History of Flight
Man has wanted to fly since he learned to walk.- How did this dream become a reality?
Attempts to produce people-carrying flying machines have been recorded since round 850 BC. Unfortunately, attempts to emulate birds focused on flapping wings rather than producing lift. Flying 'took off' in the late 1800s with the development of person-carrying kites, balloons and simple gliders.
Wilbur and Orville Wright made the world's first recognised powered, heavier-than-air flight on December 17, 1903, at Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA. It was the culmination of several years of testing and calculation, as they had to develop an aircraft as well as the knowledge and skills required.
Although the Wrights lived in Dayton, Ohio, they carried out their flying experiments at Kitty Hawk - one of the windiest areas of the United States.
Beginning in September 1900, they camped at Kitty Hawk for a few weeks and carried out experiments with gliders, initially tethered as kites but later flown down a slope of Kill Devil Hills, to gain information about lift and control. In July 1901 they returned to Kill Devil Hills with a larger glider and continued their tests.
The brothers made several hundred tests, in tethered flights and gliding, and, as they discovered new information about flight and control, also learned many of the skills needed to pilot an aircraft.
In September 1901 they devised a wind-tunnel to make more measurements, particularly of lift in relation to the camber (net curvature of the upper wing surface) and aspect ratio (ratio of wing width to wingspan). In September the following year they returned to Kill Devil Hills with a new glider designed using the data from their wind-tunnel tests, making 700-800 flights.
Unable to obtain a suitable engine, they designed and built their own four-cylinder, water-cooled, petrol engine. They developed propeller theory and built the first propellers with a constant angle of attack throughout the radius. They returned again to Kill Devil Hills in September 1903, established a camp and erected a building to house their new powered aircraft, making the first successful powered, sustained, controlled flight on December 17 1903. They systematically developed many aspects of powered flight: e.g. theory of flight, engines, materials, propellers, pilot skills, instruments for recording flight details, etc., - a remarkable achievement. They continued to develop their aircraft and in 1904 built a new 'Flyer' and tested it just south of Dayton. Their success triggered a rapid development of aircraft worldwide.