The History Of Flight: From Da Vinci To The Wright Bros


The dream of flight is perhaps humanity's most coherent and fundamental dream, spanning all cultures as far as historians can see, as depicted in cave paintings and ancient myths. They weren't always positive: the Greek myth of Icarus, a courageous young man who crafted his own pair of feathers made of wax and feathers to fly like a bird, but died a terrible death when they melted because he was "too close." The sun has flown away," may be figurative, but it was again very clear: the ancient Greek attitude towards human flight.

Ancient Flight

However, not everyone was afraid to try flying for themselves. In 400 BCE, Chinese inventors Mozi and Lu Ban created the first man-made flying device in the form of a kite. Around the same time, Chinese toy manufacturers invented the bamboo-copter, originally a small toy helicopter that served little practical purpose but used rotor methods similar to modern-day copper. The ancient Chinese also discovered the basic mechanism of the hot air balloon with the invention of the floating paper lantern.

The Washington balloon aboard the George Washington Parque Custis and towed by the Tug Coeur de Leon, the world's first aircraft carrier. 

Middle Millennium: Da Vinci and the Load of Hot Air

Leonardo da Vinci, the famous Italian artist and figure of science who consistently admired the Renaissance era, had creative but ultimately misguided ideas about the future of flight. Like the ancient Greeks, da Vinci theorized that bird-like wings could lift a person off the ground, but ran into trouble when it came to locating the power source. After all, people are much heavier than birds and do not benefit from hollow bones.

By the 18th century, it appeared that balloon design would win the race, as the French brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-tienne Montgolfier created the first hot air balloons that could actually support the weight of a human and successfully took off. Demonstration of a fire-powered machine. Five Miles in Annon, France on November 21, 1783. Ballooning and parachuting became a popular pastime in Europe over the next century and even proved useful in military conflicts such as the American Civil War, when the Union Balloon Corps carried balloons for espionage and reconnaissance.

The Wright Brothers at the International Aviation Tournament, Belmont Park, Long Island, New York, October 1910.

20th century flights

At the turn of the 19th century, humanity was finally pointed in the right direction when the English engineer George Kelly released his 1809 treatise "On Aerial Navigation", laying the groundwork for the study of aerodynamics. Nearly 70 years later, Nicolas Ota built the world's first combustion engine, which was powered by gas and was much lighter than the steam engines of old. Using these successes, Orville and Wilbur Wright built the first airplane, which they built for a historic test flight on December 17, 1903. The brothers took turns flying with their rudimentary planes, and although their flights lasted only the respective 12 and 59 seconds, it was the first controlled flight in human history.

The flight hardly created a blip in the media, which did not understand its importance, but after the Wright brothers perfected their techniques and invited the press to take pictures of their flying machine, the U.S. The military quickly recognized its potential. Within a decade, the airplane was used both commercially and military—especially in World War I, when aircraft such as the German Albatross and the American Curtiss JN dominated the skies—and the Wright brothers were very wealthy men.

Flying into the modern era, 25-year-old Charles Lindbergh flew the Spirit of St. Louis over 2,000 miles from New York City to Paris, completing the first transatlantic flight and proving the aircraft's ability to travel long distances. Today, around 100,000 flights fly around the world every day and, despite some travelers' nerves thinking them, has proven to be the safest and most efficient form of travel.


  1. To write an article on the history of flight and not to even mention Alberto Santos-Dumon should be criminal.

  2. Richard Pearse : New Zealand Pioneer Aviator (1877 - 1953) Popular history has it that the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk [in the United States] were the first to fly [a heavier-than-air craft], but this is not true! The first flight was by a twenty-five year old New Zealander, Richard Pearse on March 31, 1902.


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