HURLBURT FIELD, Fla. — Rescue teams are searching a 700-square-mile area of the Gulf of Mexico between Fort Walton Beach and Pensacola, looking for any sign of a 24th Special Operations Wing airman who went missing in the water late Tuesday morning after apparently falling out of a four-engine C-130 transport aircraft two miles south of Hurlburt Field.

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Eugene Ely makes the first airplane takeoff from a warship in a Curtiss pusher airplane from the cruiser USS Birmingham at Hampton Roads, VA. (U.S. Navy via Smithsonian Institution)

Before electromagnetic catapults and "goddamned steam," the Navy launched a fixed-wing aircraft off of a warship with nothing but a dose of luck and a giant pair of balls.

Those balls belonged to Eugene Burton Ely, who on Nov. 14, 1910, successfully launched his Curtiss Pusher biplane from the deck of a U.S. Navy warship, the first such flight for a fixed-wing aircraft.

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(Royal Netherlands Air Force)

Nothing makes a celebration like bubbles — sort of.

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No one was injured when the nose gear for a C-130J Super Hercules collapsed while the aircraft was on the tarmac at Little Rock Air Force Base, said Tim Boyer, a spokesman for the 19th Airlift Wing.

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An F-16 Fighting Falcon crashed during a training flight near Holloman Air Force Base in New Mexico on Tuesday, Air Force officials announced.

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The Department of Defense has signed off on a $34 billion contract to buy 478 F-35 aircraft from Lockheed Martin.

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