History of Flight/Introduction

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Montgolfier balloon 1783

The dream of being able to fly is likely as old as the ability to think abstractly. Our earliest human ancestors looked at birds, majestically spreading their wings and flying high over the mountains, and dreamed of ways to do what birds do.

Ancient myths and legends offer many examples of the human dream of flying like birds. An ancient Greek legend has King Corinth, with the aid of the winged horse Pegasus, flying in to battle a multi-headed monster. Ancient Persian legend has the King capturing eagles, and attaching them to his throne so he can fly around, checking on his kingdom. One of the most well-known Greek legends is that of Icarus and Daedalus, a father and son who flew by fashioning wings from wax, only to crash back to earth after soaring too close to the sun and melting their artificial wings.

In practical terms, around 400 B.C.E. The Chinese invented the kite. This simple device lead them to think that humans might fly with the help of a kite. While that dream proved elusive at the time, the invention of kites opened the road for other important flight discoveries such as balloons, and gliders.

The history of human flight is primarily one of disappointment until the 18th century. Many brave inventors tried to achieve flight, often by attempting to mimic flying as birds do. Some tried to fly by attaching wings to their arms and jumping from high cliffs, but these episodes of course ended in disaster.

In 1485 Leonardo da Vinci came up with more than over one hundred sketches for flying. Da Vinci created a machine capable of flying similar to our modern helicopter on a small scale. Of course the design only stayed on paper.

Two French brothers by the names of Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Étienne Montgolfier came up with the idea of an air balloon. They made a big bag out of silk and blew hot air into the bag. The silk bag then was attached to a basket. Under the basket was smoke from the fire which helped the air to go to the silk bag and allow the balloon to rise.

The very first passengers by the balloon were three animals. The honor goes to a duck, rooster, and a sheep. They flew over one mile in a 6000 feet high altitude.

In the 19th century two American brothers by the names of Orville and Wilbur Wright tested their first flight in a place called Kitty Hawk located in North Carolina. Later the Wright brothers opened their first flight school for public. Among their first students women can be seen as pilots as well.

The desire to be free from Earth and be able to fly freely has captured human’s imaginations for as long as the time remembers. Now with so many different aircraft taking off hourly we have forgotten how many brave men have lost their lives over the dream of flying. If it were not for these men's persistence it would have been impossible for us to be part of flying creatures for just a few hours in a luxury and comfort of our airline sits.