1. Technology
  2. Top 10 Lists

10 Early Flying Machines That Shaped the History of Aviation

Flying was the dream came true in the medieval era; however, in modern society, flying is a common phenomenon thanks to a wide variety of modern flying machines. Now one can fly at will using these machines. In 1961 marked one of the greatest feats in the history of aviation, venturing beyond the sky into space which was way beyond the dreams and imagination of men and women of before this period. The journey in the sky has attracted fascinatingly incredible inventions in the world. Some of the early flying machines encompass hot air balloons, airplanes, airships among others. Most of the flying machines were successful while others barely functioned. However, their contributions paved the way for modern aviation machines. The list takes a look into the top ten early flying machines that changed the aviation industry from around the world.

The First Hot-Air Balloon

The first inventions in the aviation industry came to inform of hot air balloons after the Montgolfier brothers Jacques and Joseph realized that hot air was lighter than air. They started experimenting with balloons and parachutes during the mid-18th century in France. The Montgolfier brothers built the first silk-paper lined balloon on 4th of June 1783, filled with electric smoke (hot air) and launched with nobody on board. The balloon flew up to around 2,000 meters high and traveled a distance of about 2 kilometers in 10 minutes. The word of their success spread like fire in a desert, attracting the attention of the King of France.

On 19th September 1783 they launched an exhibit with a sheep, chicken, and a duck on board which rose to a height of over 6, 000 feet, lasted for 8 minutes and traveled a distance of about 2 miles. King Louis XVI, Marie Antoinette, and over 130, 000 people witnessed the demonstration. The success warranted the launch of the first human-crewed Hot Air balloon flight with Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozie on board on 15th October 1783 in Paris France. The success helped advance the hot air balloon as a flying machine in the aviation industry to help overcome limitations. The hot air meant that the flight comes to an end when the air inside starts to cool down. Therefore, hydrogen was introduced because its lighter than air. It paved the way to further innovations in this sector across the world.[1]

Dumont Personal Airship No. 6

The Dumont Personal Airship Number 6 was an airship designed and built by a young Brazilian plantation owner who was also the aviator pioneer in Brazil. The inventor of the machine was Alberto Santos Dumont who was famous in the dirigible aircraft building. He was known for developing the first airport in Brazil. On the journey to construct the Dumont Personal Airship No.6, he developed the dirigible. No 5 in 1900 which lost gas on his first attempt, forcing him to shut down the engine. He immediately resumed work for a replacement after escaping the wreck without any injury.in 1901, following his designs, Dumont built the Dumont Personal Airship No.6 flying machine.

19th October of the same year, he flew the airship as the pilot from Parc Saint Cloud flying around the Eiffel tower and back, marking his outstanding feat in aviation industry and was awarded the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize worth 5, 000 francs which he donated half to the poor people of Paris and half to his technicians. This particular airship is historically significant as being among the aircraft inventions that bridged the gap between lighter than air flying machines and heavier than air flying machines in the aviation industry. It was reported as the first airship to succeed during its era genuinely.[2]

Aerial Steam Carriage

William Samuel Henson was an engineer and an aviation inventor who was knowledgeable with aeronautical works and ideas advanced by George Cayley. With this knowledge, Henson designed and developed the largest model of the flying machine of its time which was meant to carry passengers. The design of the aircraft was large with enough space to accommodate passengers. The machine was named the “Aerial Steam Carriage” in the sense that it was powered by steam engine and was monoplane with a wingspan of about 150 feet. The monoplane flying machine design with large wings in the range of 150 feet and was accustomed to being propelled by the custom-designed light steam engine was the first largest flying machine idea to be invented. The first design was invented in 1842.

However, its first model was created, assembled and built in 1843 and received its patent the same year, the aerial steam carriage was successfully built but failed to gain flight because the steam engine was believed to be too heavy for flight. The flying machine managed a single slight hop as the steam engine was not powerful enough to propel the weight of the flying machine off the ground. Scholars in the aviation industry acknowledge that Henson and his team renovated and advanced on this design and produced the 1848 Aerial Steam Carriage which was reported to have traveled a short distance. This was an improvement. However, by 1849 Henson had abandoned his Aerial Steam Carriage plane ideas partly because of financial constraints. To date, if you look around in the aviation industry, you will be able to trace Henson ideas advanced into modern aviation machines.[3]

Wright Flyer

The Wright Flyer was the first successful heavier than air powered flying machine in the history of aviation. The aircraft revolutionized the aviation industry as it paved the way for innovations and renovations on their idea to develop modern aircraft machines. The Wright Flyer is also known as the Flyer or 1903 Flyer, was the work of two brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright who were living Dayton, Ohio USA. The 1903 Flyer was a biplane aircraft designed based on the 1902 biplane glider the Wright brothers had been working on and testing it at Kitty Hawk. The first attempt to fly the machine failed on December 14th, 1903.

