History of Flight



"A bird is an instrument working according to
mathematical law... which it is within
the capacity of man to reproduce."
-Leonardo da Vinci


The Wright Brothers may have invented the first airplane, made the first successful flight, and gone down in history as aviation pioneers, but the theory of flight goes back far before those boys were born.

As early as the 16th century, Leonardo da Vinci had drawn things resembling a helicopter. Without knowing about aerodynamics, attempts were doomed to fail.

Aerodynamics: (Definition of) is the study of the flow of air and other gases and of the forces acting on bodies moving through the gases. It is a branch of fluid mechanics. Aerodynamics is mainly used to study flight. Isaac Newton developed the laws of motion in the 17th century. These laws say that effects of forces act on bodies in motion or at rest. Which means that natural forces act on an object whether it is still or moving. Newton also developed the concept of fluid friction, we call it viscosity, (Definition of) the resistance of air or any other fluid to motion, whether its own or that of a body moving through it. Daniel Bernoulli, used Newton\'s laws of motion to develop the principle that "the velocity of a fluid is related to the pressure within it: the faster the fluid flow, the lower the pressure."(Http://109.364.090.56) These concepts formed the basis for more studies.

The first powered, airplane was Orville and Wilbur Wright\'s flying machine. It used the same basic principles of flight as today\'s jets. The wings,(airfoils) of the 1903 Wright Flyer resembled a box kite. A smaller pair of wings, (canard) was located in front of the main wings allowing the aircraft to climb or descend. The canard performed the same function as the elevators that are attached to today\'s aircraft. Turns in the Wright Flyer were made by "wing warping," which changed the Angle of the wings. With no cockpit, the pilot lay on top of the wing in a cradle and moved his body from side to side to turn the plane. The Wright Flyer was a difficult aircraft to fly because it was unstable: it could not "fly by itself" it had to be constantly controlled by the pilot. European inventors believed that an aircraft should be stable, and they improved upon the Wright brothers\' design by developing "statically stable and controllable aircraft" (an airplane that can keep level flight without the pilot controlling it) that were safer and easier to fly. The concept of "static stability" has carried over to almost all aircraft designs.


As boys, the Wright Brothers were interested in solving problems. They would tinker with things around their house. The Wright family kept mostly to them selves. Although their father was a minister, he did not see the good in people. They thought it would be best to shelter their children. This made the Wrights a very close family. Both boys were very intelligent, Orville was the younger of the two and was a trouble maker. He was a typical teenager. Wilbur also got into his share of trouble. He played ice-hockey, and football. Wilbur graduated High-School and was going to Yale to become a minister. Orville dropped out of High-School in his senior year. Months before Wilbur was supposed to leave for school he had his front two teeth knocked out playing hockey. After this he suffered from depression. Wilbur never made it to Yale. After his 20th birthday he came out of his state of depression.
About the time all of this was happening, there was a World-Wide bicycle craze. Everyone that could afford it bought a bicycle. Almost all engineers dropped what they were doing and built bicycles.
Wright-Cycle shop Dayton, OH
Here was the Wright Brothers\' big chance to make some money. Since everyone who knew what they were doing was building bicycles, the brothers decided to fix them. It was not long however, until they started building the "Wright-Cycle." The advertised the bikes by entering them in races. Wilbur would design the bikes and Orville would race them. At first they did not win, but then Wilbur found a way to cut wind resistance, and increase speed. Once they started winning the sold more bikes. This earned them money to