The first powered, “heavier than air”, controllable plane took place back in 1903 whilst kites have been used for centuries and centuries, and it’s said that the first kite was launched 200 B.C in China. Kites used to have diverse uses in the human history as a children’s toy for generations as we all know them, but also they were used in wars to emit messages. In fields and farms to fly birds off crops, and in weather bureau to forecast weather, and finally the kite played a major role into developing the aerodynamic structure for the plane we now use and know.
In this article we will demonstrate how kites are considered to be the origin of our current airplane we know and use.
The four forces of flight
The conceptualizations and scientific bases that formed the act of launching a kite, are the same ones that are used to lift an airplane off the ground. As the principles of making any object fly can’t be changed, we shall indicate these principles as they are known by “The four forces of flight”.
The different shapes of kites
Inventing new shapes of kites introduced us to the four forces of flight as experimenting and launching each shape was teaching the inventor more about the flying bases.
- Lift: the force that lifts the kite up, and the force of the lift must overcome the force of gravity.
- Weight: the force of gravity that holds the kite to the ground.
- Thrust: the force that pushes the kite in a forward direction.
- Drag: the push of the wind against the kite.
Starting from the flat kite and the bowed kite that told us more about the force of lift and the force of gravity, we learnt that lift must be equal to weight and thrust must be equal to drag. Reaching out to the box shape and the tailless kite we knew more about the force of gravity and the thrust force, as a kite must rely on tension from the string and moving air created by the wind or the forward motion of the kite flyer to generate thrust, so we knew that in order to build a plane, the plane has to generate thrust with its own engines.
The final inventions before the first successful plane came out
Between 1799 and 1809 George Cayley experimented with many kites. Eventually, he was able to develop a heavier-than-air flying machine capable of carrying a passenger, and so clearly demonstrated the scientific reasons that prevented a person from flying with such a machine.
From that point on, we discovered more about the laws of aerodynamics.
Lawrence Hargrave experimented with many kite designs, coming out with the box shape as he was looking for a stable lifting surface to add an engine.
Alexander Graham Bell was also trying to build a powered kite and left his own trace into developing the appropriate design for a plane to fly.
The Wright brothers and the first successful motor-operated plane
After huge numbers of attempting flights, specifically in 1903 the Wright brothers came with the first motor-operated plane. Flying successfully, the plane came with a wooden airframe and wingspan of 12.3 meters or 40 feet, 4 inches.
The journey of inventing airplanes started years and years ago, many scale models have been built to reach the airplane design we now know. The aviation history hasn’t just begun with the Wright brothers as there were many ambitious inventors who dreamt of flying and their discoveries in science over centuries have absolutely helped us to fly easily and safely in our days.
- probonoaustralia.com (Cover Image)