Since the beginning of aviation, pilots have always tried to surpass themselves, to fly further, faster and higher. A pilot often needed great determination and courage just to take-off, let alone to put his aircraft through its full paces and try to push back the frontiers of the possible. Even today, adventurers such as non-stop round-the-world balloonists Bertrand Piccard or Steve Fossett often still venture into uncharted territory.
New technology enables constant progression in aviation records, and generates useful spin-off applications: for example, the pressurized cabin invented by Professor Auguste Piccard to carry out the first flight in the stratosphere in 1931 – a world altitude record – today allows millions of passengers to travel comfortably on board aircraft that fly at the outer edge of the atmosphere.
Drawing up rules, and controlling and ratifying aeronautical and astronautical World and Continental Records still represent an important part of FAI activities. Since the first flights were recorded in 1906, some 16’000 World Records have been registered by FAI to date. Every year, FAI receives between 200 and 300 world record claims, and approximately 90 % of these attempts are ratified as new world records.
Charles Lindbergh’s historical flight across the Atlantic Ocean, and Yuri Gagarin’s first human flight into space are amongst the great aeronautical and astronautical achievements recorded by FAI. All air sport disciplines are represented in the FAI World and Continental Record Archives, from human-powered flight at one extreme, to space flight at the other.