When Did Superman First Save An Airplane in the Comics?

In "When We First Met," we spotlight the various characters, phrases, objects or events that eventually became notable parts of comic lore, like the first time someone said, "Avengers Assemble!" or the first appearance of Batman's giant penny or the first appearance of Alfred Pennyworth or the first time Spider-Man's face was shown half-Spidey/half-Peter. Stuff like that.

Reader George N. wrote in to ask, "One of the go-to action sequences in Superman movies is Superman rescuing a falling plane (as with his rescue of Air Force One in Superman: The Movie (1978) and his rescue of the aircraft in 2006's Superman Returns). It's certainly a natural, given it showcases two of the main powers the public associates with the character, flight and super-strength. But when was the first time he rescued a large aircraft like this in the comics? I know there's the rescue of the space plane in Man of Steel 1 (1986), but is there an earlier instance?"

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Well, George, I think all of these things are sort of contextual, as a big plane in 1949 might not compare to a big plane in 1978 (and certainly not, like, a SPACE PLANE in 1986), but I think we can generally agree that it's basically the same thing in this context, right? The question is mainly "When did Superman first do one of his classic rescues of a big plane?"

It is worth noting that in the early days of Superman, he flat out couldn't even THINK of lifting something as big as a plane. Heck, here we see him in Superman #8 (by Jerry Siegel and Paul Cassidy) and it is clear that he wouldn't dream of it...

However, as Superman's powers increased, so, too, did the amount of stuff that they showed him lifting in the comics.

This then led to a funny combination, where he lifted planes at practically the same time, but in different comic books.

In World's Best Comics #1 (by Jerry Siegel and Wayne Boring and presumably an inker), Superman catches a plane, but notice how he specifically does it in a unique fashion where he lands along with the plane in the water, therefore allowing the water to act like a cushion...

However, we then see Superman leap with the plane in his hand!

Released at basically the same time, Action Comics #35 (by Jerry Siegel, Wayne Boring and presumably some inker), sees Superman more traditionally catch a plane...

And later in the story, we see Superman basically toss a plane into the sky...

In Action Comics #43 (by Jerry Siegel, Leo Nowake and Ed Dobrotka), Superman saves Lois' plane again, but he's using all sorts of tricks to do so...

I think the real issue is that a traditional case of Superman saving a plane really has to involve the Man of Steel FLYING and catching it. That's really what we think of when we think of Superman catching planes, right? So when was that?

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