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A Look At Flying [Part 2]

Oct 17th 2010 at 1:32 PM

Early History of Flight Part 1: Humans try to fly like birds     Early History of Flight • Part 1: Humans Imitate Birds in Flight
Part 2: 19th And 20th Century Flight Efforts
Part 3: The Wright Brothers More on AirplanesAirplanes Main Page
Dynamics of Flight
The Parts of an Airplane Around 400 BC - Flight in China
The discovery of the kite that could fly in the air by the Chinese started humans thinking about flying. Kites were used by the Chinese in religious ceremonies. They built many colorful kites for fun, also. More sophisticated kites were used to test weather conditions. Kites have been important to the invention of flight as they were the forerunner to balloons and gliders. Humans Try to Fly like Birds
For many centuries, humans have tried to fly just like the birds and have studied the flight of birds. Wings made of feathers or light weight wood have been attached to arms to test their ability to fly. The results were often disastrous as the muscles of the human arms are not like a birds and cannot move with the strength of a bird.
Hero and the Aeolipile
Drawing of Aeolipile Created by HeroThe ancient Greek engineer, Hero of Alexandria, worked with air pressure and steam to create sources of power. One experiment that he developed was the aeolipile which used jets of steam to create rotary motion.
Hero mounted a sphere on top of a water kettle. A fire below the kettle turned the water into steam, and the gas traveled through pipes to the sphere. Two L-shaped tubes on opposite sides of the sphere allowed the gas to escape, which gave a thrust to the sphere that caused it to rotate. The importance of the aeolipile is that it marks the start of engine invention - engine created movement will later prove essential in the history of flight.
1485 Leonardo da Vinci - The Ornithopter and the Study of Flight.
Leonardo da Vinci's OrnithopterLeonardo da Vinci made the first real studies of flight in the 1480's. He had over 100 drawings that illustrated his theories on bird and mechanical flight. The drawings illustrated the wings and tails of birds, ideas for man carrying machines, and devices for the testing of wings.
The Ornithopter flying machine was never actually created. It was a design that Leonardo da Vinci created to show how man could fly. The modern day helicopter is based on this concept. Leonardo da Vinci's notebooks on flight were reexamined in the 19th century by aviation pioneers.
1783 - Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier - The Flight of the First Hot Air Balloon
Colorful Picture of One of Montgolfier's Hot Air BalloonsThe brothers, Joseph Michel and Jacques Etienne Montgolfier, were inventors of the first hot air balloon. They used the smoke from a fire to blow hot air into a silk bag. The silk bag was attached to a basket. The hot air then rose and allowed the balloon to be lighter-than-air.
In 1783, the first passengers in the colorful balloon were a sheep, rooster and duck. It climbed to a height of about 6,000 feet and traveled more than one mile.
After this first success, the brothers began to send men up in hot air balloons. The first manned flight was on November 21, 1783, the passengers were Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent.
1799-1850's - George Cayley - Gliders
A picture of a Glider by George CayleySir George Cayley is considered the father of aerodynamics. Cayley experimented with wing design, distinguished between lift and drag, formulated the concepts of vertical tail surfaces, steering rudders, rear elevators, and air screws. George Cayley worked to discover a way that man could fly. Cayley designed many different versions of gliders that used the movements of the body to control. A young boy, whose name is not known, was the first to fly one of Cayley's gliders, the first glider capable of carrying a human.
Drawing of a George Cayley glider with a tailFor over 50 years, George Cayley made improvements to his gliders. Cayley changed the shape of the wings so that the air would flow over the wings correctly. Cayley designed a tail for the gliders to help with the stability. He tried a biplane design to add strength to the glider. George Cayley also recognized that there would be a need for machine power if the flight was to be in the air for a long time.
George Cayley wrote "On Ariel Navigation" that showed that a fixed wing aircraft with a power system for propulsion, and a tail to assist in the control of the airplane, would be the best way to allow man to fly.
Picture of Lilienthal's glider in flight.
Part 2: 19th And 20th Century Flight Efforts Picture of Lilienthal's glider in flight.
1891 Otto Lilienthal
German engineer, Otto Lilienthal, studied aerodynamics and worked to design a glider that would fly. Otto Lilienthal was the first person to design a glider that could fly a person and was able to fly long distances.
Otto Lilienthal was fascinated by the idea of flight. Based on his studies of birds and how they fly, he wrote a book on aerodynamics that was published in 1889 and this text was used by the Wright Brothers as the basis for their designs.

After more than 2500 flights, Otto Lilienthal was killed when he lost control because of a sudden strong wind and crashed into the ground.

1891 Samuel Langley
A drawing of the Langley AerodromeSamuel Langley was physicist and astronomer who realized that power was needed to help man fly. Langley conducted experiments using whirling arms and steam motors. He built a model of a plane, which he called an aerodrome, that included a steam-powered engine. In 1891, his model flew for 3/4s of a mile before running out of fuel.

Samuel Langley received a $50,000 grant to build a full sized aerodrome. It was too heavy to fly and it crashed. He was very disappointed. He gave up trying to fly. His major contributions to flight involved attempts at adding a power plant to a glider. He was also well known as the director of the Smithsonian Institute in Washington, DC.

Picture of Langley Aerodrome.

Model of Langley Aerodrome

1894 Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute was a successful engineer who undertook the invention of airplanes as a hobby, after being inspired by Otto Lilienthal. Chanute designed several aircraft, the Herring - Chanute biplane was his most successful design and formed the basis of the Wright biplane design.

Octave Chanute published "Progress in Flying Machines" in 1894. It gathered and analyzed all the technical knowledge that he could find about aviation accomplishments. It included all of the world's aviation pioneers. The Wright Brothers used this book as a basis for much of their experiments. Chanute was also in contact with the Wright Brothers and often commented on their technical progress.

1903 The Wright Brothers - First Flight
Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright were very deliberate in their quest for flight. First, they spent many years learning about all the early developments of flight. They completed detailed research of what other early inventors had done. They read all the literature that was published up to that time. Then, they began to test the early theories with balloons and kites. They learned about how the wind would help with the flight and how it could affect the surfaces once up in the air.
A model of one of the Gliders designed by the Wright BrothersThe next step was to test the shapes of gliders much like George Cayley did when he was testing the many different shapes that would fly. They spent much time testing and learning about how gliders could be controlled.
Picture of the Wright Brothers first engine.The Wright Brothers designed and used a wind tunnel to test the shapes of the wings and the tails of the gliders. After they found a glider shape that consistently would fly in the tests in the North Carolina Outer Banks dunes, then they turned their attention to how to create a propulsion system that would create the lift needed to fly.

The early engine that they used generated almost 12 horsepower.

A drawing of the Wright Brother's FlyerThe "Flyer" lifted from level ground to the north of Big Kill Devil Hill, at 10:35 a.m., on December 17, 1903. Orville piloted the plane which weighed six hundred and five pounds.
Picture of the first flight at Kitty HawkThe first heavier-than-air flight traveled one hundred twenty feet in twelve seconds. The two brothers took turns during the test flights. It was Orville's turn to test the plane, so he is the brother that is credited with the first flight.

Humankind was now able to fly! During the next century, many new airplanes and engines were developed to help transport people, luggage, cargo, military personnel and weapons. The 20th century's advances were all based on this first flight at Kitty Hawk by the American Brothers from Ohio.


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