The Origins Of Flight

Have you ever imagined that you could fly? Throughout time people have tried to fly like birds. From the earliest times there are tales and myths about Gods and kings flying.

A well known Greek legend is that of Daedalus and his son Icarus, who escaped from imprisonment by King Minos, of Crete. They made wings out of bird feathers and wax and flew out of the prison. Icarus was so happy at being able to fly that he ignored his father’s warning not to fly too close to the sun. Legend says that the sun melted the wax on his wings and Icarus fell into the sea and drowned.

In around 1500 BC, myth tells us that the King of Persia, Kai Kawus flew around in his throne, powered by four geese, which were harnessed to the throne. The king flew with a bow and arrow to protect him from other fliers!

When ordinary people started to try and fly it was often by jumping off tall structures and flapping their arms to copy birds! By 1485 AD things were taken a bit more seriously. The Italian inventor, scientist and artist Leonardo da Vinci realised people couldn’t fly, because they didn’t have enough muscle power. He set about designing flying machines, like the ‘Ornithopter’, which was like an early helicopter. In total Leonardo designed about 150 flying machines, but unfortunately none of them ever left the ground.

People began to experiment with flying machines. In 1670 a priest called Francesco de Lana-Terzi designed a lighter than air machine, which would be lifted by air pumped into spheres made from copper. Although his idea never worked, the Montgolfier brothers further developed the idea using the lifting power of air to make a machine fly.

In 1783 after experimenting with paper bags, which would float above bonfires, Jacques and Joseph Montgolfier built the first successful flying machine using a large silk bag, which was lifted by hot air. The first people to actually fly in one of these balloons were Jean Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent on 21st November 1783.