How Much Do You Know About Famous Military Pilots?



By: John Miller

6 Min Quiz

Image: NASA

About This Quiz

On December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers sent the first heavier-than-air aircraft floating into the skies of the East Coast. Their invention immediately caught the attention of militaries all over the world, and just a decade later warplanes played a major role in the First World War. The age of military aviators was born, and brave men – and women – stepped into the rickety cockpits to help their side win the fight. In our quiz, we’ll find out what you really know about famous military pilots!

Following the Great War, military aircraft evolved at a rapid clip, and so to did pilot training and tactics. From Germany, to France, to Britain, the United States, and beyond, air forces blossomed in numbers, arming pilots with newer, deadlier weapons. Do you know any of the experimental pilots who braved these speedy new machines?

Some military pilots became household names. Guys like Chuck Yeager and Neil Armstrong weren’t just jocks of the skies, they became well-regarded public figures with real political pull. How much do you know about these titans of the sky?

Women, too, were instrumental in battles, earning amazing air victories against men armed with bigger, better planes. What do you know about famous warrior women pilots?

This quiz will be a dogfight for the ages. Let’s see if you can survive the ack-ack and strafe your way to glory in our famous military pilots quiz!

Neil Armstrong was a pilot who eventually became the first man to do what?

Armstrong started his career as a test pilot and then became an astronaut. In 1969, he took part in the Apollo 11 mission and became the first human to walk on the moon.


Chuck Yeager was the first pilot to accomplish which feat?

Yeager was a WWII pilot who flew experimental aircraft after the war. In the fall of 1947, he zipped across the sky in the Bell X-1 at Mach 1, breaking the sound barrier for the first time.


Manfred von Richthofen was a WWI pilot better known by his nickname, which was what?

He was just 25 years old when he was shot down and killed in the Great War, but before he died, Manfred von Richthofen -- the Red Baron -- was one of the conflict's best pilots. He shot down 80 enemy planes and became a major celebrity.


Robin Olds was an American fighter pilot who fought in WWII and ______.

Olds was a deadly fighter pilot in both WWII and then, much later, in the Vietnam War. He ended his career as a "triple ace," having notched 16 air victories.


During the Vietnam War, American pilot John McCain flew for which branch of the military?

McCain was a naval aviator, one who earned a reputation as being rather reckless. He was wounded during multiple incidents during the Vietnam War.


On October 26, 1967, American John McCain's plane was shot down over Vietnam. What happened to him?

An enemy missile destroyed McCain's plane and he parachuted into enemy hands. He was imprisoned and tortured for more than half a decade before he finally went home.


John Glenn was the first to complete a supersonic flight across America. How long did his flight last?

At more than 700 mph, it took Glenn less than three and a half hours to fly from California to New York. The feat cemented Glenn as a celebrity aviator.


Erich Hartmann was a German ace in WWII. What was his nickname?

Soviet pilots loathed Hartmann -- the "Black Devil" -- for his exploits during WWII. Hartmann was a incredibly talented (and lucky) pilot who flew more than 1,400 missions.


What was the name of the craft that Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin landed on the moon?

In July 1969, the Apollo 11 mission sent a lunar landing craft towards the moon. Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin guided the "Eagle" to safe landing and then radioed the news to NASA: ""Houston, Tranquility Base here. The Eagle has landed."


True or false, did the Red Baron of WWI actually fly a red warplane?

The Red Baron was, shall we shall, a rather bold young man, unafraid to announce his presence in battle. He painted his plane bright red so that his enemies would know that death was coming for them.


Chuck Yeager was an outstanding fighter pilot during World War II. He once shot down ____ enemy planes in a single day.

On October 12, 1944, Yeager downed five enemy aircraft in a single day. It gave him legendary status as an "ace in a day," as "aces" were pilots who claimed at least five air victories during their careers.


John McCain was a hero pilot during the Vietnam War and suffered greatly in a Vietnamese P.O.W. camp. He later managed which achievement?

McCain suffered unimaginiable atrocities at the hands of the North Vietnamese and spent two years in solitary confinement. Later, he was elected as a senator from Arizona and ran for president in 2008, losing to Barack Obama.


Buzz Aldrin graduated from West Point with a degree in _____.

