Thursday, 20 September 2018

The first to fly a plane.

The dream of flying is as old as mankind itself. However the concept of the airplane has only been around for two centuries. Before that time men and women tried to navigate the air by imitating birds. They built wings to strap onto their arm or machines with flapping wings called ornithopters. On the surface it seemed like a good plan. After all, there are plenty of birds in the air to show that the concept does work.

The trouble is it works  better at bird-scale than it does at the much larger scale needed to lift both a man and a machine off the ground. So folks began to look for other ways to fly. Beginning in 1783 a few aeronauts made daring, uncontrolled flights in lighter-than-air balloons filled with either hot air or hydrogen gas. But this was hardly a practical way to fly. There was no way to get from here to there unless the wind was blowing in the desired direction.

It wasn’t until the turn of the nineteenth century that an English baronet from Yorkshire conceived a flying machine with fixed wings a propulsion system, and movable control surfaces. This was the fundamental concept of the airplane. Sir George Cayley also built the first true airplane a kite mounted on a stick with a movable tail. It was crude but it proved his idea worked and from that first humble glider evolved the amazing  machines that have taken us everywhere.