The history of aviation has extended over more than two thousand years
from the earliest attempts in kites and gliders to powered heavier-than-air,
supersonic and hypersonic flight.
The first form of man-made flying objects were kites.The earliest known
record of kite flying is from around 200 BC in China, when a general flew a
kite over enemy territory to calculate the length of tunnel required to enter
the region.Yuan Huangtou, a Chinese prince, survived by tying himself to
Leonardo da Vinci's (15th c.) dream of flight found expression in several
designs, but he did not attempt to demonstrate his ideas by actually
With the efforts to analyze the atmosphere in the 17th and 18th century,
gases such as hydrogen were discovered which in turn led to the invention of
hydrogen balloons.Various theories in mechanics by physicists during the
same period of time, notably fluid dynamics and Newton's laws of motion,
led to the foundation of modern aerodynamics.Tethered balloons filled with
hot air were used in the first half of the 19th century and saw considerable
action in several mid-century wars, most notably the American Civil War,
where balloons provided observation during the Battle of Petersburg.
Some six centuries after Ibn Firnas, Leonardo da Vinci developed a hang glider design in
which the inner parts of the wings are fixed, and some control surfaces are provided
towards the tips (as in the gliding flight in birds). While his drawings exist and are deemed
flightworthy in principle, he himself never flew in it. Based on his drawings, and using
materials that would have been available to him, a prototype constructed in the late 20th
century was shown to fly. However, his sketchy design was interpreted with modern
knowledge of aerodynamic principles, and whether his actual ideas would have flown is not
known. A model he built for a test flight in 1496 did not fly, and some other designs, such as
the four-person screw-type helicopter, have severe flaws.
1783 was a watershed year for ballooning and aviation, between June 4 and
December 1 five aviation firsts were achieved in France:
On 4 June, the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their unmanned hot air
balloon at Annonay, France.
On 27 August, Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers (Les Freres Robert)
launched the world's first (unmanned) hydrogen-filled balloon, from the Champ
de Mars, Paris.
On 19 October, the Montgolfiers launched the first manned flight, a tethered
balloon with humans on board, at the Folie Titon in Paris. The aviators were the
scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the manufacture manager Jean-
Baptiste Réveillon, and Giroud de Villette.
On 21 November, the Montgolfiers launched the first free flight with human
passengers. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals
would be the first pilots, but Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, along with the
Marquis François d'Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor.They drifted 8
km (5.0 mi) in a balloon powered by a wood fire.
On 1 December, Jacques Charles and the Nicolas-Louis Robert launched their
manned hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, amid a crowd of
400,000.They ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet (550 m) and landed at
sunset in Nesles-la-Vallée after a flight of 2 hours and 5 minutes, covering 36 km.
After Robert alighted Charles decided to ascend alone.This time he ascended
rapidly to an altitude of about 3,000 metres, where he saw the sun again,
suffered extreme pain in his ears, and never flew again.
In 1856, Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Bris made the first flight higher than his
point of departure, by having his glider "L'Albatros artificiel" pulled by a
horse on a beach. He reportedly achieved a height of 100 meters, over a
distance of 200 meters.
The 1880s became a period of intense study, characterized by the
"gentleman scientists" who represented most research efforts until the 20th
century. Starting in the 1880s advances were made in construction that led
to the first truly practical gliders.Three people in particular were active: Otto
Lilienthal, Percy Pilcher and Octave Chanute. One of the first modern gliders
appears to have been built by John J. Montgomery; it flew one flight outside
of San Diego on August 28, 1883. It was not until many years later that his
efforts became well known. Another hang-glider had been constructed by
Wilhelm Kress as early as 1877 near Vienna.
Throughout this period, a number of attempts were made to produce a true powered aircraft.
However the majority of these efforts were doomed to failure, being designed by ill-informed
amateurs who did not have a full understanding of the problems being discussed by Lilienthal
In 1884, Alexander Mozhaysky's monoplane design made what is now considered to be a
powered take off assisted by the use of ramp, flying between 60–100 ft (20–30 m) near Krasnoye
In France Clément Ader built the steam-powered Eole and may have made a 50-meter flight near
Paris in 1890, which would be the first self-propelled "long distance" flight in history. Ader then
worked on a larger design which took five years to build. In a test for the French military, the
Avion III failed to fly and, caught by a gust of wind, was seriously damaged. Ader's later claims to
have achieved a flight of 300 meters were later proved false. Sir Hiram Maxim made a number of
experiments in Britain, eventually building an enormous 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg) machine with a
wingspan of 105 feet (32 m), powered by two advanced lightweight steam engines which
delivered 180 hp (134 kW) each. Maxim built it to study the basic problems of construction, lift
and propulsion. He used a 1,800 feet (550 m) track with a second set of restraining rails for test
runs. After a number of tests, on 31 July 1894 he started a series of runs at increasing power
settings.The first two were successful, with the craft lifting off the track. In the afternoon the
crew of three fired the boilers to full power, and after reaching a speed of over 42 mph (68 km/h)
about 600 feet (180 m) down the track the machine produced so much lift it broke one of
restraining rails and crashed after flying at a low altitudes for about 200 feet (61 m). Having
spent around £30,000, and unwilling to spend more, he abandoned these experiments, only
resuming his work in the 20th century, when he tested a number of smaller designs powered by
Also in Britain Percy Pilcher, who had worked for Maxim and had built and successfully flown
several gliders during the mid to late 1890s, constructed a prototype powered aircraft in 1899
which, recent research has shown, would have been capable of flight. However, he died in a
glider accident before he was able to test it.
