The Chinese invented the first kite in c.1000 B.C.
Helicopter flight was probably the first type of flight envisioned by man. The idea dates back to ancient China, where children played with homemade tops of slightly twisted feathers attached to the end of a stick. They would rapidly spin the stick between their hands to generate lift and then release the top into free flight.
In the western world, the ancient Greek mathematician, physicist, and inventor, Archimedes, who lived and worked in the second century B.C.E. perfected the principle of the rotating screw for use as a water pump. When the screw was rotated inside a cylinder, the screw moved the water in front of it. At the same time, the water resisted and pushed back. This resistance also applied to the movement of screws through air—a type of fluid.
Abbas Ibn Firnas (810 – 887 A.D.), was an Arab Berber polymath: An Inventor, Engineer, Aviator, Physician, Arabic Poet, and Andalusian musician. He was born in Izn-Rand Onda, Al-Andalus (today’s Ronda, Spain), and lived in the Emirate of Córdoba.
He is known for an early attempt at aviation. He is also said to have made an attempt at flight using a set of wings. He covered himself with feathers for the purpose, attached a couple of wings to his body, and, flung himself down into the air, he flew a considerable distance, as if he had been a bird, but,his back was very much hurt, for not knowing that birds when they alight come down upon their tails, he forgot to provide himself with one.
The 15th century Italian Leonardo da Vinci (1452 – 1519) has often been cited as the first person who conceived of a helicopter capable of lifting a person and then experimented with models of his designs. Leonardo da Vinci made the first real studies of flight in the 1480’s. He had over 100 drawings that illustrated his theories on flight.
The Ornithopter flying machine was never actually created. It was a design that Leonardo da Vinci created to show how man could fly. The modern day helicopter is based on this concept.
The brothers, Joseph Michel and Jacques Montgolfier, in 1783 invented the first hot air balloon. They used the smoke from a fire to blow hot air into a silk bag. The silk bag was attached to a basket. The hot air then rose and allowed the balloon to be lighter-than-air. The first passengers in the colorful balloon were a sheep, rooster and duck, then men flied in the balloons.
George Cayley (1799 – 1850’s ), he designed many different versions of gliders that used the movements of the body to control, so man can fly. Over 50 years he improved the gliders. He changed the shape of the wings so that the air would flow over the wings correctly. He added a tail for the gliders to help with the stability. He tried a biplane design to add strength to the glider. He also recognized that there would be a need for power if the flight was to be in the air for a long time.
German engineer, Otto Lilienthal, studied aerodynamics and worked to design a glider that would fly. He was the first person to design a glider that could fly a person and was able to fly long distances, in the year 1891.
After more than 2500 flights, he was killed when he lost control because of a sudden strong wind and crashed into the ground.
Samuel Langley realized that power was needed to help man fly. He built a model of a plane, which he called an aerodrome, that included a steam-powered engine. In 1891. But the real aerodrome was too heavy to fly and it crashed and he gave up trying to fly. His major contributions to flight was his attempts to add a power plant to a glider.
Orville and Wilbur Wright
First, they spent many years learning about all the early developments of flight. They completed research of what other inventors had done. They read everything that was published up to that time. Then, they began to test the early theories with balloons and kites. They learned about how the wind would help with the flight and how it could affect the surfaces once up in the air. In 1900 they designed and used a wind tunnel to test the shapes of the wings and the tails of the gliders.
During 1902, the brothers flew numerous test glides using their new glider. Their studies showed that a movable tail would help balance the craft and the Wright Brothers connected a movable tail to the wing-warping wires to coordinate turns. With successful glides to verify their wind tunnel tests, the inventors planned to build a powered aircraft.
After months of studying how propellers work the Wright Brothers turned their attention to how to create a propulsion system that would create the lift needed to fly. The early engine that they used generated almost 12 horsepower, the craft weighed 700 pounds and came to be known as the Flyer.
The brothers built a movable track to help launch the Flyer. This downhill track would help the aircraft gain enough airspeed to fly. After two attempts to fly this machine, one of which resulted in a minor crash, Orville Wright took the Flyer for a 12-second, sustained flight on December 17, 1903. This was the first successful, powered, piloted flight in history. In 1904, the first flight lasting more than five minutes took place on November 9. The Flyer II was flown by Wilbur Wright.
The Pioneers, 1910 to 1914 — Once shown the way, aeronautical engineers in America and Europe quickly catch up to the Wrights and surpass them. Races and air meets improve the speed and endurance of aircraft. The box-kite appearance of the first primitive pusher aircraft gives way to the streamlined design of the tractor biplanes and monoplanes.The Great War, 1915 to 1918 — The First World War changed the aircraft from a machine for scouting and observation to a weapon with both defensive and offensive roles in warfare.