The Development of Flightby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Analyze the development of flight from 1450 - 2000.
Over the past two centuries, man has made significant progress in unlocking the science of flight which has greatly impacted the way in which people travel, the economies of many countries, and the manner in which nations wage war upon one another. Through initially experimenting with lighter-than-air flight, such as with hot air balloons and also with kites, man realized that flight would be feasible. These developments led to more knowledgeable experimentation with heavier-than-air flight with such inventions as gliders and other fixed wing aircraft. However a world of difference separates these two technologies.
For centuries, man has dreamed of flying through the air as they saw birds seemingly effortlessly soaring high into the sky. Many legends arose about supernatural beings or men who flew. One famous Greek myth tells of a father and son, Daedalus and Icarus, who used wax to secure birds' feathers to their arms with which they were able to fly. Many other cultures also have myths and legends about flight like the Africans, Indians, Native Americans, Arabs, and Chinese.1 The Chinese built giant kites to which a man could be tied for the purpose of reconnaissance; since the kites needed sufficient gusts of wind and had to be tethered to an object on the ground, they were immobile thus making them largely impractical. Some early "aviators" tried variations of attaching something to their arms and flapping them like wings after jumping off a cliff; many of these early attempts ended in injury or death.2 For many centuries, the mysteries of flight eluded man while they watched God's living flying machines like birds, bats, and bugs enviously. Notably Leonardo da Vinci [hyperlink to biography] (1452-1519) also considered the amazing aerobatics of the birds which inspired him to consider the problem of flight. "Through half his life he pondered the problem of flight.he envied the birds as a species in many ways superior to man. He studied in detail the operation of their wings and tails, the mechanics of their rising, gliding, turning, and descending.He observed how birds avail themselves of air currents and pressures."3 As Psalm 111:2 says: "Great are the works of the LORD; they are pondered by all who delight in them."
Leonardo da Vinci's Contributions
Leonardo da Vinci became one of the first notable pioneers of flight although he faultily based most of his ideas on the flapping motion of bird's wings instead of using a fixed-wing design; this design became known as the ornithopter. However he also engineered designs for a parachute4 and designed a type of helicopter called the aerial screw in 1483. "If this instrument made with a screw.be turned swiftly, the said screw will make its spiral in the air, and it will rise high."5 No one knows weather Leonardo tried to fly any of his aircraft, but certainly none flew with any success; however some say that his assistant Antonio broke his leg from a crash in 1510.
Hot Air Balloons
Since Leonardo da Vinci's undertaking of designing aircraft, no noteworthy progress in discovering flight had been made until nearly three hundred years later. Significant progress was made in the field of lighter-than-air flight by brothers Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier who discovered that a parcel of hot air would rise in cooler air. They applied this principle to develop the first hot air balloon which they publicly demonstrated on June 4, 1783.6 This flight traveled over a mile and achieved an altitude of 6,000 feet. Later, in the following year, the brothers began to send people into the sky. By 1784 balloons began to be used for military observation. During the American Civil War, balloons became widely used for military reconnaissance.7 Thaddeus Lowe managed to gain government support in forming a Balloon Corps to assist the Union Troops in accurately firing their cannons even when they could not see the enemy and gather information about the formation of the Confederate troops. The Confederacy, learning of the benefits of aerial observation, constructed several hot air balloons, unlike the Union Army which used hydrogen filled balloons.8 However the uses of the balloon were limited since they were slow, could only carry a limited weight, and were difficult to control since they were large and clumsy. Thus many other pioneers of flight, such as George Cayley, still experimented with gliders and other fixed wing aircraft in hopes of finding a better way. Others modified the hot air balloon principle and used lighter-than-air gases like hydrogen and added a steering mechanism to make airships like dirigibles, zeppelins, and blimps.