The Wright brothers! Following a step by step method, discovering
aerodynamic forces then controlling the flight, the brothers built and tested
a series of kite and glider designs from 1900 to 1902 before attempting to
build a powered design.The gliders worked, but not as well as the Wrights
had expected based on the experiments and writings of their 19th century
predecessors.Their first glider, launched in 1900, had only about half the lift
they anticipated.Their second glider, built the following year, performed
even more poorly. Rather than giving up, the Wrights constructed their own
wind tunnel and created a number of sophisticated devices to measure lift
and drag on the 200 wing designs they tested. As a result, the Wrights
corrected earlier mistakes in calculations regarding drag and lift.Their
testing and calculating produced a third glider with a larger aspect ratio and
true three-axis control.They flew it successfully hundreds of times in 1902,
and it performed far better than the previous models. In the end, by
establishing their rigorous system of designing, wind-tunnel testing of
airfoils and flight testing of full-size prototypes, the Wrights not only built a
working aircraft but also helped advance the science of aeronautical
The years between World War I and World War II saw great advancements in aircraft
technology. Airplanes evolved from low-powered biplanes made from wood and fabric
to sleek, high-powered monoplanes made of aluminum, based primarily on the
founding work of Hugo Junkers during the World War I period and its adoption by
American designer William Bushnell Stout and Soviet designer Andrei Tupolev. The age
of the great rigid airships came and went.
World War II saw a drastic increase in the pace of aircraft development and production. All
countries involved in the war stepped up development and production of aircraft and flight
based weapon delivery systems, such as the first long range bomber. Also air combat tactics
and doctrines changed, large scale strategic bombing campaigns were launched, fighter
escorts introduced and the more flexible aircraft and weapons allowed precise attacks on
small targets with dive bombers, fighter-bombers, and ground-attack aircraft. New
technologies like radar also allowed more coordinated and controlled deployment of air
defense.The first functional jet plane was the Heinkel He 178 (Germany), flown by Erich
Warsitz in 1939, followed by the world's first operational jet aircraft, the Me 262, in July
1942 and world's first jet-powered bomber, the Arado Ar 234, in June 1943. British
developments, like the Gloster Meteor, followed afterwards, but saw only brief use in World
War II. The first cruise missile (V-1), the first ballistic missile (V-2), the first (and to date
only) operational rocket-powered combat aircraft Me 163 and the first vertical take-off
manned point-defense interceptor Bachem Ba 349 were also developed by Germany.
However, jet fighters had only limited impact due to their late introduction, fuel shortages,
the lack of experienced pilots and the declining war industry of Germany.
In 1961, the sky was no longer the limit for manned flight, asYuri Gagarin orbited once
around the planet within 108 minutes, and then used the descent module of Vostok I to
safely reenter the atmosphere and reduce speed from Mach 25 using friction and
converting velocity into heat. The United States responded by launching Alan Shepard into
space on a suborbital flight in a Mercury space capsule. With the launch of the Alouette I in
1963, Canada became the third country to send a satellite in space.The space race between
the United States and the Soviet Union would ultimately lead to the landing of men on the
moon in 1969.
In commercial aviation, the early 21st century saw the end of an era
with the retirement of Concorde. Only commercially viable in niche
markets, the planes were required to fly over the oceans if they
wanted to break the sound barrier. Concorde was fuel hungry and
could carry a limited amount of passengers due to its highly
streamlined design. Nevertheless, it seems to have made a significant
operating profit for British Airways.
In the beginning of the 21st century, subsonic military aviation
focused on eliminating the pilot in favor of remotely operated or
completely autonomous vehicles. Several unmanned aerial vehicles
or UAVs have been developed. In April 2001 the unmanned aircraft
Global Hawk flew from Edwards AFB in the US to Australia non-stop
and un-refuelled. This is the longest point-to-point flight ever
undertaken by an unmanned aircraft, and took 23 hours and 23
minutes. In October 2003 the first totally autonomous flight across
the Atlantic by a computer-controlled model aircraft occurred.
The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission was established in 1999 to
encourage the broadest national and international participation in
the celebration of 100 years of powered flight. It publicized and
encouraged a number of programs, projects and events intended to
educate people about the history of aviation.
Romania has a rich tradition in the aviation field. At the beginning of the 20th
century, flight pioneers like Aurel Vlaicu, Traian Vuia and George Valentin Bibescu
brought important contributions to early aviation history, building revolutionary
airplanes and changing the age's mentalities.
The Romanian scientist Henri Coandă exhibited his first aircraft in 1910, worked in
the UK to design aircraft for World War I, and continued to make inventions in a
variety of fields. He discovered the Coanda effect of fluids.
Hermann Oberth was also a native Romanian, born in Sibiu.
Along the 20th century Romania built military aircraft (the IAR-39 and IAR-80
before and during World War II and the IAR-93 and IAR-99 Şoim since the 70s),
helicopters (IAR 316, IAR 330 - under Aérospatiale licence) as well as passenger
aircraft (ROMBAC 1-11 built under British Aircraft Corporation licence).
The industrial facilities for aircraft building and maintenance are located in Bacǎu
(Aerostar), Braşov (Industria Aeronautică Română), Craiova (Avioane Craiova) and
Bucharest (Romaero, Turbomecanica).
Dumitru Prunariu is the only Romanian astronaut who participated in a space
mission (Soyuz 40 - May 14,1981)
Aviation in Romania