First X flight (for various values of X)

Today being the 103rd anniversary of the Wright Brother’s first flight, I thought it might be nice to quickly cover some other first flights that preceeded the Wrights’ flight. Most of the following information is ripped and modified from the excellent gathering of information hosted at the Dalle Molle Institure for Artificial Intelligence.

The first recorded flight is the 1783 French hot air balloon flight originally authorized by King Louis XVI for 2 criminals under death-sentences, so to prevent risking the lives of normal citizens. After some pressing, the king relented and allowed the balloon’s creators take the flight. There is no word on whether the French subsequently surrendered to another nation upon landing.

The first powered flight was done via dirigible by Jules Henri Giffard in 1852. Giffard flew his hydrogen-filled steam-powered airship 27 kilometers from the Hippodrome in Paris to Elancourt at a speed of 5 kph (3 mph for us math and metric phobic Americans). He followed this flight up with another in a newer, betterairship in 1855. Again, no word on any French surrenders following the flights.

Another Frenchman, Clément Ader flew the first power, heavier than air craft – a steam-powered, bat-winger monoplane named Eole. He flew approximately 50 meters near paris. This was the first self-propelled lift-off capable flyer. You know the surrender bit – the joke is already old.

Otto Lilienthal was the next important flyer, making the first controlled heavier than air flight in a glider in 1894. His flight ran for roughly 300 meters. Lilienthal was a German man, so we might presume the French pre-emptively surrendered to his homeland shortly after his 300 meter controller glide completed. There is no information in history books to confirm or deny this surrender.

The last notable flight pre-Wrights, is the first controlled powered rigid-body flight in a Zeppelin. German, France, surrender, bleh. Even I am tired of the joke. But I hate to pass up a paragraph without mentioning it, given our great start with it.

Finally, after the Wright brother’s 1903 flight, there comes the first self-launched, self-propelled, controller, heavier-than air, rigid-body flight by Alberto Santos-Dumont, a Brazilian man who flew in France. To those in Brazil, this makes Santos-Dumont the real first-to-fly, as the Wright brothers needed a catapult for their flight. I’ll leave that to aviation scholars to argue. Since Santos-Dumont was not French, there was no need to surrender after his flight in France.

[tags]A brief history of first flights, Anniversary of the Wright brothers’ flight, Who was first to fly?[/tags]