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An Ode To Aviation

The Flight Side
An Ode To Aviation

Delving into significant landmarks and events along the progression of flight in human history

Most of us take flying for granted and we are fortunate to be living in this jet age. Since the beginning of time, men have always dreamed about taking to the air and flying like birds.

The famous Greek legend tells the story of Daedalus who made wings for his son Icarus so that he could fly. But he flew too close to the sun causing the wax that joined his wings to melt and he fell to his death.


Man-made flying objects have evolved from the kite to the hot air balloon and from the glider to jet aircrafts that are common today.

The following is an interesting chronology of aviation:

1,000 BC: Kites were invented in China.

852 BC: Legend has it that an English king by the name of Bladud attempted to fly using artificial wings strapped to his arms but he failed and died in his attempt.

1485–1500: Leonardo da Vinci sketched some blueprints for flying machines.

Leonardo da Vinci (inset) sketched some blueprints for flying machines

1709: Bartolomeu Laurenço de Gusmao, a Portuguese priest, designed a model glider.

1783: The Montgolfier brothers flew the first untethered manned hot air balloon in Paris.

1804: George Cayley, an English engineer, successfully flew a model glider and in 1843, he published the design for a convertiplane followed by a biplane a few years later.

1895: Otto Lilienthal’s biplane gliders took flight.

1903: Orville and Wilbur Wright go on record for inventing and flying the first airplanes.

The Wright brothers would go on record for inventing and flying the first successful airplane

1904: New Zealander Richard Pearse made his first recorded powered flight. Living in a remote country and unconcerned about fame, he received little credit for his work.

Kiwi Richard Pearse made his first recorded powered flight

1906: Alberto Santos-Dumont made the first successful powered flight in Europe.

1909: French aviator, inventor and engineer Louis Blériot became famous for being the first to fly an aircraft across the English Channel – in his Model XI 25 horsepower monoplane from Les Barraques, France to Dover, England.

Louis Blériot becomes famous for being the first to fly an aircraft across the English Channel

1911: George Bolt launched a glider that he had designed and built in New Zealand. He also took the country’s first aerial photographs.

John Alcock and Arthur Brown(L); Charles Lindbergh

1919: British aviators John Alcock and Arthur Brown made the first non-stop trans-Atlantic flight in a modified First World War Vickers Vimy bomber from St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada to Clifden in Ireland.

1927: American Charles Lindbergh completed the first solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight from New York to Paris.

1930: Frank Whittle, a Briton, invented the jet engine.

1932: Amelia Earhart, an American, became the first woman to fly a solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight, on the Fokker Friendship.

Earhart becomes the first woman to fly a solo non-stop trans-Atlantic flight, on the Fokker Friendship

1939: Germany flew the first fully jet-propelled aircraft called Heinkel 178.

1947: Charles Yeager, a former US air force pilot, successfully flew faster than the speed of sound while testing the X-1 research airplane.

1961: Yuri Gagarin from the Soviet Union became the first man to travel into space.

1969: Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin became the first men to walk on the moon on the Apollo 11 mission.

1969: A giant leap for mankind

1970: The Boeing 747 made the first commercial flight.

Concorde (top) takes off in 1976; Delore sets new world record with glider

1976: The joint French-British Concorde launched its first passenger-carrying service.

1979: Bryan Allen broke the distance record for human-powered flight by pedalling his Gossamer Albatross across the English Channel.

1981: NASA launched Columbia, the first manned space shuttle that flew into space, orbitted the earth and returned safely.

1986: Americans Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager successfully flew the Voyager aircraft in a nine-day non-stop, non-refuelled flight around the world.

2009: New Zealander Terry Delore flew a glider over 2,400 km, setting a new world record.

2011: In an unmanned test, the Martin jetpack reached an altitude of 1,524 metres. The jetpack, a small flying device for one person, was invented by New Zealander, Glenn Martin.

Terrafugia Transition

2012: An American company unveiled the Terrafugia Transition, the world’s first flying car at the New York International Auto Show. 

2016: Bertrand Piccard and André Borschberg flew 40,000 km around the world in a solar-powered airplane without using a drop of fuel.





Photos © iStock by Getty Images

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