Wings in the sky: A brief history of aviation
As the USA celebrates their national aviation day this month, let’s take a moment to applaud the flight of fantasy which turned into a reality with human efforts and perseverance.
- The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were pioneer aviators in the United States. Orville was the first person to successfully fly an airplane. His first flight was December 17, 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The US celebrates August 19 in honour of the brothers.
- Airplanes were not the first objects to fly in the sky though. On September 19, 1783, paper manufacturers Joseph-Michael and Jacques-Ètienne Montgolfier demonstrated the flight of their hot-air balloon in front of an audience that included King Louis XVI, Queen Marie Antoinette, and 130,000 onlookers. It flew for more than 3 km carrying a basket that had a duck, a sheep and a rooster in it.
- French engineer Jules Henri Giffard designed and flew the first steam-powered airship on September 24, 1842. It was a lightweight bag which was attached to a steam engine powering a propeller. Giffard and his airship traveled nearly 27 kms!
- After Wright Brothers inaugural flight, Baroness Raymonde de la Roche became the first woman to receive a pilot’s license on March 8, 1910. De la Roche went on to win the Femina Cup — an aviation award for women that was established in 1910 — for completing a four-hour nonstop flight.
- Two men made history with a nonstop transatlantic flight that landed in Clifden, Ireland, on June 15, 1919. John Alcock and Arthur Whitten-Brown flew a modified Vickers Vimy, a long-range bomber produced in the United Kingdom, taking off from Newfoundland in Canada on June 14, 1919, and finishing the crossing after 16 hours and 27 minutes.
- Flying around the world by air for the first time took 175 days, and was completed on September 28, 1924, by eight U.S. Army Air Service pilots and mechanics, flying four airplanes named after American cities: Seattle, Chicago, Boston and New Orleans.
- On May 27, 1931, Swiss physicist Auguste Piccard and his assistant Charles Kipfer became the first people to ride a balloon into the stratosphere. Their flight took 17 hours!
- Now it may seem all too easy to take a flight, but this modernisation came only 50 years ago. During the 1970s, computer-aided design and computer-aided manufacturing (CAD/CAM) software enabled the creation of better aircraft designs in which you fly nowadays.