London's Hangar 6 will be closed 21 September while we update this exhibition.

World Aviation in 1997

9 January
Balloonists Per Lindstrand and Richard Branson abandon their non-stop, round-the-flight in Virgin Global Challenger, when its hydrogen gas buoyancy cell develops a leak.

12 January
A non-stop, round-the-world balloon flight by Bertrand Piccard and Vim Verstraeten ends in failure when a fuel leak forces the balloonists to ditch in the Mediterranean shortly after take-off.

20 January
A new balloon absolute distance record of 16,722 kilometres (10,363 miles) is set by Steve Fossett, during his unsuccessful non-stop, round the world flight, which he is forced to abandon in India 6 days after his departure from the USA.

23 February
93 construction workers are rescued by helicopter from a burning Bangkok skyscraper, which caught fire during building work.

9 April
The first production Lockheed Martin/Boeing F22A Raptor is rolled out.

28 April
The first five production V22 Osprey tiltrotors are delivered by Bell Boeing for use by the United States Marines.

25 June
The Russian space station Mir and its re-supply craft collide in orbit forcing the Mir astronauts to shut down most of the spacecraft’s systems.

4 July
The Mars Pathfinder lands on the surface of Mars after its 6 month journey from Earth.

31 July
The McDonnell Douglas company is taken-over by Boeing.

7 September
Initial flight trials of the first pre-production Martin/Boeing F22 Raptor commence. The Raptor is to succeed the United States Air Force’s McDonnell Douglas F15 Eagle in the air dominance fighter role.

8 September
The Boeing 777-300 is rolled out. At 73 metres (242 feet) it is the longest airliner ever built.

15 October
A Saturn probe is launched from Cape Canaverel on a 1,499,676 kilometre journey that will take 7 years. The Cassini-Huygens probe will gather data about Saturn and its moon Titan.

16 December
The United Arab Emirates orders thirty Dassault Breguet Mirage 2000-9 aircraft to replace the Mirage V, in a deal worth $2.9 million.

22 December
The Eurofighter 2000 receives the go-ahead from Germany, Spain, Italy and the United Kingdom, with orders for 600 production aircraft.