The Evolution of Flight

The Evolution of Flight

Since man saw birds fly, his need to emulate them has always lingered in his mind. With the first documented designs being traced back around 400 BC, where Archytas, the Greek philosopher, strategist, astronomer, mathematician, and statesman designed and built a bird-shaped, apparently steam powered model named “The Pigeon” which is said to have flown some 200 meters.

Earlier models of our modern day blimps (Hot air balloons), which were basically lamps attached to paper bags were utilized by General Zhuge Liang (China, 180–234 AD), to ward off enemies. However, hot-air balloons in China became widely known in the third century BC.

With various designs and sketches by famous inventors like Leonardo da Vinci, Tito Livio Burattini among others, the first well documented flight which was achieved by a lighter-than-air aircraft was in 1783 Annonay, France, When the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their unmanned hot air balloon. In August that same year, Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers launched their unmanned hydrogen-filled balloon, in Champ de Mars, Paris. Several firsts were unveiled later on like the first free-flight with human passengers and many more.

I guess it would be rude to take you through the evolution of flight and fail to mention the pioneers of modern day heavier-than-air airplane, the Wright brothers. Orville and Wilbur Wright were working in a bicycle shop; they had learned that bicycles were fast on land. They then grew a fascination on flying contraptions. They did the necessary research on these contraptions and they began to work on building gliders in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

In 1899, they finally succeeded to make a large two wing kite. However, this was first of a series of experiments they made on unmanned gliders; after successful test runs, they finally made a glider where the pilot would control it mid-air. Working on glider experiments, they came to a realization on how to steer a plane while in flight, this was to be achieved by developing a rudder (the tail of the plane) and flaps on the wings (this was achieved by wing warping) which would help the pilot to gain control of the gliders direction and height.

In the December of 1903, the Wright Brothers became pioneers in the aviation industry by successfully flying a heavier-than-air aircraft with a person (Orville Wright) in it. In this first flight, the aircraft covered only one hundred twenty feet and stayed up for only about twelve seconds. On that very day, the Wright brothers made three successful flights, with Wilbur making the longest flight of the day which was 892 feet and he stayed up for about 59 seconds. The Wright Brothers made their first powered airplane which they named the “flyer.” It was a two winged plane (biplane) that had a 12 horse power engine which they had built themselves. The wings of the aircraft “Flyer” was 40 feet wide, wooden, and covered with cotton cloth. It had no cockpit o…

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