Aviation - From Instability To Disaster - Ch. 2


Chapter 2

A Brief History of Modern Aviation


"Sometimes, flying feels too God-like to be attained by man. Sometimes, the world from above seems too beautiful, too wonderful, too distant for human eyes to see.” – Charles A. Lindbergh


It might be said that the beginning of modern aviation was on December 17, 1903, with the success of the Wright brothers first ever heavier than air flight in Kitty Hawk North Carolina. To be Sure, others consider the beginning of modern Aviation to be November 21 1783 when two Brothers flew a hot air balloon for the first time in France.


As JACO observed. The Wright brothers designed and tested numerous kite and glider models between 1900 to 1902. Deeply disappointed in these designs, the Wrights built a wind tunnel and then created numerous devices that were used to measure the lift and drag on over two hundred wing designs. The Wrights finally found satisfaction with their third glider as it outperformed its predecessors and rigorous testing contributed to the field of aeronautical engineering. The Wrights were the first to seriously study the existing power and control problems. They discovered the solutions to the control problem by developing wing warping for roll control, yaw control, and a steerable rudder. The Wrights made the first sustained, manned heavier-than-air flight on December 17th, 1903. According to historians, the Wrights seemed to have the most advanced knowledge on heavier-than-air navigation during their time.


In 1906, Alberto Santos-Dumont announced his first takeoff with his machine entitled, “14-bis,” in Paris. He sets the world record by flying two hundred and twenty meters in twenty-one and a half seconds. Santos-Dumont was responsible for adding movable surfaces to the wings in order to gain lateral stability. Santos-Dumont made the Demoiselle monoplane, which was employed as Santos-Dumont's personal transportation. In 1908, he began working with the Clement-Bayard company to build the Demoiselle No. 19; the world's first mass-produced aircraft.


Notwithstanding this, the earlier aircraft had a lot of challenges because of their designs. Their level of practicality varied from design to design and was not able to be used for more than recreational uses and by hobbyists. One of the greatest leaves in aircraft construction design came from the Douglas Corporation with their DC – 3. Arriving in the 1930s, this aircraft was well-designed and structured enough to become the very first practical airliner. The level of safety was greater as it was not a dirigible, and thus, characterized reliability and safety.  


 As with many other technological advances, involvement of the military and warfare is always a great boost to  development and rapid deployment technology, aviation is not different. In fact, it could be accurately stated that much of the development within the aviation industry, was as a result of the advancement in the development of airframes and their power-plants for the use in the wars of World War I with most of the advancement coming through the development of aircraft to be used in World War II.


During the Second World War, all countries advanced their development and production of aircraft and flight-based weapons systems. Militaries from around the world used strategic bombers, dive bombers, fighter bombers, and ground-attack aircraft. The advent of the radar gave more room for coordinated and controlled deployment. In 1942, the world's first jet-powered bomber launched entitled, the “Arado Ar 234.” Helicopters also saw rapid development during World War II.


What is clear is that throughout the decades from the 1910s through to the 1970s the advancement in commercial flight was heavily influenced by its applications in major wars around the world. From the first world war all the way up to Vietnam and the Korean wars. It may also be accurate to state that, without these major wars it would've taken practically another century before we got to where we are today in modern aviation. Without the need for countries to define the most effective and powerful ways to raise war against their enemies, and using aviation as one of those catalysts we might have never seen the rise of the modern commercial airline, which was a direct result of the manufacturer's experiences in building large military airframes.


If we can extrapolate from this point forward, there's a lot to be said of the possible development because of this very influence of countries' ongoing fears. Take the following observation by JACO.


In the commercial aviation sector, the Concorde passenger jet plane retired during the early 21st century. It was fuel-hungry and could only carry a limited amount of passengers; however, it made room for emerging airlines, such as British Airways. Commercial airliners may become a thing of the past, because of full-scale attempts by military aviation to focus on the elimination of piloted planes. The introduction of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) may make this a possibility in the future. In 2003, the first autonomous flight across the Atlantic Ocean was successfully completed by a computer-controlled model aircraft. This could contribute greatly to the national defense against terrorist attacks, where the country became vulnerable to hijacked aircraft. In addition, it will contribute greatly to unmanned surveillance over city borders. (JACO, 2021)


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