A Short History of Flight - Man tries to fly like the birds

In China about 400 BC People have always been fascinated by the idea of flying.  Seeing kites flown by Chinese further influenced our ...

In China about 400 BC
People have always been fascinated by the idea of flying.  Seeing kites flown by Chinese further influenced our thinking.  Chinese kites are both used in recreation and for observance of religious ceremonies.  There is a special kind of kite for testing weather conditions.  The idea of gliders and balloons started from a kite, hence, it is important in mans quest for flight.

Man’s attempt at flight
Man’s idea of flight came from observing flying birds.  They even tried to copy the way a bird flies.  Man copied the bird’s wings and used different materials.  Expectedly man won’t be able to fly with wings like birds.  Our bodies are not designed to be like that.


An ancient Greek engineer, Hero of Alexandria work with different sources of power, he created the Aeolipile.  It produces rotary motion once steam jets are applied to it.  He used a kettle with water place just above fire.  The Aeolipile was placed on top of the kettle.  When water turns to steam it goes to the sphere and rotates it.  This is important because it was the very first engine.  Engines are important to the history of flight.

1485 – Leonardo da Vinci studies flight

Leonardo da Vinci was the first man to study flight.  He even drew the Ornithopter in the 1480’s.  He made over a hundred illustrations about his ideas on bird flight and mechanical flight.  The drawing consists of machines that carry people to flight, equipment used to test wings and wings and tails of birds.

Leonardo's Flying Machine

Leonardo drew the Ornithopter to show his idea on how man could fly but it was never made.  The very first inventors of the airplane studied Leonardo’s drawings.  The ornithopter paved the way for the modern helicopter.

The first hot air balloon flight was made on 1783, by Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier.

The very first hot air balloon was invented by Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier.  The balloon was made of silk bag attach to a basket carrier.  Smoke from a fire caused hot air to blow into the silk bag and created conditions for the silk bag to be lighter than air.  A duck, rooster and sheep were the very first passengers of the balloon.  It reached an altitude of 6,000 feet and went over a mile distance.

Due to the success of their trial flight, the brothers sent people up in their hot air balloons.  Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent were in the first manned flight made on November 21, 1783.

George Cayley and the glider, 1799-1850

The father of aerodynamics, Sir George Cayley, distinguished the forces that act on object in flight.  These are lift, drag, thrust, and gravity.  He tried different shapes of wings.  He thought of the controls like vertical tail surfaces, steering rudders, rear elevators ad airscrews.  He had many versions of gliders.  Body movements attain control.  His glider is the first to carry humans in flight.

Over 50 years, Sir George Cayley further improved his glider.  He made wing modifications to make the air flow on the wing properly.  To attain stability a tail was added.  To add strength to the glider a biplane design was incorporated.  He recognized that for his glider to stay aloft for a long time machine power was necessary.


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Knowledge World: A Short History of Flight - Man tries to fly like the birds
A Short History of Flight - Man tries to fly like the birds
Knowledge World
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