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The First Aeronautical Engineers

Posted by air_lifter Thursday, January 22, 2009

Venue: Wind swept sand dunes of Kill Devil Hills, 4 miles south of Kitty hawk, North Carolina, United States of America

Time: about 10.35 AM (Thursday), December the 17th of 1903 AD

Characters: Heroes - Orville and Wilbur Wright (brothers) Other characters include 5 local witnesses.

What happenned? : Wright brothers achieved the milestone with successful flight of Wright FlyerI.

Lets leave this moment of 1903 and get back to our topic. You may think that this is a bit weird that I am telling you to get back to our topic as I am already talking about aeronautical engineers who got first flight and amazed the world.

I have a question for you, when did man started thinking of flying? Were the Wright brothers the first to think about flying in the sky. Actually, they were motivated from other early aeronautic engineers in the field. We have ancient stories; Greek myth of Daedalus and his son Icarus who flied in the sky and went near the sun and finally died unfortunately because the wings made of wax liquidified. This shows that man had interest in flying from very ancient ages.

Again returning to today and loking at the present world, this is 21st century and it is of no amaze that the humans also can fly in the sky. This has been possible with the invention of aircraft and the dramatic developments in aviation technology. The compliment for this achievement goes not only to a single person in the aviation history but there are many persons linked to the development beginning from Aristotle to the scientists and engineers of the present world. Without this deveopment, it wouldn’t have been possible to go around the space or to land on the moon or to discover planets and satellites. Just after a century of its successful invention, aeroplanes have been most important means of transportation and now even the far trips around the world are possible in just a day by means of planes.

Ornithopters: Various ancient and medieval people fashioned wings and met with sometimes disastrous and unsuccessful consequences leping from towers or roofs, flapping vigrously. The concept of flapping wings on arms failed and was replaced by various mechanical mechanisms, powered by some type of human arm or leg or body movements. Such machines are called ornithopters.

Montgolfier: Montgolfier is well-known for his hot air ballon. On Novemebr 21, 1783, Montgolfier hot air ballon lifted from the pround near Paris which can be taken as the first aerial voyage on history.

Sir George Cayley (1773-1857): "The True Inventor of the Airplane". In 1799, he engraved on a silver disk the concepts of a fuselage, a fixed wing and horizontal and vertical tails. He is the first person to propose separate mechanism for the generation of lift and propulsion. He was teh first one to define the shape of aircraft as fuslage, fixed wings and tails. He is called as the grandfather of the concept of the modern airplane.

William Samuel Henson (1812-1888): He was a contemporary of Caley. In April 1843, he published a design for a fixed wing airplane powered by a steam engine driving two propellers, called as the aerial steam carriage.

John Stringfellow: He was a friend of Hension and made several efforts to bring Henson's design to fruition. He built several small steam engines and attempted to power some model monoplanes off the ground. He was close but unsuccessful. However, his most recognized work appeared in the form of a steam-powered triplane. Although it was unsuccessful too, but again it was influential and carried publicity.

Felix du Temple: Du Temples' airplane is called the first powered airplane although it was not completely successful. It was teh first powered airplane which hopped off the ground but for only hops. In 1857/58, French engineer Temple flew the first successful powered model airplane in history. It was a monoplane with forward wept wings and was powered by clockwork but it was then assisted takeoff. It is thus noit a truly controlled, sustained flight in history.

Mozhaiski : Alexender F. Mozhaiski designed a aircraft in 1884 which was a steam powered monoplane. His design was a direct descendant from Henson's aerial steam carriage. With I>N Golber as pilot, this plane was launched down a ski ramp and flew for a few seconds. As with Du Temple airplane, no sustained flight was achieved.

Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896) : This is a huge name in the history and is known as the gliderman in the history of aviation. He earns the credit of first fully successful gliders in history. During the period from 1891 to 1896, he achieved more than 2000 successful glider flights. He developed a new flying philisophy and obtained many aerinautical data. If he had not been unexpectedly killed in a glider crash in 1896, Lilienthal might have achived powered sustained flight before the Wright brothers. Actually, he was the one from whom Wright Brothers were interested in flyers.

