From Dream to Reality: The History of Aviation

Flying was an ancient dream of a man, the legend of Icarus, Pushpaka and Vimana in the epic Ramayana confirm this.

You always have the desire to fly, whether you take a flight or not, but have you ever asked yourself how that miracle plane that takes you by air from one place to another in the blink of an eye was made? These questions must come to you while you are on a flight or even when not. So, let me take the trouble of thinking from you and I’ll tell you the history of aviation and the stages of aircraft development.

1) The Greeks

In about 400 BC, the Greek mathematician, astronomer, philosopher and statesman Archytas designed the oldest flying machine, which he called the pigeon Prestera. It’s said to have been stuck with a rope or tube when it flew.

2) Hot air balloons and kites in China

  • Air balloons have been known in China since ancient times and were called the “Kong Meng lantern”, and this invention is attributed to a Chinese officer (180-234 AD) and his honorary title is Kong Meng. He said that the reason they used it was to scare the enemies.
Flying Chinese Lantern
Photo Credits: Getty Photos
  • In the fifth century BC, the Chinese Luban invented the wooden bird, which may be more like a large kite or may be the first glider.
  • During the Yuan dynasty (13th century CE) and under kings such as Kublai Khan, rectangular lamps became popular during festivities as they drew crowds to view them. Therefore, this design spread during the rule of the Mongols through the Silk Road to Central Asia and then to the Middle East, a similar plane lighting with rectangular lamps with suspenders is widely used in Tibetan ceremonies and the Indian Diwali celebrations, however, it has not been proven with evidence that these lamps were used by humans for flight.

3) Da Vinci and Ibn Firnas

Although Leonardo da Vinci tried to study the possibility of flying machines (heavier than air) around the year 1500 AD, this did not happen until about four centuries later.

“Leonardo da Vinci’s design of a wing flapping aircraft”, Credits – Getty photos

But before that, in 875, the Arab world, Abbas Ibn Firnas, flew with gliding wings for ten minutes. However it didn’t last long, and he fell and lost his life.

Photo Credits: Free Photo

4) Many other attempts

  • In 1783, the brothers Montgolfier and Jacques Charles enabled men to rise into the air with a machine lighter than air, accordingly, research on machines heavier than air has stopped.
Credits – Getty photos
  • At the end of the 18th century, the British Sir George Cayley made a helicopter in 1796, in 1808 he made an ornithopter, and in 1809 a glider flew without passengers.
George Cayley’s glider
Photo Credits:
  • William Hunsen and John Strengellaugh repurposed the work of George Cayley to make steam planes, but the engines were too heavy to fly and this led to technical advances in gliders and the study of aerodynamics.
  • In 1856, Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Briss made the first experiments with passenger gliding.
Photo Credits: Getty Photos
  • In 1871 the British Francis Herbert Wenham made the first wind tunnel to test models of aircraft.
Photo Credits: Getty Photos
  • In 1874, the Frenchman Felix de Temple launched a steam-powered glider from a cliff, but this was not considered literal flight, as neither a catapult nor a cliff should be used to put the machine in the air.
  • And some successive attempts using gliders: the German Otto Lillienthal, the British Parsi Belchard, the Americans John Joseph Montgomery and Maloney, the French Ferdinand Farbar, and the Voisin brothers.

5) Clement Adar

The first person to announce his success in flying was the Frenchman Clement Adar, piloting his plane in 1890, and his success was clearly visible, but the traces left by the wheels on the wet soil were not clearly visible in some places and completely disappeared for a distance of about twenty meters, and his flying machine made a long jump. There were no witnesses, except for some workers who were with Clement Adar, which led to the classification of this attempt with the first failed attempts to fly heavier than air. Clement Adar was unable to fly in front of official witnesses in 1891.

6) The Wright Brothers

The Wright brothers piloted their plane, the Flyer 2, on Kitty Hawk Hills on December 17, 1903. Both inventors flew after a lottery was given as to who would have the best chance to test their plane. First, Orville flew 39 meters for 12 seconds.

Photo Credits: NASA

This attempt is considered by many to be the first successful heavier-than-air flight.
But opponents, especially supporters of Alberto Santos Dumont, accused them of using a launch system to land.
Also, the small number of witnesses, because the inventors wanted to keep their methods secret, and the lack of evidence made their primacy in flight a field of doubt, but this flight was confirmed by subsequent attempts by the Wright brothers.

7) World War I

The first aircraft and first pilots were used for reconnaissance missions. And the first countries to use aircraft was Bulgaria in the first Balkan war against the Ottoman positions. The major countries rushed to own an air force and specialized aircraft in reconnaissance, interception, and bombing, and a record-breaking race began to achieve an advantage over the enemy, then the armament was modernized with the first machine guns carried on aircraft.

Photo Credits: Getty Photos

The parachute appeared as a means of survival. On the ground, major airfields and bases were built, and planes began to be manufactured in large quantities.
On October 5, 1914, the first air combat took place, and this was done by shooting down the first plane in the history of military aviation, which was won by the pilot Joseph Frantz against a German pilot, but Adolf Piqued became the first “hero pilot”, shooting down five planes in a day, before also becoming the first hero pilot to die in combat.

8) Airplanes today

With the end of World War II, signs of commercial aviation began to be used mainly in trade and transporting people and goods, and there were many air transport companies with lines that included North America, Europe and other parts of the world. This was to facilitate the conversion of heavy and medium bombers into aircraft for commercial use, but even with the end of the war and the great progress witnessed by aviation, the aircraft were in need of further improvement and development.

Photo Credits: Boeing

With the entry of the world into the Cold War phase, both the Communist camp and Western countries sought to develop their military air systems, and the position of jet aircraft was strengthened, and the Canadian Afro-Aro fighter became the fastest aircraft at the time. On the civil side, Boeing presented its new vision for commercial aviation by introducing the first Boeing 747 in 1969.

Once, the achievements continued with British Airways in 1976 using the supersonic Concorde capable of crossing the Atlantic Ocean in less than two hours. In the last quarter of the last century, most research and designs focused on improving navigational capabilities and air traffic control systems instead of developing aircraft, and several inventions appeared to improve the technical capabilities of automatic navigation until the planes reached the shape that is known now.


  • Getty Photos (Cover Photo)

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