George Cayley (1773-1857) developed the first workable glider in 1804. His first large model stayed aloft for a short time carrying an unknown ten year old boy in 1849; later a model carried his coachman in 1853. Cayley's three-part book entitled On Ariel Navigation explained the importance of control, helped future aviators see the potential of the fixed wing design, as opposed to the ornithopter, described the improved lift resulting from a curved upper camber of the wing, along with other advantages gained thereby, and also explained such dynamics of flight as lift, weight, thrust, and drag.9 Otto Lilienthal (1848-96) developed eighteen glider models, some of which were able to cover a distance of around 1,000 feet. Most of his models were controlled by shifting body weight.10 American engineer, Octave Chaute (1832-1910), contributed to the advancement of aviation by compiling as much information as he could on the successful developments in glider flight in the past century in addition to developing two gliders of his own. He also corresponded regularly with the Wright brothers to encourage them in their undertaking of discovering flight.11
The Wright Brothers: The First Powered Flight
On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright added the final piece of the puzzle needed for effective flight: power. In 1902, they developed a successful glider and on which they based their powered version, which carried Orville Wright 120 feet on a flight lasting twelve seconds - the first controlled, powered flight. Later that day Wilbur piloted the aircraft for 59 seconds for 852 feet.12 Their success was not immediately recognized, however. After complying with certain standards, the United States government bought a copy of the Wright brother's Flyer in 1909.13
World Wars and Beyond
During World War I, aircraft were primarily used for reconnaissance. However, later in the war pilots found the airplane's success as a bomber against ground targets. Early dogfights consisted of pilots shooting pistols at each other as they passed; later, it evolved into aircraft attempting to out-maneuver each other in order to shoot at the opposing aircraft with mounted machine guns. After the war, civilians feared the airplane's ability to drop bombs from the sky. Gradually, they came to realize the airplane's potential capability in many other areas. The time between World War I and World War II, known as the Golden Age of Flight, marked an era of daring stunts and new services with the airplane. This era includes such feats as Charles Lindbergh's flight across the Atlantic Ocean in 1927, Amelia Earhart's attempt to fly around the world, and other record breaking events. Economically, aircraft gained a new importance by being able to transport documents, things, and people long distances more quickly than ever before in such aircraft as the DC-10. When World War II occurred, the aviation industry exploded as it had in the previous World War. Also, other record-breaking flights occurred as a result of the war like the flight of the first operational jet, the Messerschmitt Me-262, and Howard Hugh's giant wooden plane, the "Spruce Goose."14 As for the war itself, the air forces of each major nation arguably played a more important role in the outcome of the war than any other branch. Some battles, like the Battle over Britian, were fought entirely in the air.
Today, because of aviation, goods and exports may be transported in large quantities quickly and efficiently. People can cross an ocean as large as the Pacific and still land in the same day as when they took off. Also, aircraft have changed the way in which countries wage war upon one another with stealth technology and laser guided bombs. "By the end of the war the aviation industry was one of the world's great industries, employing millions of people, with manufacturing, managerial, and air transportation facilities spread throughout the world. Aircraft had improved tremendously in speed, size, and safety during the war. After the war the aviation industry expanded at an even greater rate than the world's economy. Today the importance of aviation in the economic, political, and social life of man is greater than ever, and is continually growing." Thus because of man's use of his God-given creativity and ingenuity, after 500 years of trial and error, we may soar through the air like many have dreamed.
1 http://www.centennialofflight.af.mil/myths.html, June 15, 2005
2New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 1, A, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 211
3Will Durant, The Story of Civilization V: The Renaissance, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1953, page 220
4"Leonardo da Vinci: The Invention of the Parachute", Leonardo da Vinci: The Invention of the Parachute, March 2005, http://www.juliantrubin.com/bigten/davinciparachute.html, June 18, 2005
5Will Durant, The Story of Civilization V: The Renaissance, Simon and Schuster, New York, 1953, page 220
6Nicola Hetherington, "The Montgolfier Brothers", Lighter Than Air, http://www.chm.bris.ac.uk/webprojects2003/hetherington/final/montgolfier_bros.html
7New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 2, B, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 51
8"Balloons in the American Civil War", U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission, http://www.centennialofflight.gov/essay/Lighter_than_air/Civil_War_balloons/LTA5.htm, June 18, 2005
9Gary Bradshaw, "Airplane Inventors: Sir George Cayley", Sir George Cayley, 1/19/02, http://www.wam.umd.edu/~stwright/WrBr/inventors/Cayley.html, June 19, 2005
10Gary Bradshaw, "Airplane Inventors: Otto Lilienthal", Otto Lilienthal, 1/19/02, http://www.wam.umd.edu/~stwright/WrBr/inventors/Lilienthal.html, June 19, 2005
11Gary Bradshaw, "Airplane Inventors: Octave Chanute", Octave Chanute, 1/17/02, http://www.wam.umd.edu/~stwright/WrBr/inventors/Chanute.html, June 19, 2005
12Gary Bradshaw, "Wright Brothers History", First Flight, 3/22/04, http://www.wam.umd.edu/~stwright/WrBr/wrights/1903.html, June 19, 2005
13New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 2, B, Standard Educational Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 51
14"The Golden Age of Aviation", The Golden Age of Aviation, http://www.gruner.com/flight/appendix/aviators/, June 20, 2005
NASA, "Early History of Flight", http://inventors.about.com/library/inventors/blearlyflight.htm, June 17, 2005
New Standard Encyclopedia, Volume 5, G, Standard Educational
Corporation, Chicago, Illinois, 1970, page 160
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