Percy Pilcher (1867-1899): He is the extender of the glider tradition. He followed the traditon of gliding with Lilienthal. He was a Scot engineer, enthousiastic towards Lilienthal's work . He made several glides from artificial hills. In 1897, he calculated that an engine of 4hp weighting no more than 40lb, driving a 5 feet diameter propeller would be necessary to power his plane Hawk off the ground. Thus, he spent 1898 designing and constructing such an engine. It was completed and bench-tested by the middle of 1899. Then, it was a bad day for him as his work couldnt kiss success when he was killed while demonstrating his Hawk glider. The weather was bad and on his first flight, the glider was throughly water soaked. On his second flight, the heavily soked tail assembly collapdes and Pilcher crashed to the ground. It was a great loss to aeronautics that missed Pilcher at the age of 33. Had he not been dead, he would have achieved a lot lot successes.

INTRODUCTION OF AERONAUTICS IN AMERICA: America was busy consolidating a new government and expand its frontiers. There was thus not much interest or time for serious aeronautical endeavours. But once the wave came to America, the solution of flying came which in Europe was just hanging. Thereafter, as the success was achieved in America, there was a lot of development in Europe than that in America. So, the base was created in Europe and the achievement was made in America. After that, the flourishment and dramatic development was seen in Europe. The credit od beginning of aeronautical research goes to Octave Chaunte.

Octave Chaunte (1832-1910) : He was a French born American and a resident of Chicago. He became interested in mechanical flight in the 70s of 19th century only. He published books and assimilated several aeronautical informations he could find. His major specific contricution to the aviation was teh successful biplane glider which introduced the effective Pratt truss method of structural rigging. The Wright Brothers were directly influenced by the biplane glider, and in this sense Chaunte provided the natural bridge between Stringfellow's triplane (1868) and the first successful powered flight(1903).

Samuel Pierpint Langley (1834-1906): Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian institution, achieved the first sustained - heavier than air unmanned powered flight with his first scale AERODOME in 1896. However, his attempts at manned flight are unsuccessful, the last one failing on December 8th, 1903 - just 9 days before the Wright Brothers stunning success. His AERODOMES were tanden-winged vehicles, powered by a 1-hp steam engine of Langleys own design. He was influenced by John Stringfellow's small aerosteam engines.

Wilbur Wright(1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948): Wright brothers are the inventors of the first practical real airplane which was manned, and powered plane which flew for more than a minute from the ground and sustained to a height. One of tje greatest day in aeronautics history, indeed in the history of humanity and technology, is December 17, 1903. Their successful flight revolutionized life during the 20th century.

* The development of aeronautics takes off exponentially after the Wright Brothers public demonstrations in Europe and the United States in 1908. The ongoing work of Glenn Curtiss and the Wrights and the continued influence of Langley's early work form an important triangle in the development of aeronautics before World War I. The hard competition between Wrights and Curtis can be seen as an important phase in the development of aeronautics. Curtis is also one of the greatest aerinautical engineer in teh post-1st plane era working and developing designs of airplanes. He designed many faster and effecient planes.

The faster and higher challenge in aeronautics was the work for the aeronautical engineers around and after World Wars I and II. In fact, the world wars contributed to the development of aviation too when the whole world was attenting to make est aircraft and the fighter planes. Before world war I, the problem of propulsion was the one fot aircraft. Coming now, there are much powerful engines which can propel a huge jet and even spacecrafts. Today, the maximum speed of flight has been pushed to the extreme values of 36,000 ft/sec , which is the escape velocity from the earth by Apollo linar spacecraft. And the maximum height to fly has been achieved in 1969 when man landed on moon. It is just to see what will happen in the future !

Summary : In brief, the following names are the most important names in the history of aeronautics.

- Sir George Cayley

- John Stringfellow

- Otto Lilienthal

- Samuel P. Langley

- Wright Brothers

- Glenn Curtiss

This was a short history about the development in aviation technology. In the coming posts, I will write more about Airfoils, Wings and othere aerodynamic shapes and discuss how an aircraft gains lift and what are the effects of drag.

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