The first time an airplane was ever used in a military mission was 1911, when Italian Army Capt. Carlo Maria Piazza flew a Blériot XI on a reconnaissance mission over Libya during the Italo-Turkish War.
The Bleriot XI was the first heavier-than-air aircraft to cross the English Channel. It weighed about 500 pounds and generated 25 horsepower, maxing out at 47 mph.
The Air National Guard’s 121st Fighter Squadron, based out of Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, traces its roots to just before World War II. Its first aircraft were unarmed observation planes that topped out at about 220 mph—an upgrade from the Blériot XI, to be sure.
But 110 years after Piazza made history, the pilots of the 121st are flying another legendary military aircraft.
The General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon weighs about 9.5 tons empty and can surpass Mach 2 when needed. It carries a Vulcan rotary cannon and has 11 hardpoints for rockets, missiles, bombs and other armaments.
More than 4,600 have been made since 1976, and at one point, there were more F-16s in military service worldwide than any other fixed-wing aircraft.
The 121st has been flying them since 1989, and Connor Ochs captured this F-16C recently departing Andrews on a training mission.
Unfortunately, very few of us will ever get to experience breaking the speed of sound in a fighter jet. However, we can all enjoy the breathtaking view of a sunset from miles in the air.
And just in case you haven’t, Barbara Lee Gruber shared with us her window-seat view of a sunset over Pittsburgh to share with all of you.
Thanks, Connor and Barbara!
Our readers continue to pass along shots of unique aircraft, international airports, historical events, gorgeous views and even family vacation photos for this feature. We love them! Keep them coming—you can click here for submission guidelines.