The History of Flight - Before the Wright Brothers
(500 B.C. - 1903 A.D.)

Aviation History Research Notes from the Earth Ecology Foundation.

The Earth Ecology Foundation Website


* Some records mention manned gliders in China by AD 500.
* Unknown Chinese Manned kites are common. Reported by Marco Polo 1290

* There are records of early, short-distance glider flights from the 10th and 11th centuries, and possibly earlier human-carrying kites from China, but practical human aviation (trips lasting more than a few seconds) began on November 21, 1783 with the first untethered human flight in a hot air balloon designed by the Montgolfier brothers

* 5th Century B.C.

Gongshu BanGongshuzi constructed a bird from bamboo and wood and when it was completed he flew it. It stayed up [in the air] for three days.) Wooden Bird

* In 852, under a new Caliph, a daredevil named Armen Firman decided to fly off a tower in Córdoba using a huge winglike cloak to break his fall. He survived with minor injuries, and the young Ibn Firnas was there to see it. This was considered to be the first parachute.

In 875 at an age of 65 years, Ibn Firnas built his own glider, and launched himself from a mountain. The flight was largely successful, and was widely observed by a crowd that he had invited. However, the landing was bad. He injured his back, and left critics saying he hadn't taken proper account of the way birds pull up into a stall, and land on their tails. He'd provided neither a tail, nor means for such a maneuver. He died twelve years later.

"Ibn Firnas was the first man in history to make a scientific attempt at flying." —Philip Hitti, History of the Arabs.

* The first person in the Western tradition to propose a mechanical ornithopter seems to have been Roger Bacon.1214-1292 ornithopter design.

* When Swedenborg returned to Sweden in 1714, he met with inventor Christopher Polhem and together with him published the periodical Daedulus Hyperboreus. When Swedenborg mentioned publishing the Flying Machine, Polhem was skeptical as to whether it was possible to ever build a machine that could fly

But Swedenborg replied (somewhat ironically) with a quote by French author Fontenelle:

The art of flying is hardly yet born. It will be perfected and some day people will fly up to the moon. Do we pretend to have discovered everything, or to have brought our knowledge to a point where nothing can be added to it? Oh, for mercy's sake, let us agree that there is still something left for the ages to come!

Bernard de Fontenelle 1657- 1757) wrote 1686:(Behold a universe so immense that I am lost in it. I no longer know where I am. I am just nothing at all. Our world is terrifying in its insignificance

Swedenborg published it anonymously with the title Machine to Fly in the Air. It did not contain an image.

Swedenborg knew that the machine would not fly, but suggested it as a start and was confident that the problem would be solved. He said, "It seems easier to talk of such a machine than to put it into actuality, for it requires greater force and less weight than exists in a human body. The science of mechanics might perhaps suggest a means, namely, a strong spiral spring. If these advantages and requisites are observed, perhaps in time to come some one might know how better to utilize our sketch and cause some addition to be made so as to accomplish that which we can only suggest. Yet there are sufficient proofs and examples from nature that such flights can take place without danger, although when the first trials are made you may have to pay for the experience, and not mind an arm or leg." This greater force would not become possible until the motor was invented.

The flying machine on the image is seen from above. It consists of one large wing. In the middle of it is a hole with a basket, where the pilot stands. There are two "paddles" on the wings. These are used by the pilot like oars in a boat, except in this case they only move up and down. Underneath the ship is the landing gear. It consists of four long poles, which we can not see since they are below the ship. We can see the end of two of them though. In between them is a weight, which is used to keep the ship balanced.

The wing is a light frame covered with strong canvas. The large wing would work as a glider, and by working the paddles up and down the pilot would keep the plane in the air, Swedenborg initially hoped.

The Flying Machine was not widely known until the discovery of the notebook in 1876. By the time aviation took off, with the Wright Brothers, it had still not been examined, and therefore did not play any part in the development of flight aviation.

The first time it was examined was in 1910, by the Royal Aeronautical Society. They called it "the first reasonable suggestion to build a heavier-than-air flying machine." It was then analyzed by the Smithsonian Institute in 1962 who compared its features with that of later aircraft. A model of the ship was also created and stood for many years on display in the museum.

This "Machine For Flying" was a remarkable aeronautical design for its time, featuring wheeled landing gear, a concave lifting surface (curved in both length and width), a central location for the operator and beating blades for propulsion. There is even an indication that a means of control was sought, through the manipulation of the propulsive blades. Considering the state of knowledge and the absolute dominance of balloons at this point in aerial matters, Swedenborg's design, rough and naive as it is, stands as a testament to his ability.

* Louis Pierre Mouillard (1834–1897) was a Frenchman who worked on flight in the late 19th century. His most famous work was L'Empire de l'Air (Empire of the Air). He also tried some unsuccessful experiments with small gliders.

* Sir George Cayley, 6th Baronet (27 December 1773–15 December 1857) was an exuberant English polymath from Brompton-by-Sawdon, near Scarborough in Yorkshire. He pioneered the study of aerodynamics over a century before the development of powered flight

He is mainly remembered, however, for his flying machines, including the working, piloted glider that he designed and built. To measure the drag on objects at different speeds and angles of attack, he built a "whirling-arm apparatus" - a development of earlier work into ballistics and air resistance. He also experimented with rotating wing sections of various forms in the stairwells at Brompton Hall. These scientific experiments led him to develop an efficient cambered airfoil and to identify the four vector forces that influence an aircraft: thrust, lift, drag, and weight. He discovered the importance of dihedral for lateral stability in flight, and deliberately set the centre of gravity of many of his models well below the wings for this reason. Investigating many other theoretical aspects of flight, many now acknowledge him as the first aeronautical engineer.

By 1804 his model gliders appeared similar to modern aircraft: a pair of large monoplane wings towards the front, with a smaller tailplane at the back comprising horizontal stabilisers and a vertical fin. During some point prior to 1849 he designed and built a triplane powered with 'flappers' in which an unknown ten-year-old boy flew. Later, with the continued assistance of his grandson George John Cayley and his resident engineer Thomas Vick, he developed a larger scale glider (also probably fitted with 'flappers') which flew across Brompton Dale in 1853. The first adult aviator has been claimed to be either Cayley's coachman, footman or butler: one source (Gibbs-Smith) has suggested that it was John Appleby, a Cayley employee - however there is no definitive evidence to fully identify the pilot. An obscure entry in volume IX of the 8th Encyclopaedia Britannica of 1855 is the most contemporaneous account with any authority regarding what was probably the earliest manned, heavier-than-air flight by an adult; an event which occurred some fifty years before the Wright Brothers.

· His 1893 Flying Machine had 50 lift surfaces and implemented Phillips' patented "double-surface airfoils" in such a way as to produce an aspect ratio of 152, providing great lift at the sacrifice of stability. As a test vehicle, it was not designed to be manned, but was used to test lift capabilities (it eventually was tested at 400 lbs of maximum lift).

· His 1904 Multiplane expanded on the 1893 test vehicle in a configuration that could be flown by a person. It utilized 20 wings and had a tail for stability, but was unable to achieve sustained flight.

· His 1907 Multiplane, which had 200 individual airfoils, was the first successful powered flight conducted in Great Britain, on 6 April 1907.

William records that, in Eilmer's youth, he had read and believed the Greek fable of Daedalus. Thus, "mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus", Eilmer fixed wings to his hands and feet and took to flight from a tower of Malmesbury Abbey:

Crippled for life but undaunted, Eilmer believed that he could make a more controllable landing if his glider were equipped with a tail, and he was preparing for a second flight when the abbot of Malmesbury Abbey forbade him from risking his life in any further experiments.

Given the geography of the Abbey, his landing site, and the account of his flight, he must have remained airborne about 15 seconds. At low altitude he apparently attempted to flap the wings, which threw him out of control. His post-flight assessment qualifies him as the first "test pilot," for he sought to understand, in technological terms, what happened on the flight and why he crashed.

[edit] * William Samuel Henson (1812 - 1888) was an engineer and pre Wright Brothers aviation inventor.

With John Stringfellow he designed, a large passenger-carrying steam-powered monoplane, with a wing span of 150 feet, which he named the "Henson Aerial Steam Carriage". He received a patent in 1843. William Samuel Henson, John Stringfellow, Frederick Marriott, and D.E. Colombine, incorporated as the "Aerial Transit Company" in 1843 in England, with the intention of raising money to construct the flying machine. Henson built a scale model of his design, which made one tentative steam powered "hop" as it lifted or bounced, off its guide wire. Attempts were made to fly the small model, and a larger model with a 20 foot wing span, between 1844 and 1847, without success.

The Aerial Transit Company's publicist, Frederick Marriott, commissioned prints in 1843 depicting the Aerial Steam Carriage over the pyramids in Egypt, in India, and over London, England, and other places, which drew considerable interest from the press

The wings were rectangular, and were formed by wooden spars covered with fabric, and braced, internally and externally, with wires. The Aerial Steam Carriage was powered by two contra-rotating six-bladed propellers mounted in the rear in a push type system. The design follows earlier "birdlike" gliders.

The pair shared ambitions of creating an international company, the Aerial Transit Company, with designs showing aeroplane travel in exotic locations like Egypt and China. Despite their efforts, the designs were flawed with Stringfellow's ideas centred around monoplane and triplane models and Henson's ideas centred around an underpowered steam-powered vehicle. The two achieved popular attention, nonetheless, as Stringfellow did achieve the first powered flight, in 1848, in a disused lace factory in Chard. It was a 10 foot (30.5 cm), steam-driven flying machine. A bronze model of that first primitive aircraft stands in Fore Street and the town's museum has a unique exhibition of flight before the advent of the internal combustion engine and before the manned powered flight made famous by the Wright Brothers.

The Aerial Transit Company never built the largest version of the Aerial Steam Carriage, because of the failed attempts with the medium sized model. Henson, Stringfellow, Marriott and Colombine dissolved the company around 1848.

