But, how many people know the names Ed White or Alexei Leonov?

White and Leonov, of America and the USSR respectively, were the first men credited with walking in space. From that point on, unimaginable distances in outer space became closer, with man walking on the Moon on July 21, 1969, man-made aircraft reaching Mars in 1976, and ion propulsion spacecraft launching in 1998. 

Spacecraft, today and tomorrow: Programs such as Virgin Galactic, SpaceX, Blue Origin are envisioning the future of manned flight: commercial space travel. 

One hundred years after the Wright Flyer’s maiden voyage, Scaled Composite’s SpaceShipOne made its initial manned test run. Six months later, it achieved the first manned commercial spaceflight funded entirely by private parties. The future of space travel will be further-reaching and more accessible than ever, and it will require state-of-the-art logistics in aviation to keep programs operating at peak performance.

A History of Modern American Logistics in Aviation

Pinpointing the beginning of man’s fascination with flight likely starts with the very first human. The first manned flight arguably dates back to the 9th century, and unmanned, man-made flight predates ornithopters by hundreds of years

Modern American logistics in aviation 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 forces’ use of supply chain management. 

Heavier-than-air Manned Aircraft Revolutionizes Aviation

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 Logistics in Aviation 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. 

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.

Logistics in Aviation 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 Provides for Logistics in Aviation

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 management
  • Streamlined project management
  • Purchasing and assembly coordinators

Supply Chain Management

Our expert logistics team builds commercial and defense supply chains to circumnavigate surpluses and shortages. 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.

A Greenwood Aerospace warehouse worker operates a forklift, with crates in the foreground and background.
Greenwood Aerospace provides all your logistics solutions.

Partner with Greenwood Aerospace for Your Logistics in Aviation Needs

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, and one of our experienced representatives will get back to you shortly.

Let Greenwood Aerospace handle all your logistics in aviation needs!