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What most people don’t realise is that aviation and flight has actually been around for thousands of years! Dating back to the ancient years in Greek mythology is the story of Icarus and Daedalus who attempted to create a pair of wings using wax and feathers.
While this invention sadly ended in tragedy, one thing it shows is that humans have been interested and intrigued by flight for centuries. It took us a bit of time to master the skies, however and it is thanks largely to the famous Wright Brothers and to various military developments that we have the aviation industry that we do today.
This is something that I introduce to my students when they first start to learn about the aviation and wider transport industry. I usually show them this video, which I think is very light-hearted and humerous!
The first aircraft known to be made by men was the kite. Created in China, the time is not known but many say it was sometime in the 5th Century, these kites are similar to the kites we still use today. Taking it a step further, the Chinese invented “man-lifting kites” which today are known as hot air balloons.
By the 1700s, aviation as we know it today was in full swing and inventors were exploring different devices, inventions and failures. At this time, there were two main categories of aviation: lighter than air aviation and heavier than air.
In 1783, the Montgolfier brothers revealed their hot air balloon which didn’t need man to power it and the balloon flew over Annonay, France. This really started a wave of inventors who were interested in creating crafts that could fly without man powering it.
Later in that year, the brothers set up what is known as the first manned flight, with a tethered hot air balloon. A few weeks later, the brothers launched a manned flight with two astronauts onboard, that was untethered. Although the flight didn’t last very long because the fire began to burn the fabric, this is the beginning of modern-day aviation.
December 17, 1903
On this date, Orville and WIlbur Wright changed the face of aviation and what it is today.
Successfully completing four flights in their “flyer”, these brothers lasted mere seconds in the air in their aircraft and covered some 800 feet. Setting a new standard for aviation, these flights relied on power and control to work. This was brand new in the world of aviation and a very exciting achievement!
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Because of the efforts of the Wright brothers, in 1914, the first passenger flight was used in the United States. Traveling from St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida, these flights only lasted a few months but paved the way for what we know today as transcontinental aviation.
The 1920’s and 1930’s were a time of major improvements and inventions in the aviation industry. Aircraft designs that were ahead of their time and influenced aircrafts that we see today, were being used to allow people to travel from one place to another comfortably.
Post World War II
During the time of World War II, many cities and countries had established their own airports and military aircrafts were being repurposed as commercial planes and personal planes. The War was a time of using these aircrafts to travel from one country to the next and the growth of international aviation during this time is monumental.
Not long after this time period, the Convention on International Civil Aviation was founded and still stands today. Also known as the Chicago Convention, this agency was established to regulate standards, safety and efficiency of all civil flights. Today, the agency has made significant improvements in the world of aviation and has allowed for safer and more economical airliners.
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After the post World War II era there were substantial developments to the history of aviation. In the 1970’s, many aircraft became digitised and had computer systems built into the craft. Because of the creation of these systems, better aircraft have been made and the designs of airplanes have become sleeker, safer and more comfortable over the years.
Computer simulations of flights have also led to the design of lighter aircraft and airplanes that are stronger. Today’s aviation industry offers one of the safest forms of transportation and has taken huge strides over the years.
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The history of aviation aviation has been and continues to be a huge part of the economy for the entire world and has seen major improvements over the years. Without the discoveries from inventors that came before us, airplanes and travel may not be where they are today. For more information on this topic, I recommend this book- ‘Flight: The complete history of aviation’.
Recent years have seen hr development of double decker aircraft, cleaner and greener aircraft and aircraft that can operate longer distances…. and I am excited to see what further developments the future may hold!
What developments do you think the aviation industry has in mind for the future?