* Rufus Porter (May 1, 1792 - August 13, 1884) was an American painter, inventor, and founder of Scientific American magazine.

In 1849 Porter planned to build an 800-foot steam-powered airship with accommodations for 50 to 100 passengers, aiming to convey miners to the California Gold Rush. He had already built and flown several scale models in Boston and New York. He advertised New York-to-California service, asking a $50 down payment for a $200 fare, and began building immediately. His first "aeroport" was 240 feet long; it was destroyed by a tornado. Later that year, he began a 700-foot version with new backers, but during a showing of the almost-complete dirigible on Thanksgiving day, rowdy visitors tore the hydrogen bag and destroyed it. In 1854 his third attempt ended with technical troubles.

* Jean-Marie Le Bris (1817 - 1872) was a French aviator, born in Concarneau, Brittany, who accomplished a glider flight in December 1856.

A sailor and sea captain, Jean-Marie Le Bris sailed around the world observing the flight of the Albatross bird. Although he sailed around the world, his true ambition was to fly. He caught some of the birds and analysed the interaction of their wings with air, identifying the aerodynamic phenomenon of lift, which he called "aspiration".

Le Bris built a glider, inspired by the shape of the Albatross bird. Named L'Albatros artificiel ("The artificial Albatross"), he managed to fly on the beach of Sainte-Anne-la-Palud (Finistère), by being pulled by a running horse, face to the wind. He thus flew higher than his point of departure, a first for heavier-than-air flying machines, reportedly to a height of 100 metres (300 ft), for a distance of 200 metres (600 ft).

In 1868, with the support of the French Navy, he built a second flying machine, which he tried three times in Brest without great success. It was almost identical to his first flying machine, except that it was lighter and had a system to shift weight distribution. His flying machine became the first ever to be photographed, albeit on the ground, by Nadar in 1868.

Le Bris invented flight controls, which could act on the incidence of wings. This invention was the object of a patent in March 1857.

Before Le Bris, several human gliders had been made (by the ancient Chinese, Abbas Ibn Firnas in the 9th century, Eilmer of Malmesbury in the 11th century, and George Cayley in 1853), but they were all non-powered. In Great Britain, Stringfellow had built small gliders in 1848, although they never carried anyone. The first autonomous powered flight, would be accomplished by Clément Ader in 1890 in his steam-powered monoplane the Eole. This flight was not considered a controlled flight, however

* Félix du Temple de la Croix (1823–1890) (usually simply called Félix du Temple) was a French naval officer and an inventor, born into an ancient Normandy family. He developed some of the first flying machines, and is sometimes credited with the first powered flight in history in 1874 [1], twenty-nine years before the 1903 flight of the Wright brothers. He was a contemporary of Jean-Marie Le Bris, another French flight pioneer who was active in the same region of France.

Félix du Temple patented designs for an aerial machine in 1857, which incorporated a retractable wheel landing gear, a propeller, a 6 hp engine and a dihedral wing design, under the title "Locomotion aérienne par imitation du vol des oiseaux" ("Aerial locomotion by imitation of the flight of birds").

He built several large models together with his brother Luis. One of them, weighing 700 grams, was able to fly, first using a clockwork mechanism as an engine, and then using a miniature steam engine. The two brothers managed to make the models take off under their their own power, fly a short distance and land safely.

As they tried to build a unit capable of carrying a man, they realized that steam engines lacked power and were too heavy. They developed in 1867 an original "hot air" engine design, which did not prove satisfactory. They also experimented with the new internal combustion gas engine design developed by Lenoir, but which also lacked the necessary power.

* Du Temple continued his research and finally succeeded in creating a very compact, high-speed circulation steam engine for which he applied for a patent on April 28th 1876. The engine used very small pipes packed together "to obtain the highest possible contact surface for the smallest possible volume"

"When he began with the aid of his brother, M. Louis du Temple, to experiment on a large scale, the inadequacy of all motors then known became apparent. They first tried steam at very high pressures, then a hot-air engine, and finally built and patented, in 1876 a very light steam boiler weighing from 39 to 44 lb. to the horse power, which appears to have been the prototype of some of the light boilers which have since been constructed. It consisted in a series of very thin tubes less than 1/8 in. in internal diameter, through which water circulated very rapidly, and was flashed into steam by the surrounding flame." Octave Chanute, Aeroplanes : Part III, August 1892

In 1874, the two brothers built the Monoplane, a large plane made of aluminium in Brest, France, with a wingspan of 13 meters and a weight of only 80 kilograms (without the pilot). Several trials were made with the plane, and it is generally recognized that it achieved lift off under its own power after a ski-jump run, glided for a short time and returned safely to the ground, possibly making it the first successful powered flight in history, depending on the definition — since the flight was only a short distance and a short time.

The plane was displayed at the 1878 World Fair (Exposition Universelle (1878) in Paris.

The original steam engine which had been developed by Félix du Temple was later commercialized by him from a company he established in Cherbourg, "Générateur Du Temple S.A." and became highly successful. The design was adopted by the French Navy for the propulsion of the first French torpedo boats:

"Officers and engineers have now made up their opinion regarding Du Temple's steam engine. Everybody proclaims the superiority of its qualities… orders are pouring in from our commercial harbours and from the French government." Revue Maritime 1888 ("L’opinion est faite aujourd’hui sur la chaudière Du Temple parmi les officiers et les ingénieurs. Tout le monde proclame ses qualités supérieures… les commandes affluent de nos ports de commerce et de la part du gouvernement français".)

In general, birds, especially the largest ones, only rise and fly because of an acquired speed: this speed which is necessary to rise is obtained either by running on the ground or on water, or by jumping from a high point. Once arrived at a certain height that allows him to fly horizontally and move forward with just the flap of the wings, he gains speed, speads his wings and tail so as to form as flat a surface as possible, and thus moves forward without any visible movement of the wings and without falling significantly" Félix du Temple

* James William Butler and Edmund Edwards Steam-Jet Dart 1865

* Francis Herbert Wenham Wenham's Aerial Locomotion 1866

* Jan Wnęk (b. 1828 in Kaczówka - July 10, 1869 in Odporyszów, Poland) was a Polish carpenter, folk sculptor and aviation pioneer.

Jan Wnęk constructed a glider, which he named "Loty" from ash wood and linen in 1866, and managed a flight with that glider in June of that same year, from a church tower in Odporyszow village (preceding by 25 years Otto Lilienthal).

He reportedly made gliding flights during religious festivals, such as Pentecost, up to 2 km long. He made a number of other flights through 1866 -1869, especially at church carnivals.

His final flight of 1300 metres, on June 20, 1869 in Odporyszów, ended in a tragic fall and the death of this Polish aviation pioneer three weeks later

* Frederick Marriott (c. 1805 – c. 1884) was an early aviation pioneer and creator of the Avitor Hermes Jr. which was the first unmanned aircraft to fly under its own power in the United States. Marriott is given credit for coining the term "aeroplane," and intended to build an air transport system that would bring people from New York to California without the perils of the normal voyage (particularly Indians). The company he formed (with Andrew Smith Hallidie) in 1866 was called the Aerial Steam Navigation Company.

* Alphonse Pénaud (1850–1880) was a major 19th century pioneer of aviation, inventor of the rubber powered model airplane Planaphore and founder of the aviation industry. He built and sold ornithopters as well as propeller-driven models, and with Paul Gauchot designed an amphibious monoplane with retractable undercarriage. He died by suicide.

* Thomas Moy Moy Aerial Steamer,

1875 Thomas Moy The Military Kite 1879

* Richtel designed and built a small, one-man dirigible powered by a hand crank. The aircraft consisted of a brass frame put together at Folansbee Machine Shop in Bridgeport was hung underneath a cylindrical gas bag made of rubber at the Goodyear Rubber Company in Naugatuck, Connecticut. A small propeller drove the craft and could be moved left and right for turning. It could reach a height of 200 feet.

At the 1876 Centennial Exhibition in Philadelphia, Richtel flew the craft within one of the large exhibition halls. Two years later, on June 12, 1878, the craft set off from a baseball field behind the Colt Armory. Mark Quinlan flew the machine before a large group of spectators, went over the armory building, fly over the Connecticut River and landed back at the starting point.[1]

"This was the first flight of a man-carrying dirigible in America," according to Harvey Lippincott, founder of the Connecticut Aeronautical Historical Association.

On the following day, Quinlan again ascended, but the wind proved to be too strong and he was blown off course, lainging in nearby Newington, Connecticut. More flights took place in Boston and elsewhere, and eventually five of the aircraft were constructed and sold. Richtel imagined a transcontinental airline with larger dirigibles cranked by 11 men.

* Victor Tatin Tatin flying machines 1879

* Massia and Biot Massia-Biot Glider 1879? 1887?

* Alexandre Goupil Goupi Monoplane, La Locomotion Aerienne 1883

* John Joseph Montgomery (February 15, 1858 – October 31, 1911) was an aviation pioneer, inventor, professor at Santa Clara College. On August 28, 1883 he made the first manned, controlled, heavier-than-air flights of the United States, in the Otay Mesa area of San Diego, California (after European pioneers such as George Cayley's coachman in 1853, or Jean-Marie Le Bris in 1856). John Montgomery was issued U.S. Patent #831,173 on September 18, 1906 for his invention of an Aeroplane. He was a member of the Aero Club of Illinois (1910) and member of the research committee of the Technical Board of the New York Aeronautical Society (1911). In 1946, John J. Montgomery's life was portrayed in the movie Gallant Journey starring Glenn Ford

Two California Historical Landmarks (#711: Montgomery Memorial, Otay Mesa; #813: Montgomery Hill, San Jose) have been named in his honor as has one section of the Interstate 5 freeway (John J. Montgomery Freeway) in San Diego, California and a recreation center near the location of his first successful glides (Montgomery-Waller Recreation Center, San Diego, California). The Montgomery Memorial in San Diego features a silver static test wing panel for the B-32 Dominator mounted upright that is visible for miles.

