The dream of creating a machine that flew has fascinated scholars for many years, all the way back to the Greek legend of Icarus and Daedalus. In this article we shall be looking at the history of air transportation and how it has developed throughout the years into a reality. Aviation history has had a huge impact on technology and what began as dreams in legends has now changed everything and become a reality. The term ‘aeroplane’ or ‘airplane’ is derived from the Greek word aeras (air) and plane, which mathematically means a flat surface.
Around 400BC Archytas an Ancient Greek philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and strategist was thought to have designed and built the first ever flying device. This was a bird shaped machine that supposedly flew 200 m, propelled by presumably steam. This machine was named ‘The Pigeon’ by its creator and may have been suspended on wire or a pivot for its flight.
Various attempts of flight have been recorded throughout the years and one of the earliest was made by Yuan Huangtou within the 6th century and again by Abbas lbn Firnas within the 9th century. The well-known artist Leonardo da Vinci researched air transportation and looked at the wing shape of birds for inspiration. He then designed a man-powered aircraft in his ‘Codex on the Flight of Birds’ in 1502.
In the 1630’s Lagari Hansan Celebi flew in a rocket artificially powered by gun powder, by the 18th century an aircraft lighter than air had been designed and flew in, the balloon, but the challenge on everyone’s minds was to be able to construct a craft that was capable of controlled flight. The first ever self-powered aircraft was created by an Englishman named John Stringfellow from Somerset who created a self-powered model aircraft that had its first successful flight in the year 1848.
Various people began designing and building machines that were capable of flight but it was in 1903 when the Wright Brothers made successful test flights that were recognised by the FAI, the record keeping body for aeronautics and astronautics. They recorded the Wright Brothers flight as the ‘first sustained and heavier-than-air powered flight’. By 1905 an aircraft named Wright Flyer III was capable of flying for certain periods.
Now technology regarding air transportation has come a long way, with people able to travel in flight to areas all over the world sometimes only hours at a time, recently a British adventurer Bear Grylls, paramotored over the Himalayas, higher than Mount Everest and reached a record height of 29,500 feet. This highlights just how our technology and understanding of flying has changed over the decades.