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How And When Did The First Aeroplane Fly?

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Mythology tells of humans who tried to fly; for example, Daedalus and Icarus, who flew on wings of wax and feathers. Their example has caused the death of many would-be fliers who, for hundreds of years, hurled themselves from high places with frail, home-made wings strapped to their backs.

Gradually it was realized that man would never fly by copying the birds. Something new was needed. As far as we know, Roger Bacon (1214-92) was the first to suggest, "It's possible to make Engines for flying, a man sitting in the midst thereof..."In the seventeenth century, man turned his attention to lighter-than-air flights and so began the first hot-air and hydrogen balloon flights. A big disadvantage of the balloon, however, was that the occupants were completely at the mercy of the weather and were constantly being blown off-course. Man was still a long way from real flying.

The first heavier-than-air machine to fly was a model glider built in 1804. It was a 994 sq. cm. kite, mounted on a rod, with a tail at the rear. John Stringfellow's 1848 steam-powered monoplane was launched down a 9-metres-long inclined wire. It gradually climbed, after release, until stopped by a canvas screen.

The Russians claim that Alexander Mozhaisky flew in a huge steam-driven aircraft in 1882. In 1896, Dr. Samuel Pierpont Langley flew successfully, covering 925 meters, a 5 meter-span tandem-wing model.

On the 17th December, 1903, Orville Wright started the home-made engine of his powered aircraft and took to the air. Not much of a flight by modern standards—only thirty six meters. But it was enough to establish Orville and his brother, Wilbur, as the first to build and fly an aeroplane that achieved controlled and sustained flight by power.
Preston Watson is reputed to have flown successfully in 1902 in a biplane fitted with a Santos-Dumont engine, but this claim has never been officially upheld.

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