Take Off with Aviation History



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History of Aviation

  • Kites were the earliest example of man-made flight, and kite flying in China dates back to several hundred years BC.

  • Leonardo da Vinci's designs for flying machines were rational but relied on poor science, underestimating the amount of power needed to propel a flying object.

  • Balloons, both free-flying and tethered, began to be used for military purposes from the end of the 18th century, with the French government establishing Balloon Companies during the Revolution.

  • Advances in engine technology and aerodynamics by the early 20th century made controlled, powered flight possible for the first time, thanks to the successful efforts of the Wright brothers.

  • The modern aeroplane with its characteristic tail was established by 1909, and from then on, the history of the aeroplane became tied to the development of more and more powerful engines.

  • The first great ships of the air were the rigid dirigible balloons pioneered by Ferdinand von Zeppelin, which dominated long-distance flight until the 1930s.

  • After World War II, the flying boats were replaced by land planes, and the new and immensely powerful jet engine revolutionized both air travel and military aviation.

  • In the latter part of the 20th century, the advent of digital electronics produced great advances in flight instrumentation and "fly-by-wire" systems.

  • The 21st century saw the large-scale use of pilotless drones for military, civilian, and leisure use.

  • The term aviation, meaning action or progress, was coined in 1863 by French pioneer Guillaume Joseph Gabriel de La Landelle.

  • The kite may have been the first form of man-made aircraft, invented in China possibly as far back as the 5th century BC by Mozi and Lu Ban.

  • Airships were originally called "dirigible balloons" and are still sometimes called dirigibles today.History of Aviation: From Emanuel Swedenborg to the Wright Brothers

  • Emanuel Swedenborg published "Sketch of a Machine for Flying in the Air" in 1716, which suggested a start to the problem of flying.

  • Diego Marín Aguilera crossed the river Arandilla in Coruña del Conde, Castile, flying 300 – 400 m, with a flying machine in 1793.

  • Scientific study of heavier-than-air flight began in earnest in the 19th century, and Sir George Cayley was called the "father of the aeroplane" in 1846.

  • Cayley studied the basic science of lift and identified the four vector forces that influence an aircraft, thrust, lift, drag, and weight.

  • Cayley constructed a model glider in 1804, which was the first modern heavier-than-air flying machine and was the layout of a conventional modern aircraft.

  • In 1848, Cayley constructed a glider in the form of a triplane large and safe enough to carry a child.

  • The latter part of the 19th century became a period of intense study, characterized by the "gentleman scientists" who represented most research efforts until the 20th century.

  • In 1871, Francis Herbert Wenham presented the first paper to the newly formed Aeronautical Society on Aerial Locomotion.

  • Horatio Phillips made key contributions to aerodynamics. He conducted extensive wind tunnel research on aerofoil sections, proving the principles of aerodynamic lift foreseen by Cayley and Wenham.

  • Otto Lilienthal became known as the "Glider King" of Germany and duplicated Wenham's work and greatly expanded on it in 1884.

  • Octave Chanute took up aircraft design, and in the summer of 1896, his team flew several of their designs eventually deciding that the best was a biplane design.

  • The invention of the box kite during this period by the Australian Lawrence Hargrave would lead to the development of the practical biplane.Major Pioneers in Aviation History

  • Frost designed and patented a flying machine in 1894, which flew 500 yards before crashing into a tree and falling in a field.

  • Langley started investigating aerodynamics before becoming the Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. In 1896, his Aerodrome No. 5 made the first successful unpiloted, engine-driven sustained flight, followed by another successful flight with Aerodrome No. 6 in 1896, witnessed and photographed by Alexander Graham Bell.

  • Langley received funding from the US government to build a man-carrying version of his designs, which resulted in the Aerodrome A. However, the aircraft proved to be too fragile and crashed twice in 1903.

  • Gustave Weißkopf, also known as Whitehead, claimed to have carried out a controlled, powered flight in his Number 21 monoplane in 1901, two and a half years before the Wright Brothers' flight, but it is still disputed.

