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Mans quest for flight Throught history, mankind has tried to imitate the flight of birds. Many memorable efforts to achieve flight have been recorded. However, most early attempts ended in failure. The following illustrates the various steps man has taken in his quest for flight, starting with Greek mythology and ending with the Wright Brothers famous first flight. According to Greek mythology, around 1200 B.
C. , Daedalus was the first to master the art of flying. The legend describes how Daedalus and his son, Icarus, escaped from an island prison by flying to freedom with bird-like wings covered with feathers and held together by twine and wax. Even though stories like this are fictitious, they symbolize mans early interest in flight. But the fact remained that man had yet to fly. In the 15 th century, the first recorded scientific experiments with flying models were conducted by Leonardo da Vinci. The Italian inventor left behind manuscripts containing about one hundred sixty pages of descriptions and sketches of flying machines.
These included discussions about the center of gravity, center of pressure, and streamlining. The progress of aviation was, in all likelihood, slowed by the fact that his writing were not published for about three hundred years after his death. In the 17 th century, ideas led to successful experiments. A number of significant discoveries were made about the characteristics of our atmosphere.
This understanding, along with the discovery of various gases, led to experiments with lighter-than-air flight in balloons. The Montgolfier brothers of France are credited with sending the first live passengers aloft in a balloon. The Montgolfiers attached a cage to the bottom of a paper and linen bag; the bag or balloon contained hot air that was introduced through an opening at the bottom. In a demonstration on September 19, 1783 the first living passengers-a sheep, a rooster, and a duck were sent aloft in their invention. The head of King Louis Xvi's natural history collection, Jean de Rozier, took an interest in the Montgolfiers invention. He helped the brothers design a balloon big enough to carry a man.
On November 21, 1783 de Rozier became the first human to take flight in a mane made device. The flight lasted twenty-three minutes and achieved an altitude of one thousand feet. Professor Jacques Charles, a French chemist, made a significant contribution to ballooning when he added dissolved rubber to silk fabric and demonstrated the use of hydrogen gas instead of hot air to obtain lift in his balloons. Between 1785 and 1863 there were many successful cross-country flights completed in balloons, but these flights were dependant on favorable winds. Due to this unfortunate fact, cross-country travel by balloon was deemed impractical. The main disadvantages of balloons were their lack of directional control and the absence of a propulsion system.
During the latter half of the 19 th century, several balloonists began experimenting with lighter-than-air designs that included these features. The dirigible was the next logical step after the balloon. A dirigible was a lighter-than-air aircraft that was engine-driven and steerable. Dirigibles were normally designed in the shape of a fat cigar, rather than the round shape of a balloon. The two most memorable designers of the first dirigibles include Henri Giffard and Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
The first sucessful flight of a steerable airship or dirigible occurred on September 24, 1852, in Paris, with Giffard at the controls. The cigar-shaped, hydrogen filled craft was propelled by a three horsepower steam engine. George Cayley, a nineteenth century engineer, influenced the design. Count von Zeppelin was the most notable designer of airships. He was a German Army officer by profession. He served as an observer in the Union Army during the United States Civil War where he is reported to have made several limited ascents in captive balloons.
He was also a witness to the successful use of the balloon for observation during the Franco-Prussian War. Count von Zeppelin turned his full attention to his lighter-than-air designs in 1891, the year he retired from the German Army. By 1900, von Zeppelin had completed the construction of a giant airship, the LZ- 1. The LZ- 1 was over four hundred feet long and almost forty feet in diameter. The design incorporated a powerplant, a controllable rudder, and a device that functioned like an elevator. However, the most distinctive characteristic was the rigid steel framework that contained the hydrogen gas.
The rigid airship gained recognition when Count von Zeppelins was test flown July of 1900. This flight was to become the begining of a long period of German dominance in the development of large, rigid airships. Count von Zeppelin continued to build improved versions of his original design, and in 1910, the LZ- 7 became the worlds first commercial airship. Although advances in gliders lagged behind the development of balloons, Sir George Cayley began experiments with heavier-than-air flight in 1796.
By 1809, Cayley had designed, built, and flown several small, fixed wing gliders. In spite of these early successes, gliding did not continue to develop as rapidly as balloons and airships. Ballooning was more popular, since it was generally witnessed by a greater number of people. Anyone with enough money could have a balloon built that could gain enough altitude to impress spectators and stay aloft for considerable periods of time. Flying skill was not considered essential and ascending in a balloon required little training or experience. A glider, on the other hand, was extremely difficult to control and flights of greater than ten seconds were rare.
Until his death in 1857, Cayley maintained his passion for flight and left behind a number of important contributions. He noted that birds could soar great distances by twisting and dipping their extended, arched wings, rather than by flapping them. This observation led to his design of the fixed-wing glider. In other experiments, he identified the forces of lift, drag, and thrust. Cayley made many aerodynamic discoveries, as well as the necessity of a tail for longitudinal stability aand control. He also saw the need for a light engine for propulsion and the significance of power-to-weight ratio.
