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.
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.
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.
Leonardo da Vinci - The Ornithopter and the Study of Flight.
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
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.
- George Cayley - Gliders
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.
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.
page > 19th
And 20th Century Flight Efforts
and research provided by NASA