  • Richard Pearse, a New Zealand farmer and inventor, performed pioneering aviation experiments and witnesses claimed he flew and landed a powered heavier-than-air machine nine months before the Wright Brothers' flight, but this is also disputed.

  • The Wright Brothers built and tested a series of kite and glider designs from 1898 to 1902 before attempting to build a powered design. They solved the control problem by inventing wing warping for roll control, combined with simultaneous yaw control with a steerable rear rudder. They constructed a wind tunnel and created sophisticated devices to measure lift and drag on the 200 wing designs they tested. They built the first practical aircraft, the Wright Flyer, and made the first sustained, controlled, powered heavier-than-air manned flight in 1903.

  • European experimenters generally concentrated on attempting to produce inherently stable machines. Short powered flights were performed in France by Romanian engineer Traian Vuia and Jacob Ellehammer flew a monoplane with a tether in Denmark in 1906. Alberto Santos-Dumont made a public flight in Paris with the 14-bis, a canard configuration with pronounced wing dihedral, in 1906, which was the first flight verified by the Aéro-Club de France of a powered heavier-than-air machine in Europe. Gabriel Voisin flew the first example of his Voisin biplane in March 1907. Santos-Dumont later added ailerons between the wings in an effort to gain more lateral stability. The Demoiselle achieved 120 km/h.

  • Santos-Dumont built the world's first series production aircraft, the Demoiselle No 19, which could be constructed in only 15 days. The Wright Brothers' system of flight control was published in l'Aerophile in January 1906, but European experimenters generally ignored it, concentrating on producing inherently stable machines.Aviation History: From Early Flight to World War II

  • The Demoiselle was a popular aircraft in the early 1900s, controlled by a cruciform tail unit to function as elevator and rudder, with roll control provided through wing warping.

  • In 1908, Wilbur Wright gave a series of flight demonstrations in France, demonstrating the superiority of the Wright Brothers' aircraft, inspiring Henri Farman to set up his own aircraft construction business.

  • Louis Blériot won worldwide fame in 1909 for being the first to fly across the English Channel, leading to the widespread recognition of powered flight.

  • In 1914, pioneering aviator Tony Jannus captained the inaugural flight of the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat Line, the world's first commercial passenger airline.

  • Historians disagree about whether the Wright brothers patent war impeded development of the aviation industry in the United States compared to Europe.

  • The first successful rotorcraft appeared in the form of the autogyro in 1919, invented by Spanish engineer Juan de la Cierva.

  • Almost as soon as they were invented, airplanes were used for military purposes, with Italy being the first country to use them for reconnaissance, bombing, and artillery correction flights in Libya during the Italian-Turkish war.

  • The years between World War I and World War II saw great advancements in aircraft technology, with airplanes evolving from low-powered biplanes made from wood and fabric to sleek, high-powered monoplanes made of aluminum.

  • Air shows sprang up around the country, with air races, acrobatic stunts, and feats of air superiority, driving engine and airframe development.

  • Other prizes, for distance and speed records, also drove development forwards, including the first flight across the South Atlantic and the first solo non-stop crossing of the Atlantic by Charles Lindbergh.

  • The first lighter-than-air crossings of the Atlantic were made by airship in July 1919 by His Majesty's Airship R34 and crew, but the age of the rigid airship ended following the destruction by fire of the zeppelin LZ 129 Hindenburg just before landing at Lakehurst, New Jersey.

  • Fritz von Opel was instrumental in popularizing rockets as means of propulsion for vehicles and planes, initiating the world's first rocket program, Opel-RAK, leading to speed records for automobiles, rail vehicles and the first manned rocket-powered flight in September 1929.

  • In 1929, Jimmy Doolittle developed instrument flight, and the Dornier Do X, the largest plane ever built until then, took its 70th test flight with 169 people on board.


How much do you know about the history of aviation? From the earliest forms of man-made flight, to the Wright Brothers' invention of the first practical aircraft, to the advancements of aircraft technology during World War II and beyond, this quiz will test your knowledge of aviation history. Get ready to learn about the pioneers of flight and the evolution of airplanes as you take on this challenging quiz.

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