In the relatively short span of aviation history, invention—usually driven by the necessity of war and/or competition—has accelerated the growth of aircraft performance at an amazing pace. In less than 40 years, in just the speed category, we went from the Wright Flyer topping out at 30 mph in 1903 to the first-ever operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262, which clocked speeds over 550 mph. In the next 35 years, jet performance took off and peaked in 1976, when the SR-71 Blackbird sped to a still unsurpassed (as far as we know!) record 2,193 mph.
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