At least three California schools have been named in his honor (John J. Montgomery Elementary School, Chula Vista, California; John J. Montgomery Middle School, San Diego, California; John J. Montgomery Elementary School, San Jose, California) and one Civil Air Patrol Squadron (John J. Montgomery Memorial Cadet Squadron 36).

San Diego's Montgomery Field (MYF), one of the busiest airports for small planes in the United States, is named for John J. Montgomery.

John J. Montgomery was inducted into the National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1964 and (the U.S. Soaring Hall of Fame) in 2002.

In 1996, Montgomery's 1883 glider was recognized as an International Historic Mechanical Engineering Landmark by the American Society of Mechanical Engineers. On March 19, 2005, John J. Montgomery was the focus of a Centennial Celebration of Soaring Flight, held in Aptos, California at the location of some of his early glider experiments.

* Alexander Fyodorovich Mozhayskiy (Russian: Александр Фёдорович Можайский; March 21 [O.S. March 9] 1825 in Rochensalm, current Kotka, Finland — 1 April [O.S. March 20] 1890 in Saint Petersburg) , was a Russian naval officer, aviation pioneer, researcher and designer of heavier-than-air-craft. Mozhaiski was developing concepts for heavier-than-air flight 20 years before the Wright brothers' first flight. In 1884, in Krasnoye Selo Mozhaiski's monoplane design made what is now considered to be a power assisted take off or 'hop' of 60-100 feet (20-30 meters). His feat is generally distinguished from that of the Wright brothers on the basis that his design appears to have relied upon a ramp rather than wings to generate lift. This conclusion is supported by the fact that Mozhaiski's wing design lacked the curvature necessary to generate lift. While it is possible that Mozhaiski's wings slowed down the monoplane's descent, they were unlikely to have ever provided upward movement unless used at angles of attack that would have been unsustainable given the engines available to Mozhaiski. Though he used wings without curvature in his crafts, he experimented with different angles of attacks using his own invented aerodynamic balance, as his published report of 1883 shows. During these experiments he established what is now called "the critical angle of attack" of about 15° where the lift reaches its maximum. Although Soviet propagandists later overemphasised Mozhaiski's role in aviation by claiming his hop as the first powered flight, Mozhaiski's achievements in aviation, particularly with regard to flight control and propulsion, were considerable given the limits of the technology available to him and have only recently received the attention they deserve.

* Pichancourt Mechanical Birds 1889

* Lawrence Hargrave (29 January 1850 - 6 July 1915) was an engineer, explorer, astronomer, and aeronautical pioneer. Born in Greenwich, England, and educated at Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, Kirkby Lonsdale, Westmorland he emigrated to Australia with his family in 1865 and took on an engineering apprenticeship in Sydney. He worked as an engineer and assisted with exploration of the more remote parts of Australasia before taking up a post at the Sydney Observatory. He had been interested in experiments of all kinds from an early age, particularly those to do with flying machines, and when his father died, and Hargrave came into his inheritance, he resigned from the observatory to concentrate on full-time research. He chose to live and experience with his flying machines in Stanwell Park, a place which offers excellent wind and hang conditions and nowadays is the most famous hang gliding and paragliding place in Australia.

In an astonishingly productive career, Hargrave invented many devices, but never once applied for a patent on any of them: he did not need the money, and he was a passionate believer in scientific communication as a key to furthing progress. As he wrote in 1893:

"Workers must root out the idea that by keeping the results of their labors to themselves a fortune will be assured to them. Patent fees are so much wasted money. The flying machine of the future will not be born fully fledged and capable of a flight for 1000 miles or so. Like everything else it must be evolved gradually. The first difficulty is to get a thing that will fly at all. When this is made, a full description should be published as an aid to others. Excellence of design and workmanship will always defy competition."

Among many, three of Hargrave's inventions were particularly significant:

* Study of curved aerofoils, particularly designs with a thicker leading edge.

* The box kite (1893), which greatly improved the lift to drag ratio of early gliders and provided the structural rigidity and aerodynamic stability that made aeroplanes possible.

* Work on the rotary engine, which powered many early aircraft up until about 1920

Of great significance to those pioneers working toward powered flight, Hargrave successfully lifted himself off the ground under a train of four of his box kites at Stanwell Park Beach on 12 November 1894. Aided by James Swain, the caretaker at his property, the kite line was moored via a spring balance to two sandbags (see image). Hargrave carried an anemometer and clinometer aloft to measure windspeed and the angle of the kite line. He rose 16 feet in a wind speed of 21 mph. This experiment was widely reported and established the box kite as a stable aerial platform (Hudson Shaw and Ruhen, 1977).

Unfortunately, his development of a rotary engine was frustrated by the weight of materials and quality of machining available at the time, and he was unable to get sufficient lift from his engines to build an independent flying machine.

An engraving of Lawrence Hargrave alongside a number of his gliders appeared on the reverse of the Australian $20 banknote from 1966 to 1988. There is a memorial to him at Bald Hill overlooking Stanwell Park beach. A centennary celebration and reenactment was held to commemorate the manlift in November 1994 at Stanwell Park. The Lawrence Hargrave Professor of Aeronautical Engineering at Sydney University and the Hargrave-Andrew engineering library at Monash University are named in his honour.

Hargrave was devoted to his family, and when his son Geoffrey was killed at Gallipoli in May 1915 he was heartbroken, and died soon after hearing the news. He in interred in Waverley Cemetery on the cliffs overlooking the open ocean.

* In his time an electrical and mechanical genius, the engineer Ader innovated in a number of domains. He originally studied electrical engineering, and in 1878 improved the telephone, recently invented by Alexander Graham Bell. He refined the invention and established the first telephone network in Paris in 1880. In 1881, he invented the theater-phone, a system of telephonic transmission where two channels allowed binaural hearing and gave listeners an exact idea of the respective positions of the actors on a set; it was this invention which gave the first transmission in stereo of the spectacles of the Opera, over a distance of 2 miles (3 km) (1881).

Following this, he turned to mechanical flight and concentrated all of his time and money on it until the end of his life. Using the studies of Louis Mouillard (1834-1837) on the flight of birds, he constructed his first flying machine in 1886, the Éole. It was a bat-like design run by a lightweight steam engine of his own invention (4 cylinders developing 20 horsepower (15 kW). The weight was no more than 7 pounds per horsepower (4 g/W)), and it drove a four-blade propeller. The wings, with a span of 14 yards, were equipped with a system of warping and all together weighed 650 pounds (300 kg). On October 9, 1890, Ader attempted a flight of the Éole, which succeeded in taking off and flying a distance of approximately 50m before witnesses. However, the plane then crashed and was wrecked. It was the first self-propelled flight in history also was born discusses maintained by the partisans the Wright brothers.

Following the wreck of the Éole, Ader undertook the construction of an aircraft he called the Avion II (also referred to as the Zephyr or Éole II). Most sources agree that work on this aircraft was never completed, and it was abandoned in favour of the Avion III, However, Ader claimed in later life that he flew the Avion II in August 1892 for a distance of 200 yards (200 m) in Satory.

Ader's progress attracted the interest of the minister of war, Charles de Freycinet. With the backing of the French War office, Ader developed and constructed the Avion III. It was like an enormous bat of linen and wood, with a 16-yard wingspan, equipped with two puller propellers of four blades, each powered by a steam engine of 30 hp (22 kW). After extensive taxi tests, Ader attempted a flight at Satory on October 14, 1897. Some witnesses contend that the Avion rolled, took off towards the sky and, before the official commission, flew a distance of more than 300 yards (300 m), while others contend that the Avion III crashed before even taking off. In any event, the commission was not impressed and withdrew its funding, but kept the results secret. After the Wright brothers made their flight, the commission released reports on Ader's flights, stating that they were successful.

Clément Ader remained an active proponent of the development of aviation. He published in 1909 "L'Aviation Militaire", a very popular book which went through 10 editions in the five years until the beginning of World War I, which is especially famous for its vision of air warfare and its precise description of the concept of the modern aircraft carrier with a flat flight deck, an island superstructure, deck elevators and a hangar bay. His published concept for the aircraft carrier, relayed by the US Naval Attaché in Paris were followed by the first trials in the United States in November 1910.

Abandoning everything, and in particular public demonstrations, the "father of aviation" died in Toulouse in obscurity. His Avion is still displayed at the museum of the Conservatory of Arts and Industry in Paris. Non-French aviation historians often discredit any claims of priority, since all flights ended in crashes, many were disputed, and Ader greatly exaggerated his achievements in later life. Nonetheless, Ader's October 9, 1890 flight of the Éole remains relatively undisputed, and Ader is still admired for his efforts. In 1938, France issued a postage stamp honoring him, and Airbus named one of its aircraft assembly sites in Toulouse after him.

* Otto Lilienthal (23 May 1848 – 10 August 1896), the German "Glider King", was a pioneer of human aviation. He built the first controllable glider, the Derwitzer Glider in 1891. He could ridge soar for extended periods in a similar way to modern hang gliders.

(Many others had built crude gliders before Lilienthal, in particular the one by Sir George Cayley. But Lilienthal's was the first that could be controlled in a reasonable manner. See First flying machine.)

While Lilienthal's lifelong pursuit was flight, he was also an inventor. He invented a small engine that worked on a system of tubular boilers. His engine was much safer than the other small engines of the time. This invention gave him the financial freedom to quit his job and focus on aviation. His brother Gustav, though, was living in Australia at the time and Otto did not partake in any aviation experiments until his return in 1886.

Nevertheless, Lilienthal's greatest contribution was to the development of heavier-than-air flight. Working in conjunction with his brother, Gustav, he made over 2000 flights in gliders of his design between 1891 and his death five years later. Lilienthal did basic research in precisely describing the flight of birds, especially of storks, and used polar diagrams for describing the aerodynamics of their wings. Lilienthal helped to prove that heavier-than-air flight was practical without flapping wings, laying the groundwork for the Wright brothers a few years later to build the first successful powered aircraft. His unpowered glider required body shifting for control, much like modern hang gliders.

