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Aviation Pioneers

In: Historical Events

Submitted By smashinbazzle
Words 1894
Pages 8
Aviation Pioneers and the Revolutionary Concept of Flight
Derek J. Polkamp
Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University

Abstract
This paper will explore several early pioneers and their innovation in the field of aviation. These people will include those who completed flights that were the first of their kind, as well as those who provided an integral role in the development of air travel. The innovators that will be covered were dedicated to developing aircraft and often persevered amidst their peers thinking air travel was impossible. These brave men sparked a revolution and ultimately provided us with the transportation, fast method of mail delivery, military power, and many other benefits that we can see and enjoy today. This paper will explore some of the utilization of these early aircraft and the effects they had on war strategy.

Aviation Pioneers and the Revolutionary Concept of Flight From the beginning of time man looked to nature for a better understanding of the world around us, not the least of which were the flying creatures which fly so gracefully and effortlessly above us. This phenomenon of flight eventually led to some of the most brilliant and creative minds to consider the possibility of a man-made machine that could propel us through the air. While Leonardo DaVinci was among the first to study flight and design a flying machine in the 1400s, it was not until 1785 that two brothers named Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier flew aboard their own aircraft in 1785 (Clark, 1997). After this feat came gliders, and ultimately the birth of the airplane as we know it today. We will take a look at the people that made these advancements possible and their perseverance in the midst of scrutiny and the belief that they had no shot at actually achieving their goal. In the interest of preserving some sort of timeline, I will start in the beginning of actual flight with the Montgolfier brothers. Born in the 1740’s, the Montgolfier brothers were 2 of 16 children born to a successful paper businessman. The financial support of their father allowed them to really explore their scientific interests and in 1782 this led them to the realization that when heat was collected inside a lightweight bag or similar object, it caused the object to rise. It was the following year that they made a public presentation of hot air balloon flight by filling their balloon with heated air from burning straw and wool under the opening. Eventually they put animals in the balloon as passengers, and then on November 21, 1783, the first manned balloon sailed over Paris traveling 5.5 miles. (Sharp, 2012) Following the advent of the hot air balloon, the use of air transport became essential to several aspects of life. This was especially evident in military use, although early on the use of balloons was more of a scare tactic than a legitimate tool. As time went on the balloons gained greater importance including the utilization of aerial photography and the even hanging steel cables from them, forcing airplanes to fly over them which caused bombing to be much less accurate (Duffy, 2009). In 1932 we witnessed the first manned flight into the stratosphere, when Auguste Piccard rose to over 52,000 feet (Clark, 1997). Today balloons are used much less in the military theatre and are mostly used for recreation, collecting weather data, and advertising.
Over the course of the hundred years between 1783 (the first manned balloon flight) and the late 1800s, it does not seem that much progress was made towards creating an airplane as we know them today. It was not until 1891 that a German engineer named Otto Lilienthal created and demonstrated the first glider that a person could actually fly in for a considerable distance. This demonstrated the fact that it was in fact possible for man to fly through the air with a reasonable amount of control and stability. It was the measurements and experiments done by Otto and his brother Gustav that laid much of the groundwork for the powered aircraft that would follow in the coming years. (Gray, 1998) Shortly after Lilienthal came out with his glider, another engineer and scientist dedicated to aviation was Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont. Dumont, who moved to Paris after an accident disabling his father, had a life-long passion for aviation. In 1898, Dumont had his first flight in a dirigible that he built, and by 1901 had developed what is known as the first controllable dirigible which he flew around the Eiffel tower. While this was the first controllable aircraft, it was still a lighter than air machine, and still the race for the first airplane was in progress. (Hamre, 2014) One person who cannot be forgotten in this time frame is Octave Chanute. This brilliant mind did so much for the aviation community, including but not limited to engineering aircraft of his own. Chanute was the first to invent a successful glider version of a bi-plane, which was the predecessor for the first successful flight of an airplane, achieved by the Wright brothers. Chanute made correspondence with many aviators at the time, including the Wright brothers, who he became friends with and attempted to help with their aircraft. Ultimately Chanute had a falling out with the Wrights, as he believed in aviators sharing ideas for the good of progression, and the Wrights believed in secrecy and enforcing patents. (Lienhard, 2011) Alas this brings us to the first to fly a heavier than air airplane, and certainly the most well-known; the Wright brothers. These two brothers started out simple as other aviators, testing various gliders and studying aerodynamics and airfoil shapes in their own custom wind-tunnel that their mechanic, Charlie Taylor had built for them. After they felt comfortable with the glider they built, they went back to their bicycle shop where they had Taylor set to work on a lightweight engine that could propel their aircraft. The result was a 12 horsepower engine that drove two counter-rotating propellers driven by chains (Taylor, 2009). Of course the issue of controllability had to be addressed as well, and that is where the Wrights’ ingenuity really made the difference. Their early designs included what they called wing warping, which when warped left or right would bank the airplane in the associated direction. The worlds’ first true airplane had been born and enjoyed its first flight in 1903. (Taylor, 2009) Over the following years not only did the Wright brothers continue to improve on their design, adding features such as ailerons to increase maneuverability over the wing warping they were using previously, but others such as Santos-Dumont created flying machines as well, competing with the Wrights’ claim. The Wright brothers fiercely fought for their privacy for several years, however, and it was not until they had received their patent that they showed the world what they could truly do. They traveled to Europe to demonstrate their airplane to the dismay of many competing aviators. Their plane flew with nimble precision others of the time could only dream of. While they were on top of the world for some time, it was not long after their unveiling that others began to improve on their design, and by the time World War I hit every nation involved had their own aircraft, and throughout the war the level of advancement and production is astounding. At the beginning of the First World War in 1914, there were relatively few airplanes as compared to the end of the war in 1918. Before the start of the war, most generals and strategic officials were unsure if not skeptical of the necessity of airplanes in war. These uncertainties we squashed however shortly after the war began. It wasn’t long before the demand for airplanes skyrocketed and their potential realized. For example, in 1914 France had less than 140 aircraft and in only 4 years’ time produced over 68,000 (Unikoski 2009). While the majority of these aircraft were lost in combat, it no doubt shows how quickly the level of production escalated. The advancement of these airplanes was phenomenal as well, with the creation of aircraft specializations including fighters, bombers, and long range bombers, and the advancement in power plants and control systems. Never again would air power be underestimated. Beyond World War I came much advancement in aviation technology including the creation of the turbo-jet powered engine. The first aircraft that employed this technology was the Heinkel He 178, produced by the Heinkel Company in 1939. It was produced in very limited numbers as its main purpose was simply to test the viability of this new type of propulsion. (Defree, 2013) At the same time, the German regime was secretly developing an even more capable jet fighter, and so became the first operational jet fighter, the Messerschmitt Me 262. The innovation and capability of this fighter shocked the military theatre in WWII and quickly became king of the skies. With its swept wing design, automatic leading edge slats, and tricycle configuration landing gear, it was faster and more agile than any other fighter in the sky and employed many characteristics that were new to the time, but set the stage for what we see in many aircraft today, including military and commercial aircraft alike. (Hickman, 2013) For hundreds of years man has dreamt of flight, and it took a handful of brilliant minds to bring us the air travel so many of us enjoy today. These men were not ordinary, and we owe them much of what we have achieved through flight today. The word impossible is thrown around by many, but it takes the few to cast those notions aside and show them the true reaches of possibility. Several inventors lost their lives in the pursuit of flight, and countless more in battle aboard aircraft during world wars and the like. As one who appreciates the opportunities these brave men have afforded us and the sacrifices they made, I hope that I have provided you a glimpse of their struggles and accomplishments.