After renovation and amelioration on the flyer, the Wright Flyer aircraft was flown four times on 17th December for a distance of 36.6, 53.3, 61, and 260 m with Orville as the pilot. The biplane was never flown again, and it is currently displayed in the National Air and Space Museum of Smithsonian Institution located in Washington DC. As the first is heavier than air flying machine in history, the flyer was a strong, flexible biplane structure. It was fueled or powered by four gasoline engine cylinder which was designed by the Wright’s themselves with 12.5 horsepower systems. The engine was fixed using chain drive transmission to twin contracting propellers turned at a speed of 348 rotations per minute.[4]

Phillips Multiplane

The theory of a series of multiplanes machines was designed and developed by the Horatio Phillips, a British inventor known for advancing the science of aerodynamics using airfoil surfaces in the 1880s. the production of Multiplane started from 1893 a variety of this type of flying machines encompassing the 50-wing coal-propelled machine, the first one which completely failed to become airborne. It was unmanned. The second he produced was a multiplane conventional 20 wing multiplane that attained a hope flight of 50 feet in 1904.

In 1907, he opted back to the 1893 multiplane version or design with the renovation and used a petrol engine instead of the coal fuel/ steam engine which aviation scholars indicate achieved a flight of about 500 feet, though it had cost Phillips $6,000 on wings alone. If the scholars are right, the Phillips Multiplane was the first powered flying machine ever developed in Britain. He gave up because of the financial expenses incurred in his last experimental development. However, his contributions to the aviation industry cannot be ignored. For instance, his study and idea of cambered airfoil were used in almost all subsequent plane developments and creations.[5]

Degen Ornithopter

The Swiss-Austrian pioneer and aviation inventor Jacob Degen invented the ornithopter, the flying machine affixed with wings, in 1807. The concept of the ornithopter was to imitate the flight of birds using wings and human muscles. During this period, different studies and experiments were based on ways the human being could attain the ability of the bird, to fly. The human generation was fascinated and amused with birds and the way they could fly; the substantial effort was dedicated to actualizing the flying abilities of birds with the help of flying machines and the swinging and flapping human muscles to achieve flight off the ground.

The first attempt with the help of flying machine was by Degen who according to reports, successfully made the free float flight with ornithopter like a bird. In 1808, Degen used the hot air balloon with the ornithopter flying machine which allowed him to achieve the free-float flying for hours. Degen performed this several times in exhibits and demonstrations in Vienna and Paris in the period between 1808 and 1817. The idea was used later with inventors in the aviation industry with improvements in using fixed wings instead of flapping wings like birds.[6]

1804 Cayley Glider

the most acknowledged figure in the history of aeronautics lived during the 19th century; Sir George Cayley, a British engineer. He was regarded by many as the father of aerodynamics because he was the first to discover and understand the underlying principles and forces of flight. He conceptualized modern airplane and flying machines in 1799, and he is famously recognized for experimenting his principles with gliders that use human resources because there were no engines to power his machines during the period. the first model he ever developed was in 1796 which was a helicopter model with contra propellers. It followed improvements encompassing adding the inscribed silver medallion to show the force in flight and monoplane gliding machine sketch. The 1804 monoplane glider design built using the principles of aerodynamics was the first flying machine sustain flight while flying and was controllable. The models he sketched contributed to designing and building of modern helicopter plane designs.[7]


The Wright brothers Flyer inspired Santos Dumont, and he designed and built the 14-bis in 1906 at Neuilly Saint-James near Paris France. It was known in the records of history for making the first powered flight outside of America. The 14-bis flying machine was a box kite design in shape with three-celled wings on both sides. The primary intention was to test the 14-bis while hanging on the gas bag of one of the Dumont Airships. The testing constituted a total of 9 flight take-off attempts with the 14-bis highest record being more than 220 meters. It won him an Aero Club de France Price worth 1,500 francs with the longest flight in the 14-bis flying machine lasting 21 seconds. It left a mark in the aviation industry that inspired modern generation airplane designers and scientists.[8]

Flettner Airplane

the Magnus principle states that rotating sphere in a fluid generates sideway force, Flettner tested the principle using boats. After realizing that replacing the propeller of the ship with cylinders powers the ship, he ventured into designing an airplane. The Flettner Airplane applied the same principle and replaced the wings/propellers with big metallic cylinders, two engines one fixed strategically spin the cylinders and another to power the standard aircrews. On paper, the Flettner airplane should be able to fly. However, there is no record of this model flying. The modern aviation scholars and engineers used Flettner’s research to build the remote-controlled version of Flettner airplane, and they proved that it works and the plane could fly. Flettner was thought to have produced airplanes for the Germany Luftwaffe during the Second World War and is recognized to have designed helicopters for the United States after the war. Therefore, his contribution to modern aviation is massive.[9]

1896 Chanute Glider

The three American pioneers in the aviation industry history, William Avery, Octave Chanute, and Augustus Herring designed and built the biplane glider in 1896 as a hang flying machine. In the sector of hang gliders, they followed the design of the legendary Otto Lilienthal’s work on hang gliders. The completed gliders were tested in Indiana Dunes in August and September of 1896 by Herring and Chanute. They carried out several hundreds of the controlled flights using the gliders and records indicate that they reached 350 feet and longest airborne duration ranged between 10 and 14 seconds. Based on historical records in the aviation inventions, the 1896 Chanute Glider was the most successful of its time. it inspired further works in the sector, thus contributed positively to the changes in the modern aviation industry.[10]

Comments to: 10 Early Flying Machines That Shaped the History of Aviation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Attach images - Only PNG, JPG, JPEG and GIF are supported.


Welcome to Posticle

Brief and amiable onboarding is the first thing a new user sees in the theme.
Join Typer