Lilienthal suffered a number of crashes in his experiments, but his glider could only reach low speeds and altitudes. On 9 August 1896, a gust of wind fractured his wing and he fell from a height of 17 m (56 ft), breaking his spine. He died the next day, saying, "Opfer müssen gebracht werden!" ("Sacrifices must be made!")

Lilienthal's work was well known to the Wright Brothers, and they credited him as a major inspiration for their decision to pursue manned flight. However, they abandoned his aeronautical data after two seasons of gliding and began using their own wind tunnel data.

* Horatio Frederick Phillips (born 1845 in Streatham - 1924) was an early aviation pioneer from Great Britain. He was famous for building multiplanes with many more sets of lift surfaces (sustainers, as he called them) than we would consider normal on modern aircraft.

* Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim (February 4, 1840 - November 24, 1916) was the inventor of the Maxim Gun in 1884, the first portable, fully automatic machine gun, and the ubiquitous mousetrap. He also experimented in powered flight, but his large aircraft designs were never successful. However, his "Captive Flying Machine" amusement ride became a staple of British fairgrounds

* Pablo Suarez Suarez Glider 1895

* Percy Sinclair Pilcher (1866–1899) was an English inventor and pioneer aviator who, in one of the big "what if" events of history, could well have become the first person to achieve controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight well before the Wright brothers had he not been tragically killed in a glider accident.

Pilcher was born in Bath and served briefly in the Royal Navy. After that, he had several jobs as a university lecturer. In the 1890s he began to experiment with gliders.

After several early attempts in the late 1890s, Pilcher built a glider called The Hawk, based on the work of his mentor Otto Lilienthal, that he flew from the grounds of Stanford Hall in Leicestershire, England.

Pilcher set his sights upon powered flight: he developed a triplane that was to be powered by a 4 hp (3 kW) engine; however, construction of the triplane put him heavily into debt, and Pilcher needed sponsorship to complete his work.

On 30 September 1899, having completed his triplane, he had intended to demonstrate it to a group of onlookers and potential sponsors in a field near Stanford Hall. However, the engine broke down and, so as not to disappoint his guests, he decided to fly the Hawk instead. Whilst flying, the tail snapped and Pilcher plunged 10 metres (30 feet) to the ground: he died two days later from his injuries with his triplane having never been flown.

A stone monument to him stands in the field near Stanford Hall at the point where he crashed, and a full sized replica of his "The Hawk" glider is also displayed at Stanford Hall. His grave is in London.

Pilcher's plans were lost for many years, and his name was also long forgotten except by a few enthusiasts. With the upcoming centenary of flight, a new effort was made to find the lost work, and some correspondence was found in a private American collection. From this it was possible to discern the general direction of his plans and the basis of his design. Unlike many of his contemporaries, Pilcher had worked out how to produce lift using winglike structures, but at this time a full mathematical description was years away, so many elements were still missing. In particular, Pilcher was stuck trying to design a wing that could lift the weight of an engine, the aircraft itself and the occupant - each increase in wing area increased the weight so much that yet more lift was required, requiring a larger wing - a seemingly vicious circle. Pilcher's breakthrough, thanks to correspondence with another pioneer, Octave Chanute, was to stack smaller, lighter wings one atop the other in an arrangement we know today as the biplane or triplane. This allowed the wings to generate much more lift without a corresponding increase in weight.

In 2003, a research effort carried out at the School of Aeronautics at Cranfield University, commissioned by the BBC2 television series "Horizon", has shown that Pilcher's design was more or less workable, and had he been able to develop his engine, it is likely he would have succeeded in being the first to fly a heavier-than-air, powered aircraft under control. A replica of Pilcher's aircraft was built, and after some problems, achieved a sustained controlled flight of 1 minute and 26 seconds, significantly longer than the Wright Brothers' first flight. In addition, this was achieved under dead calm conditions, whereas the Wrights needed a steady 25 knot+ wind to achieve enough airspeed on their early attempts.

Engineer and pioneer of unpowered flight. Born in Bath (England) of a Scottish mother, Pilcher briefly served in the Royal Navy before becoming an apprentice at the Govan ship-builders Randolph, Elder and Co. He took up a lecturing post in the University of Glasgow (1891) and proceeded to design and build gliders. His first machine, the Bat flew successfully from a hill overlooking the Firth of Clyde at Cardross. However, Pilcher was fatally injured when his fourth machine, the Hawk, crashed after many successful flights. This glider is now preserved in the Museum of Flight (East Lothian).

Not to disappoint the crowd utterly, Pilcher prepared to make a glider flight in his tried and trusty "Hawk" as he had done many times before. All was ready. Pilcher took his place and the machine was being towed rapidly over the ground when the tow-rope broke. The crowd murmured in disgust. Hastily the rope was repaired and another start was made.

Breathlessly, they saw Pilcher sailing splendidly into the air, up and up to a height of nearly thirty feet--suddenly a guide wire in the tail snapped. The tail collapsed. And before the eyes of the crowd could credit what they saw, down came Pilcher and his "Hawk" in a heap upon the crowd. Two days later Pilcher passed away without regaining consciousness, one of the earliest martyrs to aviation.

* Chanute first became interested in aviation during a visit to Europe in 1875. When he retired from his engineering business in 1889, he decided to devote his time to furthering the new science of aviation.

Following his systematic engineering background, Chanute first collected all the data that he could find from flight experimenters around the world. He published this as a series of articles first published in The Railroad and Engineering Journal from 1891 to 1893, and collected together in Progress in Flying Machine in 1894. This was the first organised, written collection of aviation research.

At the World's Columbian Exposition in Chicago in 1893, Chanute organised a highly successful International Conference on Aerial Navigation.

Chanute was too old to attempt to fly himself. However, he worked in partnership with younger experimenters, including Augustus Herring and William Avery. In 1896 and 1897 Chanute, Herring and Avery tested gliders based on designs by German aviator Otto Lilienthal, as well as gliders of their own design, on the shores of Lake Michigan in what is now Gary, Indiana not far from Chicago.

These experiments convinced Chanute that the best way to achieve extra lift without a prohibitive increase in weight was to stack several wings one above the other. Chanute invented the "strut-wire" braced structure that would be used in all biplanes of the future.

Chanute corresponded with many early aviators, including Louis Mouillard, Gabriel Voisin, Louis Blériot and Alberto Santos Dumont. In 1897 Chanute started a correspondence with British aviator Percy Pilcher. Following Chanute's ideas, Pilcher designed a triplane, but he was killed in a glider crash before he could build it.

Chanute was in contact with the Wright brothers from 1900, when Wilbur Wright wrote to him after reading Progress in Flying Machines. Chanute helped to publicise the Wright brothers' work, and provided consistent encouragement, making several visits to their camp near Kitty Hawk.

Chanute freely shared his knowledge about aviation with anyone who was interested and expected others to do the same. This led to friction with the Wright brothers, who wanted to protect their invention with patents. The friendship was still impaired when Chanute died in 1910, although Wilbur Wright delivered the eulogy at Chanute's funeral.

The town of Chanute, Kansas is named after him, as well as the former Chanute Air Force Base near Rantoul, Illinois, which was decommissioned in 1993. The former Base, now turned to peacetime endeavors, includes the "Octave Chanute Aerospace Museum", detailing the history of aviation and of Chanute Air Force base.

* William Paul Butusov Albatross Soaring Machine 1896

* William Frost Frost Airship Glider 1896

* Langley attempted to make the first working piloted heavier-than-air aircraft. His models flew but his two attempts at piloted flight, though less ambitious than the Wright brothers' flights, were not successful.

Langley began experimenting with rubber powered models and gliders. (According to one book, he was not able to reproduce Alphonse Pénaud's time aloft with rubber power but persisted anyway.) He built a rotating arm (with function similar to the Wright brothers' wind tunnel) for testing. He obtained a War Department grant of $50,000 to develop a piloted airplane and proceeded to larger models with steam and gasoline power. These flew free for considerable distances, demonstrating stability and sufficient lift. They had elaborate wire braced structures. He hired a successful glider pilot to work with him, offered financial support to the Wright brothers (not accepted), and hired Charles M. Manly as engineer and test pilot.

While the full-scale vehicle was being designed and built, the internal combustion engine development was contracted out to an engine manufacturer. When the contractor failed to produce an engine to the power and weight specifications, Manly finished the design. This engine had far more power per weight than did the Wright brothers' engine that powered the first airplane. The engine, though mostly not the direct technical work of Langley, was probably the project's main contribution to aviation. [1]

His piloted machine had wire-braced tandem wings (one behind the other). It had pitch and yaw control but no roll control, depending instead on stability, like the models, for maintaining its roll angle. In contrast to the Wright brothers' approach of designing a light and agile airplane that could be flown against a strong wind, Langley avoided fatal accidents by practicing over water, the Potomac River. This required a catapult for launching. The craft had no landing gear, the plan being to crash into the water after demonstrating flight. They gave up the project after two crashes on take-off on October 7 and December 8, 1903. Manly was recovered unhurt from the river.

Langley's aircraft was modified and flown by Glenn Curtiss, in 1914, as part of his attempt to fight the Wright brothers' patent, but the court upheld the patent.

Langley appears to have had no effective way of addressing the Wright Brothers' central innovation of controlling an airplane too big to be maneuvered by the weight of the pilot's body. So if the "Airdrome" had taken off and flown stably, as the models did, Manly would have been in considerable danger and the Wright Brothers' credit would be little reduced. To his credit, Langley had to write reports and proposals during this project, while the Wright brothers were spending their own money.