References
Hickman, K. (2013, December 20). World War II: Messerschmitt Me 262. Retrieved from http://militaryhistory.about.com/od/worldwariiaircraft/p/me262.htm Deffree, S. (2013, August 27). 1st Jet Aircraft Takes Flight. Retrieved from http://www.edn.com/electronics-blogs/edn-moments/4394772/1st-jet-aircraft-takes-flight--August-27--1939
Unikoski, A. (2009, August 22). The War in the Air. Retrieved from http://www.firstworldwar.com/airwar/summary.htm
Clark, L. (1997, December 02). A short history of ballooning. Retrieved from http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/space/short-history-of-ballooning.html
Sharp, T. (2012, July 16). The First Hot-Air Balloon. Retrieved from http://www.space.com/16595-montgolfiers-first-balloon-flight.html Duffy, M. (2009, August 22). Encyclopedia – Observation Balloons. Retrieved from http://www.firstworldwar.com/atoz/balloons.htm
Gray, C. (1998). Otto Lilienthal. Retrieved from http://www.flyingmachines.org/lilthl.html

Hamre, B. (2013, December 19). Alberto Santos Dumont. Retrieved from http://gosouthamerica.about.com/cs/brazgeog/p/SantosDumont.htm
Lienhard, J. (2004, August 1). No. 2702 Octave Chanute. Retrieved from http://www.uh.edu/engines/epi2702.htm
Taylor, B. (2009, October 19). History of Charles Taylor. Retrieved from https://www.faa.gov/about/office_org/field_offices/fsdo/phl/local_more/media/CT%20Hist.pdf

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