Amazing History of Flight

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Finish Well Homeschool Podcast, Podcast #139 Amazing History of Flight, with Meredith Curtis on the Ultimate Homeschool Podcast Network

Amazing History of Flight

In “Amazing History of Flight,” Episode, #139, Meredith Curtis introduces you to the amazing history of flight! Aviation history is thrilling. Meredith touches on some of the highlights and the men who risked their lives because they believed they could somehow fly. Unit study, delight-directed suggestions given too!



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Show Notes

Each time I fly, I’m overwhelmed by the miracle of flight—that we can soar through the air on a huge heavy plane!

Aviation history is thrilling. I want to dive into every detail! Instead, I’ll just touch on some of the highlights from early flight adventures. I’m hoping this will inspire your family to explore more!

Chinese Kites

A thousand years before Jesus was born, the Chinese people invented kites. They flew on their kites to spy on enemy troops.

Monk Oliver Breaks His Legs

A thousand years after Jesus’ birth, Benedictine Monk Oliver jumps from his Abbey with the aid of wings. After a very brief flight, he falls and breaks his legs.

Marco Polo Observes Humans Flying on Kites

When Marco Polo visited China, he was amazed to see huge kites carrying people!

Leonardo Designs Flying Machines

Leonardo Da Vinci draws a flying machine after studying bird wings.

Hezarfen Celebi Leaps & Lands

In Turkey, Hezarfen Celebi jumps from a tower and flies, landing in the market place of Scutari.

Model Hot Air Balloon

In Portugal, Father Bartolomeu de Gusmao creates a model of a hot air balloon. Then, he demonstrates how it works to King John V in 1709.

First Hot Air Balloon Rides

The Montgolfier brothers, Joseph and Jacques, create a hot air balloon in 1783. The have 3 successful flights: with human passengers, with animal passengers, and unmanned. The balloon is powered by burning wood.

The next year, the Montgolfier brothers fly in their hot air balloon with 6 passengers. Hot air balloons become popular!

Andre Parachutes Out of a Balloon

In 1787, Andre Jacques Garnerin leaps from a hot air balloon 2,000 feet in the air. Lucky for him, he is wearing a newly-invented parachute.

Sir George Cayley Builds a Glider

In 1799, Sir George Caylay of England created a design of a fixed-wing aircraft. 5 years later, he built and the first successful model glider.

In 1852, Sir George and his grandson George John Cayley completed a large glider that flew an adult.

Sir George Cayley was one of the first people to understand and identify weight, lift, drag, and thrust. He is considered the Father of Aviation.

Clement Flies a Steam-Powered Monoplane

In 1890, Clement Ader flew a steam-powered 1-wing plane a distance of 160 feet outside of Paris.

Otto Lilienthal

Otto Lilienthal enjoys several glider flights in the summer of 1891. These flights were observed to be safe and repeatable. People began to see gliding in a different light.

Over the next few years, he improved his designs. Unfortunately, he died in 1896 in a glider accident.

Zeppelin Airships

In 1900, the airship Zeppelin takes her first flight.

Wright Brothers

In 1892, the Orville and Wilbur Wright open a bicycle shop. However, their hearts are on flight. In 1900, the brothers took their first glider flight. In 1902, they modified their glider to make it more flyable.

On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers have the first successful powered, manned, heavier-than air flight. It lasts only 12 seconds.

Over the next few years, they modify their plane, improve their flying, and eventually start a business selling airplanes and training pilots. They sell their flights to Americans, British, French, Italian, and German buyers, and the US War Department.

Flying airplanes travels around the world with folks crossing the English Channel (Louis Bieriot), gaining speed (Glenn H. Curtiss wins speed tests), flying across North America (Cal Rodgers from NY to CA), and first night flight (Charles W. Hamilton).

First Helicopter

French inventor Paul Cornu flies the first helicopter in 1907. In 1939, Igor Sikorsky pilots a helicopter lifting off the ground 3 feet for 10 seconds. Later on, in the Vietnam War, helicopters will be the “work horse” of the USA Army.

World War I

The brand new airplanes are used in World War I for reconnaissance.

At first, enemy pilots just wave to each other. Soon, however, they begin to shoot at each other and throw grenades out of the planes on the enemy below. Dog fights become part of fighting in the air.

What is a dog fight?

A dog fight is a battle in the air conducted at close range. The fights often took the form of a dance between the pilots in the air with swooping and swirling and turning and dodging. Pilots learned to fly their planes in all different directions to avoid a hit.

Learn more about World War I heroes on this podcast: 7 Amazing World War I Heroes

Boeing is Born

In 1916, Boeing is founded by William Edward Boeing, an aviation pioneer. The company designs, manufactures, and sells airplanes. Later on, they will design, manufacture, and sell missiles, rockets, and satellites.

USS Langley

The USS Langley is the first American aircraft carrier, commissioned in 1926.

Charles Lindbergh

Charles Lindbergh flies across the Atlantic Ocean by himself in 1927 on the Spirit of St. Louis from New York to Paris.

Amelia Earnhart

Amelia Earnhart is the first woman to cross the Atlantic Ocean.

Toy Airplanes

Model Airplanes become popular in the 1930s as little boys dream of growing up to be pilots.  At the end of the century, remote control planes become popular with kids, and even more popular with dads.

Airship Crashes in New Jersey

German airships Zeppelins are a popular form of transportation until one crashes in New Jersey in 1937 and burst into flames.

Commercial Airlines

Just like the Wright brothers started a business selling planes and giving pilot lessons, other folks start businesses flying passengers in planes. The first commercial airline companies are founded in 1920:  KLM ( Netherlands) and Qauntas (Australia). Finnair (Finland) is founded in 1923.

Early European airlines are spacious and comfortable. Passenger cabins are luxurious. In America, Pan Am and Northwest Airways are the only airlines with international flights in the 1930s.

World War II

In 1941, US fighter pilots fly across the Pacific together, the Tuskagee Airmen (first black fighter squadron) is formed, and there is a surprise fighter pilot attack on the naval base in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii. The USA enters World War II immediately. Airplanes play a huge role in the battles of World War II, ending in an Allied victory!

Learn more by listening to this podcast: Pearl Harbor 12.7.41

Golden Age of Flying

Jet airliners were introduced in the 1950s and good-bye to noisy propellers. Though plane tickets are expensive, you will be treated like royalty once you are on the airplane with unlimited food, drinks, and snacks. Magazines, newspapers, pillows, and blankets are provided to passengers. To get on your airplane, you have to walk across the tarmac and climb up stairs.

The flight crew (pilots and flight attendants) operates the airplane and takes care of the passengers. planes have three pilots: the captain, the first officer, and a navigator. The ground crew takes care of everything at the airport with flight dispatchers, baggage handlers, ramp agents, aerospace engineers, gate agents, ticket agents, reservation agents, and crew schedulers.

What Happens Next

From jumbo jets to rockets with the Concorde flying faster than the speed of sound, flight has continued to advance throughout the 20th Century and on to the 21st.

This brief history of aviation is a great jumping off point for a unit study. Here are some suggestions:

  • Pilots
  • Aviation Pioneers
  • Airline Companies
  • Aviation Manufacturers
  • Airports
  • Fligth Careers

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