Since time immemorial, man has always had the desire to fly. But for hundreds of years it was unsuccessful until human ingenuity finally succeeded. First with a balloon and later with airplanes or airplanes. Let’s see the history of the flight:
WHEN THE FIRST BALLOON WAS BORN
Overcoming the force of gravity turned out to be a very difficult undertaking, which is why many inventors decided to dedicate themselves to the study of machines that could fly using gases lighter than air.
With a little ingenuity and a bit of fantasy, the problem, considered insoluble by many, was solved by the Montgolfier brothers. On June 5, 1783, in Annonay, a small town near Lyon, the first balloon in history was raised.
The inventor brothers had followed this reasoning: if the hot air tends to rise, it will be enough to imprison this air in a light envelope to make it rise upwards as well. The hot air was obtained by combustion produced in a brazier that was suspended under the balloon.
WHEN THE FIRST MAN ASCENDED TO THE AIR
The first man to ascend into the air was the French physicist Jean-Francois Pilátre de Rozier. It was October 15, 1783.
An aerial “ride” of a few minutes may bring the smile of those who are used to seeing supersonic jets every day soar through the skies.
But if we take into account the absolute novelty that those first balloons represented, and the fact that the first aeronauts were forced to constantly face a thousand dangers, we will be filled with astonishment.
The flight of Pilátre de Rozier became so famous that the Montgolfier brothers decided to continue their promising experiments.
WHEN THE ENGLISH CHANNEL WAS BALLOONED
Less than a week after Pilátre de Rozier’s flight, another expedition began. This time there were two aeronauts: together with the aforementioned, the Marquis of Arlandes took the balloon. The feat was attended by Louis XVI himself. The flight covered a distance of 8 kilometers.
As often happens in such cases, the echo of the feat quickly spread throughout the world, and many tried to imitate it.
The new practitioners provided further modifications: a waterproof fabric wrap that reduced gas losses, the use of hydrogen as a lighter-than-air gas, and more comfortable and suitable rooms for its purpose.
On January 5, 1875, Blanchard and Jeffries crossed the English Channel. The feat was not easy: Pilátre de Rozier himself died when he tried to repeat it together with a friend.
WHEN WERE AIRSHIPS INVENTED
Surrendering to the vagaries of the drafts was an extremely risky undertaking. Every day the need to make the aerostats maneuverable was better understood, providing them with an engine and a rudder with which it was possible to steer them.
In 1852, and once again in France, the first airship balloon was born. Its builder, Henri Giffard, who after being a simple railway worker had gone on to become a highly skilled technician, baptized his invention with the name of Giffard I.
The airships immediately performed memorable feats. In 1854 they received a great boost, when the steam engine was replaced by the explosion engine. The innovation was due to the Brazilian Santos-Dumont.
The fundamental elements of the airship were the rigid envelope and the engine. The easy handling of the airship allowed that very soon it was used for commercial purposes, for the transport of goods.
The exploits of the airships took place over a period of 85 years, that is, from September 24, 1852 (Paris: Giffard I) to May 6, 1937 (Lakehurst, United States: Zeppelin LZ 129 ).
Most famous were the airships that made their appearance in 1900, when the German officer Ferdinand von Zeppelin, with his first airship measuring 126 meters in length, flew over Lake Constance.
WHEN MAN GOT TO FLY
Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine was designed in such a way that the pilot moved his wings with his hands and feet, and his tail with his head.
Leonardo da Vinci also invented a helicopter with a spiral wing that “curled” in the air. The principle was the same as that of modern helicopters.
In the course of almost three centuries the attempts to fly by all kinds of brave and sometimes fanatical men did not cease: this is, indeed, the period that separates Leonardo from the first serious attempts made by modern technique.
Among all these attempts we will remember the Henson steam air coach, whose first forger had been Sir George Cayley around 1850. At the time when airships were already in the peak phase of their history, the airplane was born.
WHEN THE FIRST AIRPLANES WERE BORN
It is generally considered that the founders of aviation were the inventors Clement Ader and Otto Ulienthal. Indeed, the first of them succeeded, in 1890, in raising its propeller apparatus a few centimeters from the ground along a distance of 50 meters: thus, human flight itself was born.
For his part, Ulienthal, instead of using a steam engine like Ader, decided to take advantage of the wind and natural air currents with a kind of device that had to be launched from the top of a hill.
Lilienthal’s experiments continued successfully for several years, and thanks to his studies aeronautics received such a boost that it became an exact science. Ulienthal personally experimented with his devices and lost his life on one of his flights.
At the time of the accident, he had already made a hundred launches. No experience, however modest, is useless. In the field of aviation, each step marked a stage in the conquest of the air.
In the same way that hot air flight had its pioneers in the two Montgolfier brothers, the initiators of mechanical flight were also two brothers: the Americans from Dayton (Ohio), Wilbur and Orville Wright.
His apparatus had a cell similar to that of Ulienthal, but equipped with a 16-horsepower explosion engine, weighing almost 62 kilos. On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers made the first flight with this device, which lasted no more than a few seconds.
However, in a subsequent attempt they covered more than 5,000 meters. Many believe that December 17, 1903 marks the effective date of the birth of aviation.
In less than two years the airplane was able to fly no less than 39 kilometers in approximately 38 minutes. Louis Blériot, aboard a plane powered by the Italian Alessandro Anzani engine, flew over the English Channel on July 25, 1909.
On January 7, 1910, Humbert Letham exceeded 1,600 meters in height. And on September 23, 1910, the Peruvian Geo Chávez managed to cross the Alps in a tragic flight that cost him his life once the feat was completed.
Despite these early and sometimes tragic results, aviation was steadily heading toward the most dazzling conquests