A number of things related to aviation have been named in Langley's honor, including:

* Carl Rickard Nyberg (May 28, 1858, – 1939) was the founder of Max Sieverts Lödlampfabrik, then one of the largest industries in Sundbyberg, Sweden. Nyberg was born in Arboga. After school he started working for a jeweller and later he moved to Stockholm and worked with various metalworks. He later got work at J. E. Eriksons mekaniska verkstad (later renamed to "Mekanikus").

* Edson F. Gallaudet Gallaudet Wing Warping Kite 1898

* Lyman Wiswell Gilmore jr., (June 11, 1874 – February 18, 1951), was an aviation pioneer. In Grass Valley, California, USA, he built a steam powered airplane and claimed that he flew it on May 15, 1902. Due to the requirement of a heavy boiler and the dependency on coal as a power source the flights would have only been short. Potential proofs of his claim was lost in a 1935 hangar fire. If his claims were true, the secret of his particular steam engine are lost to history, as no successful steam engine with a high enough power to weight ratio to effectively power an aircraft has ever been discovered since.

* Nyberg also worked on many other inventions, for instance steam engines, aeroplanes, boat propellers and various other machines. He was most famous as an aviation pioneer and he became known as "Flyg-Nyberg". From 1897 and onward, outside his home in Lidingö he built and tested his Flugan (The Fly). It only managed a few short jumps and he was often ridiculed. The width was 5 meters, and the surface area of the wings was 13 m². The engine was a steam engine heated by four blowtorches and it produced 10 hp (7 kW) at 2000 rpm. The total weight of the plane is 80 kg.

There are photographs from 1898 showing Gilmore's machine, but none showing it in the air. He was in contact with other flight pioneers like Samuel Langley and eventually the Wright Brothers. In 1902, Gilmore was granted two patents on steam engines, the first of which was granted in 1902. He invented in other areas too, for example a rotary snowplow. On March 15, 1907 Gilmore opened the first commercial airfield, Gilmore Airfield.

After the fire in his hangar Gilmore began mining for gold and died a poor man in Nevada City.

* Wilhelm Kress (* July 29th 1836 in Saint Petersburg; † February 24th 1913 in Vienna) was a pioneer in aviations and constructor of aircraft.

During the turn of the century he was one of the world-wide contestors for break-through motor aircraft. In 1900 he developed the stick control for aircraft. His model aircraft was constructed for water takeoff and made a first successful attempt (it was not a controlled flight like the one of the Wright brothers in 1903, but more or less larger 'hops') in 1901 near Vienna. A controlled longer flight was not possible due to a heavy motor

* Kress came to Vienna in 1873, where he developed the first modern delta-flying hang glider in 1877. This hang-glider was a major achievement for the time, where many engineers still struggled with "heavier than air"-developments of non-motorised airvehicles.

* Eilmer (see above)

* To perform the manoeuvre of gliding downward against the breeze, utilizing both gravity and the wind, Eilmer employed an apparatus somewhat resembling a gliding bird. However being unable to balance himself forward and backwards, as does a bird by slight movements of his wings, head and legs, he would have needed a large tail to maintain equilibrium. Eilmer would have failed of true soaring flight in any event, but he might have glided down in safety if he had a tail.

William of Malmesbury says that Eilmer's flight was inspired by the Greek legend of Daedalus and Icarus " that, mistaking fable for truth, he might fly like Daedalus". Williams source for this, direct from Eilmer himself or colorful speculation, is unknown, however we know that William probably spoke directly with Eilmer as an old man, and is thus a primary source of which we have no reason to disbelieve.

Another source of Eilmer's inspiration is discussed by American historian Lynn White who speculates that "a successful glider flight was made in the year 875 by a Moorish inventor named Abbas Ibn Firnas living in Cordoba, Spain. It's entirely possible that word of Ibn Firnas' flight was brought to Eilmer of Malmesbury .. by returning Crusaders."

Eilmer typified the inquisitive spirit of medieval enthusiasts who developed small drawstring toy helicopters, windmills, and sophisticated sails for boats. As well, church artists increasingly showed angels with ever-more-accurate depictions of bird-like wings, detailing the wing's camber (curvature) that would prove beneficial to generating the lifting forces enabling a bird -- or an airplane -- to fly. This climate of thought led to general acceptance that air was something that could be "worked." Flying was thus not magical, but could be attained by physical effort and human reasoning.


Joseph and Jacques invented the first aircraft to carry humans into the sky, the hot air balloon.

Hot air balloons are the oldest successful human flight technology

Hot air balloons that can be propelled through the air rather than just being carried along by the wind are known as airships or, more specifically

Hot air balloons that can be propelled through the air rather than just being carried along by the wind are known as airships or, more specifically

Unmanned hot air balloons are mentioned in Chinese history. Zhuge Liang in the Three Kingdoms era used airborne lanterns for military signaling. These lanterns are known as Kongming lanterns.

There is also some speculation that hot air balloons were used by the Nazca Indians of Peru some 1500 years ago as a tool for designing vast drawings on the Nazca plain.

The first clearly recorded instances of balloons capable of carrying passengers used hot air to obtain buoyancy and were built by the brothers Josef and Etienne Montgolfier in Annonay, France. They were from a family of paper manufacturers who had noticed the ash rising in fires. After experimenting with unmanned balloons and flights with animals, the first balloon flight with humans on board took place on 21 November 1783. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but a young physicist named Pilâtre de Rozier and the Marquis Francois d'Arlandes successfully petitioned for the honor. The first hot air balloons were basically cloth bags (sometimes lined with paper) with a smoky fire built on a grill attached to the bottom. They had a tendency to catch fire and be destroyed upon landing.

The first military use of aircraft took place during the French Revolutionary Wars, when the French used a tethered hot-air balloon to observe the movements of the Austrian army during the Battle of Fleurus (1794). Hot air balloons were also employed during the American Civil War. Though the military balloons used by the Union Army Balloon Corps under the command of Prof. Thaddeus S. C. Lowe were limp silk envelopes inflated with coke gas or hydrogen, the Confederate Army did attempt to counter with a rigid Montgolfier style hot air, or "hot smoke balloon." Captain John R. Bryant inflated his rigid cotton balloon with a fire of oil-soaked pine cones. The balloon was soon captured by Union forces as the Confederate's techniques of balloon handling were not competent.


The first modern hot air balloon was designed and built in 1960 by Ed Yost. He made the first free flight of such an aircraft in Bruning, Nebraska on 22 October 1960. Initially equipped with a plastic envelope and kerosene fuel, Yost's designs rapidly moved onto using a modified propane powered "weed burner" to heat the air and lightweight nylon fabric for the envelope material.

Today, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. There are some 7,000 hot air balloons operating in the United States.

Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,290 meters (69,852 feet). He took off from downtown Bombay, India and landed 240 km (150 miles) south in Panchale. The previous record of 19,811 meters (64,980 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988 in Plano, Texas.

The furthest that a hot air balloon has ever been flown is 7,671.91 km. On January 15, 1991, the Virgin Pacific Flyer balloon completed the longest flight in a hot air balloon when Per Lindstrand (born in Sweden, but resident in the UK) and Richard Branson of the UK flew from Japan to Northern Canada.

The first modern hot air balloon was designed and built in 1960 by Ed Yost. He made the first free flight of such an aircraft in Bruning, Nebraska on 22 October 1960. Initially equipped with a plastic envelope and kerosene fuel, Yost's designs rapidly moved onto using a modified propane powered "weed burner" to heat the air and lightweight nylon fabric for the envelope material.

Today, hot air balloons are used primarily for recreation. There are some 7,000 hot air balloons operating in the United States.

* Hot air balloons are able to fly to extremely high altitudes. On November 26, 2005, Vijaypat Singhania set the world altitude record for highest hot air balloon flight, reaching 21,290 meters (69,852 feet). He took off from downtown Bombay, India and landed 240 km (150 miles) south in Panchale. The previous record of 19,811 meters (64,980 ft) had been set by Per Lindstrand on June 6, 1988 in Plano, Texas.

The furthest that a hot air balloon has ever been flown is 7,671.91 km. On January 15, 1991, the Virgin Pacific Flyer balloon completed the longest flight in a hot air balloon when Per Lindstrand (born in Sweden, but resident in the UK) and Richard Branson of the UK flew from Japan to Northern Canada.

* An airship is a buoyant aircraft that can be steered and propelled through the air. Unlike aerodynamic craft (e.g. airplanes and helicopters) which stay aloft by moving an airfoil through the air in order to produce lift, aerostatic craft such as airships (and balloons) stay aloft primarily by means of a cavity (usually quite large) filled with a gas of lesser density than the surrounding atmosphere.

In the early days of airships, the primary lifting gas was hydrogen. Until the 1950s, all airships, except for those in the United States, continued to use hydrogen because it offered greater lift and was cheaper than helium. The United States (until then the sole producer) was also unwilling to export helium because of its rarity and the fact it was considered a strategic material. However, hydrogen is flammable when mixed with air, a quality that some think contributed to the Hindenburg disaster, as well as other rigid airship disasters. The buoyancy provided by hydrogen is actually only about 8% greater than that of helium[1] . The issue therefore became one of safety versus cost. American airships have been filled with helium since the 1920s and modern passenger-carrying airships are often, by law, prohibited from being filled with hydrogen.

* In many countries, airships are also known as dirigibles from the French dirigeable, meaning "steerable." The first airships were called dirigible balloons. Over time, the word balloon was dropped from the phrase.

The term zeppelin is a genericised trademark that originally referred to airships manufactured by the Zeppelin Company.

In modern common usage, the terms zeppelin, dirigible and airship are used interchangeably for any type of rigid airship, with the terms blimp or airship alone used to describe non-rigid airships. In modern technical usage, however, airship is the term used for all aircraft of this type, with zeppelin referring only to aircraft of that manufacture, and blimp referring only to non-rigid airships.

The term airship is sometimes informally used to mean any machine capable of atmospheric flight.

