From Flying Men To Mechanised Flight


Avisto Manna

4/19/20233 min read

The beginning of flying men

Humans had always dreamt of flying like a bird. Whether people believed or not the first flight happened during 2500-2000 BC in the legend of Daedalus and Icarus in Greece. They escaped by making wings of feathers and wax, from King Minos of Crete. Daedalus warned Icarus against fling near the Sun because the wax would melt. Icarus disobeyed, the wax melted and he drowned.

However in 11th century AD, an English monk named Oliver of Malmesbury attached feather wings to his arms. The legend flew 180 metres although this is doubtful, but like all bird men, he eventually crashed back down to Earth.

Mechanised flight and balloons –

Leonardo da Vinci, the great Italian artist and scientist, closely observing birds fly, he realised that human arms are too weak for flying. He designed flying machines using levers and pulleys to give arm muscles to give a greater strength. It was too heavy to ever fly.

Leonardo da Vinci also designed the first – known helicopters and parachute, in about 1500 Century AD, but it was never built.

By the way, the first balloon was built by Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier in 1783. After that in the year of 1837 Sir George Cayley designed a streamlined balloon.

It wasn’t built. After Sir George Cayley discovered the technique of streamlined it was proved when French Engineer Henri Griffard built the world’s first powered airship, with a streamlined Hydrogen-filled bag and steam engine to turn a propeller, carried him from Paris to Trappes, a distance of 27 kilometers/16 miles.

Then in 1884, only 100 years later, Gaston Tissandier built the world’s first electrically powered airship, La France. It used a 1.5 horsepower Siemens electric motor which generated speeds up to 27 kmph.

Thermal flights of kites and gliders

The balloons and early airships had major disadvantage of being in the mercy of wind.

In 1804, Sir George Cayley designed a model glider. Who knew that this model would be the base of modern aircrafts? He actually built the actual version of the glider in 1853, after that in 1893 Karl Von Otto Lilienthal designed the modern gliders. He died in 10th August, 1896 while he was testing one of his glider crashed at Berlin.

The world first passenger carrying Kite was designed and developed by Lawrence Hargrave of Australia. His Box Kite configuration is still famous with all passenger kite flyers.

After that in 1899 in Scotland Percy Pilcher designed and built some of the famous hand gliders including world famous gliders the Hawk. He died, when he was gliding with the Hawk and it crashed.

The Strangest Mechanical Flights

In 1843 the start of this strangest idea was the Aerial Steam Carriage developed by William Henson. In theory it would fly but the engines of that era were so heavy that it couldn’t!

Afterwards in 1879, Victor Tatin of France used compressed air to power his model air craft.

The Birth of Wright Flyer

On December 17th, 1903 two American brothers named Wilbur and Orville Wright built the world’s first aeroplane, The Wright Flyer. The brothers built a wind tunnel to test different wing shapes. They designed a light petrol engine, discovering it worked best if it turned faster than the propeller.

Humans are always tried to fly like a bird from the beginning of the civilisation. Now a day they are used for research purposes and for warfare.