Brief History of Flight


The history of aviation has extended over two thousand years. It began with the invention of kites and gliders, which finally emerged in supersonic and hypersonic flight by powered, heavier-than-air-jets in the modern era.

Early efforts of flight

Chinese Kites around 400 BC

The first man-made flying objects were the kites, which were invented in China in 400 BC. These were used by the Chinese as a part of their religious ceremony.

Ornithopter of Leonardo Da Vinci

In the 15th century, Leonardo Da Vinci made the illustrated the theories of flight through his paintings. That was the first real studies of flight. However, he never attempted to construct them. The modern day helicopter is based on his Ornithopter flying machine theory.

Modern efforts

Hot Air Balloon of Joseph and Jaccques Montgolfier

In 1783, the first hot air balloon was invented by the brothers Joseph Michel and Jaccques Etienne Montgolfier. The first passengers in the hot air balloons were a sheep, a rooster and a duck. After the success of this flight, they sent men for the first time on 21st November 1783.


George Cayley was the first to discover gliders, which enabled man to fly. He designed different versions of gliders which could be controlled by the movement of the body. In 1891, a German engineer, named Otto Lilienthal designed a glider than could fly a person for long distances. He even wrote books on aerodynamics, which were later on used by Wright Brothers as the basis for their design.

Aerodrome by Samuel Langley

Langley realized that power was required to fly man for a longer period of time. Thus, he included a steam-powered engine in his design of the plane, known as Aerodrome. Even though, his model was too heavy and could not fly successfully, adding a steam engine to the glider was a major discovery.

First Airplane by Orville and Willbur Wright

The memorial to the aviation pioneer Orville and Wilbur Wright in Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina

The Wright brothers created several models of kites and gliders between 1900 to 1902. As these designs did not prove to be much of a success, they created a wind tunnel and also made several more devices to measure the lift and drag over numerous wing designs. Wrights were the first to properly study the existing power and control problems. In order to solve this problem they made wing wrapping for roller control, yaw control and a steerable rubber.

On 17th December 1903, developed the first 120 flight after researching for more than four years. It was the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine, which lasted for about 12 seconds. According to historians they had the most advanced knowledge on about heavier-than-air navigation during their time.

The first person who flew as a passenger was, Leon Delagrange, who flew along with pilot Henri Farman, near Paris in 1908. The first American airplane passenger was Charles Furnas, who flew with Orville Wright in that same year.

The military started using airplanes immediately after they were invented. The first country which used airplanes for this purpose was Italy, which used them in Turkish-Italian War in Libya. These were also used for offensive and defective purposes during the First World War. During the time of Second World War, there was some speedy development in the production of aircraft and the flight-based weapon systems.

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