* In contrast to airships, balloons are buoyant aircraft that generally rely on wind currents for movement, though vertical movement can be controlled in both.

Rigid airships (for example, Zeppelins) have rigid frames containing multiple, non-pressurized gas cells or balloons to provide lift. Rigid airships do not depend on internal pressure to maintain their shape. Non-rigid airships (blimps) use a pressure level in excess of the surrounding air pressure in order to retain their shape. Semi-rigid airships, like blimps, require internal pressure to maintain their shape, but have extended, usually articulated keel frames running along the bottom of the envelope to distribute suspension loads into the envelope and allow lower envelope pressures. Metal-clad airships have characteristics of both rigid and non-rigid airships, utilizing a very thin, airtight metal envelope, rather than the usual rubber-coated fabric envelope. Only two ships of this type, Schwarz's aluminium ship of 1897 and the ZMC-2, have been built to date.

Rigid airships (for example, Zeppelins) have rigid frames containing multiple, non-pressurized gas cells or balloons to provide lift. Rigid airships do not depend on internal pressure to maintain their shape. Non-rigid airships (blimps) use a pressure level in excess of the surrounding air pressure in order to retain their shape. Semi-rigid airships, like blimps, require internal pressure to maintain their shape, but have extended, usually articulated keel frames running along the bottom of the envelope to distribute suspension loads into the envelope and allow lower envelope pressures. Metal-clad airships have characteristics of both rigid and non-rigid airships, utilizing a very thin, airtight metal envelope, rather than the usual rubber-coated fabric envelope. Only two ships of this type, Schwarz's aluminium ship of 1897 and the ZMC-2, have been built to date.

Airships were among the first aircraft to fly, with various designs flying throughout the 19th century. They were largely attempts to make relatively small balloons more steerable, and often contained features found on later airships. These early airships set many of the earliest aviation records.

* In 1784 Jean-Pierre Blanchard fitted a hand-powered propeller to a balloon, the first recorded means of propulsion carried aloft. In 1785, he crossed the English Channel with a balloon equipped with flapping wings for propulsion, and a bird-like tail for steerage.

* The first person to make an engine-powered flight was Henri Giffard who, in 1852, flew 27 km (17 miles) in a steam-powered airship.

* In 1872, the French naval architect Dupuy de Lome launched a large limited navigable balloon, which was driven by a large propeller and the power of eight people. It was developed during the Franco-Prussian war, as an improvement to the balloons used for communications between Paris and the countryside during the Siege of Paris by German forces, but was only completed after the end of the war.

* Charles F. Ritchel made a public demonstration flight in 1878 of his hand-powered one-man rigid airship and went on to build and sell five of his aircraft.

* Paul Haenlein flew an airship with an internal combustion engine on a tether in Vienna, the first use of such an engine to power an aircraft.

* In 1880, Karl Wölfert and Ernst Georg August Baumgarten attempted to fly a powered airship in free flight, but crashed.

* In the 1880's a Serb named Ogneslav Kostovic Stepanovic also designed and built an airship. However the craft was destroyed by fire before it flew.

* In 1883, the first electric-powered flight was made by Gaston Tissandier who fitted a 1-1/2 horsepower Siemens electric motor to an airship. The first fully controllable free-flight was made in a French Army airship, La France, by Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs in 1884. The 170 foot long , 66,000 cubic foot airship covered 8 km (5 miles) in 23 minutes with the aid of an 8-1/2 horsepower electric motor.

* In 1888, Wölfert flew a Daimler-built petrol engine powered airship at Seelburg.

* In 1896, a rigid airship created by Croatian engineer David Schwarz made its first flight at Tempelhof field in Berlin. After Schwarz's death, his wife, Melanie Schwarz, was paid 15,000 Marks by Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin for information about the airship.

* In 1901, Alberto Santos-Dumont, in his airship "Number 6", a small blimp, won the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize of 100,000 francs for flying from the Parc Saint Cloud to the Eiffel Tower and back in under thirty minutes. Many inventors were inspired by Santos-Dumont's small airships and a veritable airship craze began world-wide. Many airship pioneers, such as the American Thomas Scott Baldwin financed their activities through passenger flights and public demonstration flights. Others, such as Walter Wellman and Melvin Vaniman set their sights on loftier goals, attempting two polar flights in 1907 and 1909, and two trans-atlantic flights in 1910 and 1912.

* The beginning of the "Golden Age of Airships" was also marked with the launch of the Luftschiff Zeppelin LZ1 in July of 1900 which would lead to the most successful airships of all time. These Zeppelins were named after von Zeppelin. Von Zeppelin began experimenting with rigid airship designs in the 1890's leading to some patents and the LZ1 (1900) and the LZ2 (1906). At the beginning of WW1 the Zeppelin airships had a cylindrical aluminium alloy frame and a fabric-covered hull containing separate gas cells. Multi-plane tail fins were used for control and stability, and two engine/crew cars hung beneath the hull driving propellers attached to the sides of the frame by means of long drive shafts. Additionally there was a passenger compartment (later a bomb bay) located halfway between the two cars.

two events which ultimately contributed to the exploration of space. On Jan. 7, 1785 a manned balloon flight successfully crossed the English Channel from England to France, and on Jan. 9, 1793, the first American exhibition of manned lighter-than-air flight took place in Philadelphia.

The balloons, which were developed toward the end of the 18th Century, are often thought of nowadays as beautiful toys—a pleasant concept, but a mere sidebar to aviation history. That is not the case, as Franklin himself knew. Sir Joseph Banks, a leading botanist and president of the British Royal Society from 1778 to 1820, had known Franklin in his London days, and corresponded with him in Paris. Although ostensibly a man of science, Banks looked at ballooning from a Newtonian worldview, and wrote to Franklin that, “I see an inclination in the more respectable part of the Royal Society to guard against the Ballomania [until] some experiment likely to prove beneficial either to society or science is proposed.”

Franklin had told Banks that experimenting with balloons would someday “pave the way to some discoveries in natural philosophy of which at present we have no conception.” He answered Banks’ objection by writing that “It does not seem to me a good reason to decline prosecuting a new experiment which apparently increases the power of man over matter until we can see to what use that power may be applied. When we have learned to manage it, we may hope some time or other to find uses for it, as men have done for magnetism and electricity, of which the first experiments were mere matters of amusement.” When a spectator at one of the early balloon launchings asked Franklin what this new invention could be used for, Franklin gave his famous answer: “What is the use of a new-born baby?”

Although scientists had been fascinated with the possibility of human flight at least since the time of ancient Greece, direct work on flying machines did not yield the desired results. The early days of aviation actually stemmed from research on the composition and properties of gases, one of those gases being the air itself. European scientific research had been badly disrupted during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648), but after the Treaty of Westphalia in 1648, coordination among scientists in the various European countries was resumed. When one of Ben Franklin’s Boston mentors, Increase Mather, travelled to London in 1688 to try to maintain the independent charter of the Massachusetts Bay Colony, he met with many of the scientists working on the composition of gases. Over the period of his four-year stay, Mather saw Robert Boyle almost weekly, and attended many meetings of the Royal Society. He also probably talked with the leading scientist in the field, Christiaan Huygens, when he visited London during Mather’s stay there.

During Franklin’s lifetime, other researchers had taken up the work, and the composition of ordinary air was established. Many scientists worked with both gases and electricity, since the latter could be used to separate out the components of a gas or to combine two components to produce a third, as in the work of Henry Cavendish. Franklin had encouraged Joseph Priestly, an English minister, to make scientific experiments, and in 1767, Priestly authored, with Franklin’s collaboration, the “History and Present State of Electricity.” Priestly also experimented with gases, and in 1774 he produced what he called “dephlogisticated air,” which later would be produced by French chemist Antoine Lavoisier and named “oxygen.”

Lavoisier was a member of the French grouping which included Gaspard Monge, Lazare Carnot, and Claude Berthollet. This republican faction, also known as the “American faction,” worked closely with Benjamin Franklin in supporting the American Revolution.

They also attempted to carry on the work of Jean-Baptiste Colbert, the French statesman who had built up France’s infrastructure through public works and expanded education. Lavoisier himself was responsible for initiating the building of canals, the establishment of savings banks, and the installation of street lighting in Paris. In June of 1783, Lavoisier published his research on the gas discovered by Henry Cavendish in England, and named it “hydrogen.”

This research on gases came to the attention of Joseph and Jacques Montgolfier, two brothers who ran a paper manufactory near Lyons, France. Joseph had developed a strong interest in chemistry, and had set up a small laboratory. Jacques, an architect, had invented the first vellum paper. While working with samples of their paper, Joseph discovered that heated air inside a paper bag could lift it to the ceiling. The brothers collaborated for two years on their hot-air balloon project, and first conducted an unmanned flight from the market place of Annonay.

A regional assembly of deputies had been meeting in the town, and it sent word of the flight to Paris. The Marquis de Condorcet, head of the French Academy of Science, set up a committee to investigate the invention and to study possible improvements and uses. The aerostatic commission included Lavoisier, Monge, and Berthollet. While the Montgolfiers were preparing for a longer flight at Versailles in front of King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, another scientist entered the lists. This was Jacques Charles, who had repeated all of Franklin’s electrical experiments in order to confirm them, and was now using hydrogen gas in public demonstrations, forcing it through a tube to blow bubbles which would mount to the ceiling.

Charles determined to build a hydrogen balloon, and Benjamin Franklin contributed funds toward the project. Such a balloon was difficult to fill, because the hydrogen had to be produced by using iron filings and dilute sulfuric acid. Charles overcame the obstacles, and it required a thousand pounds of iron and half as many pounds of acid to produce enough hydrogen to fill his small balloon. On Aug. 27, 1783, from the Champ de Mars, the balloon was launched and flew 15 miles before it burst, due to the low pressure at high altitudes. Then, on Sept. 11, the Montgolfiers sent up a hot-air balloon at Versailles, with three passengers aboard: a sheep, a duck, and a rooster riding in a cage. The seven-minute flight was a success, and afterwards, all France talked of nothing else. On Nov. 21, the first aeronauts, a scientist named François de Rozier and a minor nobleman named François d’Arlandes, flew from the Bois de Boulogne in a Montgolfier balloon and covered five miles in 25 minutes. Franklin witnessed the flight, and was one of the scientists who signed the official certification of the history-making ascension when the Montgolfiers called on him at Passy on the following evening.

