The idea of flying has always fascinated Man and he has tried endlessly to soar into the sky. Leonardo da Vinci, painter and inventor, painted the picture of a ‘flying machine’ long before the aircraft was even invented.
Before the 19th century, flights in balloons and gliders had been carried out quite successfully. Short gliding flights were in gliders made by Sir George Caykey in England and Otto Lilienthal in Germany. This was not enough. Man wanted to be borne in the air for longer periods and longer distances.
There were those who were skeptical about whether a heavy machine would take off into the air. Professor Samuel Langley of USA built two machines driven by 1-1/2 horsepower steam engines in 1896. These models made successful flights. However his next model, a full sized flying machine, which he tested on 7 October 1903, wrecked in flight.
The same year saw the birth of the modern aircraft. Two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, designed a heavier than air machine. They tossed a coin to see who would test ride the first fight. Wilbur won the toss. Unfortunately there was some technical snag and the machine did not take off. Three days later, on 17 December, near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in USA, they tried again after a few changes in the design.
This time it was Orville’s turn to fly in their invention. It took off smoothly and was airborne. This flight of 30m lasted for just 12 seconds. Orville became the first man to fly an airplane. The second flight, by Wilbur, was somewhat longer and lasted for 59 seconds for a distance of 260m. Powered flight had been achieved. After this the Wright brothers began to manufacture planes for the war department of USA.
In 1909, Louis Bleriot flew across the English Channel. Ten years later, Alcock and Brown made the first non-stop flight across the Atlantic. Soon planes began to be used in warfare and for carrying mail across the continents. Passenger flights began after the World War I. the first jet aircraft, the Heinkel He-178 was first jet airliner, the De Havilland Comet, began flying in 1952.
Today, we have many different kinds of aircrafts in the world. Passenger aircraft, like the Boeing 747 and the Concorde, ferry thousands across great distances. Military airplanes come in various sizes and shapes and with the latest technological equipment. Even as we read these words, new designs of planes are being planned, for Man loves to soar like the birds!
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