Aviation refers to the activities involving aircraft, including the people, various support, operational and manufacturing organisations, and regulatory bodies associated with them.

Many individuals and societies have built devices with the aim of being able to travel through the air. Such manifestations range from the earliest projectiles, such as stones and spears, to more sophisticated, buoyant or aerodynamic structures, such as the mechanical pigeon of Archytas in Ancient Greece, the boomerang in Australia, the hot air Kongming lantern, and kites.

There are ancient tales of human flight, such as the fanciful story of Icarus, to the more credible claims of short-distance human flights, such as a kite flight by Yuan Haungtou in China, and the parachute flight and controlled glider flight of Armen Firman.

The true age of aviation began in 1783. Up to then, attempts had involved machines linked to the ground by ropes. However, this represented the first untethered manned flight, in a hot air balloon, designed by the Montgolfier brothers.

Since balloons had the limitation of being only able to travel downwind, then it was quickly realised that a steerable, or dirigible, balloon was required. The challenge was taken up by Jean Pierre Blanchard who, in 1784, flew the first human-powered steerable balloon. Then, in 1785, he went one step further by crossing the English Channel in one.

These machines were subsequently developed further, with such innovations as machine-powered propulsion, in 1852, the addition of rigid frames in 1896, and improved speed and maneuverability by 1901.

Whilst there are many conflicting claims with regards the earliest powered flight, the consensus is the 1903 flight by the Wright brothers. However, this aircraft was impractical to fly for more than a short distance due to severe control problems.

The introduction of ailerons made aircraft much easier to handle, and only a decade later, World War 1 powered aircraft had become practical solutions for reconnaissance, artillery spotting, and even attacks against ground positions.

Soon, as they developed into larger and more reliable machines, aircraft had begun to transport people and cargo. In contrast to small non-rigid blimps, which are airships without an internal supporting framework or keel, giant rigid airships became the first aircraft to transport passengers and cargo over great distances.

The best known aircraft of this type were manufactured by the German Zeppelin company. Probably the best known and most successful Zeppelin airship was the Graf Zeppelin which flew over a million miles, including an around-the-world flight in 1929. However, as airplane design advanced, the dominant position of the Zeppelins over the aircraft of the period, even though they had a range of only a few hundred miles, was steadily being eroded.

The "Golden Age" of the airships finally ended, on June 6, 1937, when the Hindenburg caught fire, killing 36 people, whilst it was in the process of landing. Even today, there is no clear evidence to suggest the cause of the conflagration.

Although periodic attempts have been made to revive their use, the efforts have mostly been in vain, and limited to niche applications. Could the fate of the Hindenburg be a contributing factor?

Aviation – How To Succeed

Author's Bio: 

Peter Radford writes Articles with Websites on a wide range of subjects. Aviation Articles cover History, Aircraft Types, Air Traffic Control.

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