On Dec. 1, Jacques Charles and Noel Robert were launched in a hydrogen balloon from the Tuileries and quickly reached 2,000 feet. Franklin, suffering from gout, watched from his carriage. Charles had developed technological improvements, which included a valve to relieve internal pressure if the balloon rose too high, and ballast to toss overboard if the balloon fell too rapidly. Charles also took with him a thermometer and a mercury barometer, and when he made a second flight alone on the same day, he reached 9,000 feet in ten minutes. He demonstrated that an aeronaut could make meteorological observations at high altitudes, and his own calculations showed that the barometer had fallen by over nine inches, and the temperature dropped from 50 to 20 degrees Fahrenheit.

‘Charles’s Law’

From the research on hydrogen balloons, came Charles’s Law, also developed by Joseph Gay-Lussac slightly later, which states that if the pressure on a gas is constant, its volume is directly proportional to its temperature. Once Gay-Lussac had discovered this property of gases, he, too, became a balloonist, and in 1804, he ascended to more than 23,000 feet in order to test magnetism and the composition of the atmosphere at high altitudes.

By 1785, an aeronaut named Jean-Pierre Blanchard determined to cross the English Channel in a hydrogen balloon. In London, he met John Jeffries, a physician from a patriot family in Boston, who had taken a job as a physician to the Royal Navy, and had remained with the Crown during the Revolution. Jeffries financed the building of the balloon and their test flight over London carried experiments suggested by Henry Cavendish. The air samples gathered at various altitudes were subjected to chemical analysis, and the 12 observations of temperature, pressure, and humidity produced values which closely agree with modern measurements.

Then, on Jan. 7, 1785, Blanchard and Jeffries took off from Dover. Their crossing was fraught with difficulties, and the two passengers were forced to drop their ballast. Still flying too low, their food was jettisoned, followed by their aerial oars, rudder, a hand-cranked propeller, grapnels, rope, and then even their heavy outer clothes. Finally, just as they were about to climb onto the ropes in order to stay afloat as the balloon went into the water, a breeze drove them over the cliffs of Calais and they landed in France.

A few days later, they met with Louis XVI and then had dinner with Franklin at Passy. These two, and Franklin’s grandson Temple, were the recipients of the first air-mail letters, sent from London in the balloon. Franklin wrote to James Bowdoin in Boston, that, “I sent to you some weeks since, by Mr. Gerry, Dr. Jeffries’ account of his aerial voyage from England to France, which I received from him just before I left that country. My acquaintance with Dr. Jeffries began by his bringing me a letter in France, the first through the air, from England.”

Eight years later, Blanchard, who had developed a prototype of the parachute, came to Philadelphia and New York to demonstrate balloon flight to the American public. Franklin had died in 1790, but President George Washington, Franklin’s coadjutator in helping to develop the steamboat, attended the demonstration and provided Blanchard with a passport which instructed all Americans to give him aid when he landed. Blanchard took off from Philadelphia on Jan. 9, 1793, and landed 15 miles and 46 minutes later in Woodbury, New Jersey.

“Dunlap’s American Daily Advertiser” described the crowd as “an immense concourse of spectators” which was notable for its awed silence when the balloon began to rise. “Indeed,” said the newspaper, “the attention of the multitude was so absorbed, that it was a considerable time e’er silence was broke by the acclamations which succeeded.”

By the time Blanchard visited America, Dr. Jeffries had already returned to Boston and resumed the practice of medicine. His son, John Jeffries, founded the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary. His grandson, Benjamin, also became an eminent opthalmologist, and lived until 1915, long enough to have the pleasure of learning about the Wright brothers’ successful flight in an airplane, 118 years after his grandfather’s perilous flight across the English Channel.



Compared to Europe, ballooning was slow to develop in the United States even though respected Americans such as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson told the American public about the aeronautical developments in Europe. False reports in the U.S. press of flights probably contributed to the public's disinterest and skepticism. For instance, the New York Sun had reported that an Irish balloon enthusiast, Monck Mason, and his companions had landed in South Carolina after ballooning across the Atlantic Ocean. The article turned out to be a hoax. Another published account, which described a flight by James Wilcox in Philadelphia that reputedly had occurred on December 28, 1783, also was false.

Although Peter Carnes flew a number of tethered flights in Bladensburg, Maryland in June 1784, the first real balloon flight in the United States did not occur until the Frenchman François Blanchard ascended from the yard of the Washington Prison in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, on January 9, 1793. That day, President George Washington, the French ambassador, and a crowd of onlookers watched Blanchard ascend to about 5,800 feet (1,768 meters). He then drifted to a landing in Gloucester County, New Jersey. It was Blanchard's 45th ascension.

Blanchard carried the first piece of airmail with him, a "passport" presented by that President Washington that directed "all citizens of the United States, and others, …they oppose no hindrance…to the said Mr. Blanchard" and help in his efforts to "establish and advance an art, in order to make it useful to mankind in general."

Blanchard's flight was successful, and he planned a second flight. But he couldn't pay off his debt from his first flight and raise enough funds to cover his new expenses. He tried raising money by charging to fly small tethered balloons with animal passengers in them that were attached to parachutes. A fuse would release the parachutes automatically and the animals would float back to earth. The income generated by this scheme was still insufficient, however, for his needs. After a few more efforts to raise money, he returned to France in May 1797.

The first successful American aeronaut was Charles Ferson Durant. On September 9, 1830, he made his first ascent from New York's Castle Garden. He was the first person to drop leaflets from the sky, scattering copies of poems he wrote that told of the joys of flight.

As in Europe, ballooning in the United States became a regular form of entertainment at fairs and celebrations. The foremost American aeronauts were Durant, John Wise, Thaddeus S.C. Lowe, John LaMountain, and Rufus Wells. The public referred to them as "professors." Wise often dropped cats or dogs in parachutes from his balloons. Sometimes, Wise permitted his balloon to burst and serve as a parachute to lower him to the ground. He also invented the ripping panel on the balloon.

The Atlantic Ocean presented an ongoing challenge to American aeronauts. Wise tried for more than ten years to raise funds for a balloon flight to Europe. He finally succeeded in 1859 when O.A. Gager, a wealthy balloon enthusiast, financed the building of the 50,000-cubic-foot (1,416 cubic-meter) Atlantic, which had a lifeboat suspended beneath it. On July 2, 1859, Wise, LaMountain, Gager, and a reporter left St. Louis and flew 809 miles (1,302 kilometers) in this balloon to Henderson in Jefferson County, New York. The flight, which lasted 19 hours 50 minutes, was threatened by a violent storm that almost drove them into Lake Ontario. Wisely, the aeronauts, instead of relying on their lifeboat, cut it adrift and gained the additional lift they needed. Wise also jettisoned a bag of mail consigned to the group by the United States Express Company. This was the earliest airmail delivery in the United States. The flight established an official world distance record for non-stop air flight that would stand until 1910.

After that flight, LaMountain took possession of the damaged Atlantic and repaired it in anticipation of another flight. In September 1859, with John Haddock, editor of the Watertown, New York Reformer, LaMountain ascended from Watertown in what was billed as a "short experimental flight." However, winds blew the balloon into Canada where the two were stranded in the wilderness for four days without food or adequate clothing until they reached shelter. LaMountain's next foray into ballooning would be in the U.S. Civil War.

Lowe, who would also use balloons during the Civil War, had the urge to cross the Atlantic Ocean by balloon too. He built the Great Western for that purpose but could not get enough gas to inflate it in New York. He took the balloon to Philadelphia to be inflated. He departed from there on June 28, 1860, on a short test flight, landing on the sand flats of New Jersey.

Lowe had planned his ocean voyage for September 8, 1860. Unfortunately, shortly before his planned departure, a sudden wind squall burst and completely destroyed his balloon. Lowe persevered, however. He decided to follow the advice of Joseph Henry, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, and begin with a trial flight in the Midwest to take advantage of the air currents coming from the west. He left Cincinnati, Ohio, on April 20, 1861, in the Enterprise, but the winds carried him into South Carolina where he received a hostile reception from the local people. He took off again immediately, but his second landing was equally inhospitable and he was jailed. A co-balloonist procured his release, but he was soon arrested again as a Yankee spy. With the onset of the U.S. Civil War, he put thoughts of an Atlantic voyage aside and joined the Union army, which may have saved him from drowning in the Atlantic.

On June 17, in 1861, on the grounds of the Columbia Armory in Washington, the specially equipped Enterprise ascended on tethers to a height of 500 feet, carrying Lowe and representatives of the American Telegraph Company. Using telegraph equipment aboard the ship and cables that ran along one of the rigging wires to the ground and from there to the War Department and the White House, Lowe sent the world's first telegraphic transmission from the air:

The ingenuity of this demonstration was not lost on the commander in chief. Lowe had firmly cemented his relationship with Lincoln. For the rest of the evening of the 17th, the Enterprise was moored on the South Lawn of the White House, while Lowe remained as a guest in the executive mansion. Meanwhile, back in Troy, New York, LaMountain was preparing to accept an offer from another quarter. He had been waiting in vain for word from the War Department, when, on June 5, he received a letter from Major General Benjamin F. Butler, in command of Union forces at Fort Monroe, Virginia. Butler had learned of LaMountain's offer of service and requested that the aeronaut make preparations to journey to Fort Monroe and demonstrate his balloon. LaMountain encountered a number of delays, ranging from financial shortages to the lack of a hydrogen gas generator suitable for use in the field, but he finally arrived in Virginia late in June. He had already heard of Lowe's telegraphic ascent in Washington and publicly dismissed the feat as having "neither value nor advantage."