Although Cayley never succeeded in flying a powered aircraft, his research and scientific papers proved to be of great value to those who followed him. Otto Lilienthal, a German engineer, was the next pioneer in the field of gliders. Lilienthal with his engineering background was able to combine theory with practical flight. By 1891 Lilienthal aand his brother Gustave succeeded in making many short flights in their gliders.
They launched thier gliders by running down a manmade hill and building enough speed to sustain flight. When airborne his glides required body movement for control, much like that used in modern hang gliding. In five year, Lilienthal made over two thousand glides, but accumulated only five hours of flight time. In 1896, Lilienthal attached an engine to a biplane that was designed like a double winged glider he had designed and flown. Before his attempt to fly the powered biplane, he was killed while practicing in his glider. Octave Chanute also participated in numerous gliding experiments during this period.
Chanute, a French born civil engineer that was best known for sharing information and promoting progress in heavier-than-air flight. Chanute developed a glider that was a vast improvement over previous designs. This glider made many flights in excess of three hundred fifty feet and was stable and relatively easy to fly. It also had the characteristic wing shape that the Wright brothers would later adopt. In the time period between 1894 and 1896, Samuel P. Langley launched several model aircraft, called Aerodromes, by a catapult from atop a houseboat.
In 1896 he successfully launched Aerodrome No. 6 a distance of forty-two hundred feet in one minute and forty-five seconds, landing gently on the Potomac River. Hoping to create a military device that would assist the United States in the Spanish-American War, President McKinley awarded Langley a fifty thousand dollar grant to develop an airplane based on his aerodrome models. The government required that the machine include a gasoline-powered engine capable of producing twelve horsepower aand not to exceed one hundred pounds in weight. Charles M.
Manley, a Cornell engineer, was hired to develop the powerplant and he became Langley's chief engineer and test pilot. Manley not only succeeded in developing such an engine, but also produced a radial engine that weighed two hundred seven pounds and developed fifty-two horsepower. Tests on a quarter-scale model in August 1903 were successful. Aware that they were in a race against other experimenters and because of pressure from the War Department, construction went directly to a full-sized aircraft. During a test flight on October 7, 1903 the full-sized aerodrome was catapulted off the top of the houseboat, and when crashing into the Potomac with Manley at the controls. The craft was retrieved from the water aand repairs and modifications were made.
In front of government offical's another attempt was made. Again the aircraft plunged to the bottom of the river. Newspaper reporters ripped Langley and the U. S.
Government for getting involved in such a foolish endeavor. Although Langley's attempts were not successful, Glenn Curtiss flew the aerodrome in 1914 after making a few modifications. Two of aviation's more renowned pioneers in heavier-than-air flight were quite different from their predecessors. These two men were Orville and Wilbur Wright, bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio. The wrights were not engineers, held no academic degrees, in fact neither one finished high school. However, they were insatiable readers and tinkerers.
They worked quietly and methodically to teach themselves everything there was to know about designing, building, and flying an aircraft. In 1899, with help from Octave Chanute, they designed and test flew a scale model of a glider. In 1901 they flew their first full-sized glider at Kill Devil Hills sand dunes, just outside of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They chose that location based on the information they received from the U. S. Weather Bureau about its favorable wind conditions.
Although the Wright brothers had no previous experience in powerplant's, with help from their machinist, they designed and built a lightweight, four-cylinder, water-cooled, gasoline engine that produced about twelve horsepower. They also designed two pusher-type propellers connected to the engine by bicycle chains and they turned opposite directions to counteract torque. The aircraft the Wrights would use for their powered flights closely resembled their gliders. The wings were light and fragile, with cables attached to the tips so that one or the other could be warped. They could make coordinated turns by manually warping the wing in conjunction with rudder deflection. The rudder on the Wrights flyer was located at the rear of the airplane and the elevator was in front.
On December 14, 1903, the Wright Flyer was positioned on the sixty-foot single track that the aircraft was to use for its takeoff run. With Wilbur at the controls, the Flyer accelerated under its own power, upon reaching the end of the track it plowed into the sand damaging the aircraft. After three days of frantic repairs the Wright Flyer was ready for a second try. The Wright brothers successfully launched the Wright Flyer into the air, at 10: 35 A. M. on December 17 th, 1903.
The first man to fly a heavier-than-air, powered aircraft was Orville Wright. He flew a distance of one hundred twenty feet in twelve seconds. Sensing the Wright Flyer would in fact fly on this day, they had set up a camera to capture this famous event. John T. Daniels snapped the shutter as the plane left the end of the track, permanently recording one of the most famous events in aviation history.
The progression from the mythological flight of Daedalus and Icarus, to the first recorded flight to take a human aloft in a balloon, covered a span of nearly three thousand years. It took nearly one hundred years for gliders to progress to airplanes. The progress that man achieved in his quest for flight was at first slow. As technology advanced and minds began to open, addition began to advance quite rapidly.
Today, nearly one hundred years after the Wright brothers famous flight, we have seen aviation advance faster than anyone could have imagined. In order for mankind to continue to advance we must continue to encourage and support the future pioneers of aviation.
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Research essay sample on One Hundred Years Wright Brothers