All NASA pilots have at least one thing in common -- they are whip smart. Aldrin obtained a degree in mechanical engineering and became a fighter pilot in the Korean War.


Before he went to flight school, what job did Chuck Yeager perform in the military?

Yeager didn't just know how to fly planes, he know how to fix them, too. Prior to flight school he worked as an aircraft mechanic.


Ernst Udet fought for _____ in World War I.

Udet was a German ace who served under the Red Baron during WWI. He also had the second most air victories in the German air force, with 62 downed enemy craft.


Caroline Aigle was the first female pilot in which country's air force?

In 1999, the 25-year-old Caroline Aigle became France's first female fighter pilot. Sadly, she died just seven years later, not from enemy bullets, but from cancer.


Who shot down the Red Baron during WWI?

In April 1918, the Red Baron was in hot pursuit of a brand-new (and terrified) Canadian pilot when he was shot in the torso. He then managed to land his plane just before dying. No one really knows who fired the fatal round.


Jeannie Leavitt is the first female fighter pilot in American history. She's logged how many hours of combat time?

Leavitt became the first female American fighter pilot in 1993, and she logged roughly 300 hours of combat time, mostly in the Middle East. She later became the first female to take command of a fighter wing.


American pilot Bob Hoover was known for which characteristic?

Bob Hoover was an insanely talented pilot renowned for his aerial acrobatics. Not only did he serve in the military, but he was an air show pilot, too.


Robin Olds was an American ace in WWII and also flew in the Vietnam War. How old was he in Vietnam?

Olds was, well, old by typical fighter pilot standards in Vietnam. He was 44 years of age when he took to the skies over Southeast Asia, claiming numerous air victories against much younger enemy pilots.


During Project Bullet, John Glenn set a record for transcontinental flight speed. How many times did he refuel during his record-breaking journey?

Glenn had to refuel his jet three times during his supersonic transcontinental flight. In order to refuel safely, though, he had to drop his speed to around 300 mph.


Facial hair was not allowed in the American air force during the Vietnam War. So why did Robin Olds grow a huge mustache?

Olds, like many pilots, was superstitious about every risky mission. His "bulletproof mustache" was meant to provide protective powers of a sort each time he took to the skies over Vietnam.


Katya Budanova was a famous pilot during which war?

Katya Budanova was a female Soviet pilot who gained fame for her deadliness in WWII. She shot down 11 enemy planes, making her just one of two female fighter aces of the conflict.


The "Black Devil" flew more than 1,400 missions during WWII. How many times did he crash his plane?

The "Black Devil" crash landed 14 times during his legendary WWII career. But he was never shot by his enemies -- most of the time, his plane was damaged by parts he blasted from the enemy aircraft he destroyed.


On May 6, 1968, Neil Armstrong was testing a Lunar Landing Training Vehicle, when what happened?

During a test flight of the LLTV, the craft abruptly malfunctioned at an altitude of only 100 feet, forcing Armstrong to eject. He barely escaped with his life but called the event an important learning experience.


In 1957, John Glenn set out to fly all the way across America at high speed. The project went by which name?

In 1957's Project Bullet, Glenn strapped himself into Vought F8U and screamed to supersonic speeds. He averaged more than 725 mph during his record-breaking flight.


Test pilot Chuck Yeager flew a plane called the X-1A to a speed of Mach 2.44, but then what happened?

Yeager was at 80,000 feet and blasting along at more than Mach 2 when he lost control of the plane, spinning all over the place. For tens of thousands of feet, he plummeted toward the Earth … but he finally regained control in time to land the plane and save his life.


Pilot Buzz Aldrin was the second person to walk on the moon, but he was the first person to do what?

Aldrin was the second man on the moon, but he did achieve a famous first -- he was the first to urinate on the moon. Of course, he did so within the safe confines of his specially-designed space suit.


Lydia Litvyak was a Soviet ace during WWII. How many solo air victories did she claim during the conflict?

Lydia Litvyak was a serious, quiet woman with excellent piloting skills during WWII. She shot down 12 Nazis by herself and teamed up to shoot down four more. She was shot down and killed at just age 21.


During WWII, how many Allied aircraft did the German "Black Devil" destroy?

Erich Hartmann, the "Black Devil," is the most successful military pilot in all of history. He claimed a jaw-dropping 352 Allied planes during his reign of terror in WWII.


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