Ballooning revived after the Civil War, and a new generation of aeronauts emerged who were also caught up with the idea of crossing the Atlantic. It was veteran aeronaut John Wise, however, who managed to secure financing for the venture and build the Daily Graphic, a two-story balloon with a capacity of 600,000 cubic feet (16,990 cubic meters). John Wise and Washington Harrison Donaldson were both parties to and signatories on the contract with The Daily Graphic's publishers, not only John Wise. But he withdrew from the venture because of a dispute with his sponsors and was replaced by his partner W.H. Donaldson, who had performed stunts and acrobatic feats in balloons. Donaldson departed on October 6, 1973, but his attempt was unsuccessful and he landed in the Catskill Mountains in New York, damaging his balloon irretrievably. The balloon in which Donaldson made his attempt was the New Graphic, not the Daily Graphic; he ascended on October 7, 1873, not on "October 6, 1973"; he landed at New Canaan, Connecticut, not in the "Catskill Mountains in New York." He disappeared on another flight two years later when he was forced into Lake Michigan during a storm. Wise also perished in Lake Michigan on September 29, 1879.


On a November night in Paris in 1908, Wilbur Wright addressed a group of French aviation enthusiasts gathered to honor him and his brother, Orville, saying that this honor was really a tribute to "an idea that has always impassioned mankind." With these words, Wilbur Wright recognized what might be called the universal aspiration to fly. This desire to elevate oneself above one's environment--to conquer the ocean of air--can be seen as a perennial struggle evident in nearly every civilization from classical times to the early twentieth century. As Wilbur spoke that night in his typically understated style, he seemed to suggest that, instead of achieving this age-old dream of mankind, he and Orville had been merely participants in an ancient and ongoing human struggle.

Myth and Religion

From the beginning of recorded history, the theme of flight can be found in myth and legend, as well as in art, literature, and organized religion. Almost every culture has its own version of winged angels and devils, horses and dragons, as well as flying carpets and chariots. The world's folklore is replete with stories of soaring gods and flying heroes who, unlike humans, are able to navigate what Wilbur called "the infinite highway of the air."

The exhibition begins with the classic flying myth of Daedalus and Icarus, and uses rare books, prints, and manuscripts to look at the idea of flight through ancient times. The exhibition brings to light a strikingly symbolic uniformity--that the idea of flight suggests freedom and connotes supernatural power in most cultures.

Flying remained an unattainable dream into the Renaissance when the human need to know and to understand nature was awakened. As the epitome of the Renaissance man, Leonard da Vinci serves as the transition between what was imagined and the more experiential attempts to achieve human flight. Da Vinci applied a scientific approach to the problem, analyzing bird flight and conducting experiments dealing with air resistance and control. His efforts presaged the methods of the seventeenth century and its scientific revolution.


Among the nearly 5,000 pages of notes made by the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) are designs for flying machines. They include a pyramidal parachute, a model helicopter, and several flapping-wing devices. The latter were inspired by da Vinci's long study of birds. Although his work should mark him as a pioneer of flight, Leonardo left his manuscripts to a friend who never made them public. Only in the late nineteenth century did the world begin to appreciate his scientific approach to aeronautics.

More than a century before the Montgolfiers' successful demonstration of the hot-air balloon, Francesco Lana Terzi (1631-1687), a priest and professor of mathematics in Ferrara, Italy, advanced the concept of a lighter-than-air vehicle. Based on earlier studies of atmospheric pressure and vacuum, Lana Terzi describes an airship that would be raised by four spheres of wafer-thin copper from which the air had been evacuated. Although an impractical idea, it contained at least a germ of scientific truth.

To see if the upper atmosphere would sustain life, on September 19, 1783, Joseph (1740-1810) and Etienne (1745-1799) Montgolfier sent aloft a rooster, a sheep, and a duck in a balloon they designed. Released at Versailles before Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, the hot-air balloon soared to about 1,700 feet before landing safely two miles away with all aboard still alive. One of the first to reach the cage was Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, who would become the first man to fly, and later to die, in a balloon.

The attempt to conquer nature through science led to a growing body of both serious and imaginative literature regarding flight, setting the stage for the first successful aeronautical idea--the concept of lighter-than-air flight. The display briefly reviews the history of balloons culminating in the Montgolfier brothers’ successful manned ascent at Versailles in 1783, witnessed by Benjamin Franklin. The dream was still only partially realized since, as Benjamin Franklin presciently remarked, these great bags of gas and their airship successors “must always be subject to be driven by the Winds . . . .” In short, balloons could rise, but horizontal flight was not in their control.


The first manned balloon flight, in a Montgolfier designed hot-air balloon on November 21, 1783, lasted twenty-five minutes and landed about five-and-one-half miles from the Paris site where it started. The volunteer "aeronauts" were Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier (1757-1785) and the Marquis d'Arlandes (1742-1809). Benjamin Franklin was among the spectators. In a letter to Sir Joseph Banks, President of the Royal Society of London, Franklin presciently observes the lack of navigational control, saying, "These Machines must always . . . be driven by the Winds. Perhaps Mechanic Art may find easy means to give them progressive Motion."

Less than two weeks after the ground-breaking Montgolfier flight, the French physicist Jacques Alexandre César Charles (1746-1823) and M.N. Robert (1758-1820) made the first untethered ascension with a gas (hydrogen) balloon. Charles combined his expertise in making hydrogen with Robert's new method of coating silk with rubber. The "Charlière" exceeded the earlier Montgolfier hot-air balloon in time in the air and distance traveled. With its wicker gondola, netting, and valve-and-ballast system, it became the definitive form of the hydrogen balloon for the next 200 years. The throng in the Tuileries Gardens was reported as 400,000--half the population of Paris.

The first successful parachute descent from a balloon was made by Frenchman André Jacques Garnerin (1770-1823) in Paris on October 22, 1797. When opened, the parachute resembled a huge umbrella about thirty feet in diameter. It was made of canvas and was attached to a hydrogen balloon, shown streaming away at the left in this copy of a well-known painting by Etienne Chevalier de Lorimier. After being released at 3,000 feet, the parachute swung violently side-to-side because the canvas could not "spill the wind," allowing air to pass through it.

Little more than three months after the first manned balloon flight, Jean Pierre Blanchard (1753-1809) designed a hydrogen balloon with flapping devices to control its flight. The bold, self-promoting Blanchard soon moved to England, where he became the darling of a small group of enthusiasts, including Boston physician, John Jeffries. Jeffries offered to pay for what became the first flight across the English Channel. Here the pair approaches France on January 7, 1785. Jeffries later wrote that they sank so low that they threw everything overboard including most of their clothing, arriving safely on land "almost naked as the trees."

In this fanciful view published in 1843, the "Aerial" flies over the Egyptian pyramids and looks surprisingly like an early twentieth-century monoplane. Conceived and designed by William Samuel Henson, this design looks as if it actually could have flown. Although unable to fly for various technical reasons, it can be considered the first rational expression of a powered, heavier-than-air machine. Henson is also credited with introducing the modern notion of the pusher propeller.

The Tissandier brothers were balloonists, who made many ascents and documented their travels in writing and illustrations. Gaston (1843-1899), a writer, and Albert (1839-1906), an illustrator, worked together to develop a design for an electric-powered airship in 1885. Albert made this drawing of their balloon called Zénith and the spectacular lunar halo and luminescent cross they observed on a March 1875 ascent

By the mid-nineteenth century, balloons were a common sight in Europe. They were especially popular in France because ballooning was thought to be born there. Therefore, it is not surprising that there existed a demand for commemorative cards in late-nineteenth-century France. This sheet of ten uncut cards, each individually captioned and numbered, shows color images of dramatic events in ballooning history from 1783 to 1846.

During 1809 and 1810, the brilliant English engineer George Cayley (1773-1857) laid the foundation for what would be called "aeronautical engineering." Caley published several articles that mark the first steps toward heavier-than-air flight. He realized that the main problem for achieving flight lay in making "a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air." In 1843, Cayley designed an "aerial carriage" that featured rotating blades that could be converted into fixed wings for forward flight.


Early balloons were not truly navigable. Attempts to improve maneuverability included elongating the balloon's shape and using a powered screw to push it through the air. Thus the airship or dirigible--a lighter-than-air craft with propulsion and steering systems--was born. Credit for the construction of the first navigable airship belongs to French engineer, Henri Giffard, who, in 1852, attached a small, steam-powered engine to a huge propeller and chugged through the air for seventeen miles at a top speed of five miles per hour.


Full-scale gliding began with Otto Lilienthal, whose daring glides offered inspiring evidence that mechanical flight was possible. This early publication features Lilienthal on the cover and was part of the small aeronautical library that the Wrights assembled in the years before they actively took up the problem of flight. Written by a wealthy American manufacturer, James Means, this work presents the great Lilienthal as a model to emulate and seeks to encourage others to follow his lead.


Published originally in Berlin in 1889, Otto Lilienthal's The Flight of Birds as the Basis for the Art of Flying eventually came out in this enlarged edition and included an account of his aerial experiments. As a young boy, Lilienthal became obsessed with the idea of flight. As an adult, his main experimental goal was to learn which natural wing shapes would serve him best. He built several gliders, making more than 2,000 glides. When he was killed in a crash on August 9, 1896, he was already planning to attempt a powered flight.


As a devoted student of aeronautical history and author of the first factual history of man's attempt to fly, the French-born American engineer Octave Chanute (1832-1910) was also a vigorous experimenter. Having designed gliders in 1896, Chanute took his biplane and triplane gliders to the dunes on Lake Michigan, where they were flown experimentally by his protégés. Chanute was the first person to whom Wilbur Wright revealed his hopes and plans for solving the problem of manned flight.