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George Cayley (1773-1857) is considered the father of aviation. Cayley was a relatively well to do baronet who lived on an estate in Yorkshire, England. An educated man, Cayley spent his life working intensely on engineering, social, and political problems in England. However, the dominant interest of his life was heavier-than-air flight, and in 1799 he set forth for the first time in history the concept of the modern airplane.
Cayley had identified the drag vector (parallel to the flow) and the lift vector (perpendicular to the flow). It was this concept which was to be utilized by the Wright brothers in the first successful airplane more than a century later.
In 1804 Cayley built a whirling arm apparatus just as John Smeaton (1724-1792) had done earlier to study the resistance of air on cloth surfaces. At the end of this whirling arm was a lifting surface (a portion of a wing) on which Cayley measured force of lift. Also in 1804, he designed, built, and flew a small model glider. In 1804 this glider represented the first modern configuration airplane in history, with a fixed wing, and a horizontal and vertical tail that could be adjusted. He found that setting the wings at a slight dihedral gave lateral stability and that a tail plane set behind the main wings gave longitudal stability.3 In 1809 and 1810 Cayley published three papers on his aeronautical research where he quite correctly pointed out for the first time that: (1) lift is generated by a region of low pressure on the upper surface of the wing and; (2) cambered wings (curved surfaces) generate lift more efficiently than a flat surface. These results, among many others, can be found in his papers entitled "On Aerial Navigation" published in the November 1809, February 1810, and March 1810 issues of Nicholson's Journal of Natural Philosophy.4 This "triple paper" by Cayley ranks as one of the most important aeronautical documents in history.5 In 1849, he designed, built, and tested a full-size triplane glider, which during some of its tests carried a ten-year-old boy through the air several yards on a descending hill. For this reason, the machine is sometimes called "Cayley's boy carrier." One of Cayley's other designs appeared in Mechanics Magazine in 1852.6 Cayley never achieved his final goal--sustained heavier-than air, powered, manned flight. However, his contributions clearly furthered advancement to the modern airplane.
At 10:30 A.M. on December 17, 1903, Orville Wright achieved the first piloted, sustained, controlled and powered flight. His brother, Wilbur Wright, stood by and timed the flight with a stopwatch. The first flight lasted twelve seconds and the aircraft flew 100 yards. The location was Kill Devil Hills, near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. After four years of experiments with kites, gliders and wind tunnel testing, the Wright Brothers finally achieved their dream. Three more flights were made that day and the longest was nearly a minute and covered more than half a mile. They designed their own engine with the aid of their bicycle mechanic, Charlie Taylor. He designed and built an original engine that just met the Wright Brothers minimum specifications. The propellers were remarkably efficient considering there was almost complete lack of knowledge on this subject at this time. Wilbur Wright was the first person to recognize that a propeller is nothing more than a twisted wing, where the "lift" force is now pointing forward for propulsion. Using his theory in conjunction with their airfoil data measured during previous wind tunnel testing, Wilbur designed and constructed a remarkably efficient propeller. This aspect of the Wright brothers' technology is sometimes not fully appreciated, yet it was one of the most important technical victories that led to their success. Wing warping was used for lateral control. Wilbur conceived the idea of bending, or deflecting, the tips of wings to achieve lateral control around the longitudinal axis of an aircraft. The concept of wing warping was another one of the major ingredients for the Wright's success. The Wright Brothers were the first to treat a flying machine as an integrated system involving aerodynamics, propulsion, structures, and flight dynamics. They fully appreciated the interaction and mutual importance of all these aspects. In this sense, they were the first to build a total flying machine, which encompassed all of the major aspects of a modern airplane.
According to the aviation historian Roger Bilstein, it is uncertain when the first scheduled passenger service in the United States began. Silas Christofferson carried passengers in 1913 by hydroplane between San Francisco and Oakland harbors. In 1914, the St. Petersburg-Tampa Airboat line carried passengers between Tampa and St. Petersburg, Florida, using a Benoist flying boat. The service was quite successful .
After the war ended, Alfred W. Lawson built the first multiengine airplane designed exclusively for passengers—the Lawson C-2 in 1919. But surplus military aircraft were a lot cheaper to buy than the C-2, and his plane did not sell. Next, Lawson built a “jumbo” airliner, the L-4, that carried 34 passengers and 6,000 pounds (2,722 kilograms) of mail. This giant plane, however, crashed on its first test flight, ending further development.
In 1920, a Florida entrepreneur, Inglis Uppercu, began to offer international passenger flights from Key West, Florida, to Havana, Cuba. He later added other routes including flights between Miami and the Bahamas and soon between New York and Havana, picking up passengers at stops along the way. He even extended his service to the Midwest, flying between Cleveland, Ohio, and Detroit, Michigan. His Aeromarine Airways' 15 flying boats, dubbed “airborne limousines,” made more than 2,000 scheduled flights and carried nearly 10,000 passengers. But one of their planes crashed off the coast of Florida, four passengers drowned, and Aeromarine Airways went out of business in 1924.
It was the Post Office and airmail delivery that gave the commercial airlines their true start. In the early part of the 20th century, the Post Office had used mostly railroads to transport mail between cities. By 1925, only seven years after the first official airmail flight, U.S. Post Office airplanes were delivering 14 million letters and packages a year and were maintaining regular flight schedules. Airmail appealed particularly to bankers and other businessmen who regularly began to use it to move checks and financial documents more quickly, reducing the “float” on checks and the length of time that funds were idle and unavailable for use.
Once airmail became accepted, the government transferred airmail service to private companies. Representative Clyde Kelly of Pennsylvania sponsored the Contract Air Mail Act of 1925, commonly referred to as the Kelly Act. This was the first major step toward the creation of a private and profitable U.S. airline industry.
After the Kelly Act passed, private companies bid on feeder routes that supplemented the transcontinental air route. This airway had expanded during the nine years that the Post Office had transported mail by air. Now the Post Office awarded contracts to private companies, and these companies would later become transportation giants.
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Founder William Boeing was raised in Michigan, where his father operated a lucrative forestry business. While he was in San Diego, California, in 1910, Boeing met a French stunt pilot named Louis Paulhan who was performing at the International Air Meet. When Paulhan took Boeing for an airplane ride, it marked the beginning of Boeing's fascination with aviation.
After two years of study at Yale's Sheffield School of Science, Boeing returned to Michigan to work for his father. He was sent first to Wisconsin and later to the state of Washington to acquire more timber properties for the family business. In Seattle he met a navy engineer named Conrad Westerveldt who shared his fascination with aviation. A barnstormer named Terah Maroney gave the two men a ride over Puget Sound in his seaplane. Later Boeing went to Los Angeles to purchase his own seaplane, thinking it would be useful for fishing trips. The man who sold him the plane and taught him how to fly was Glenn Martin, who later founded Martin Marietta.
While in Seattle, Boeing and Westerveldt made a hobby of building their own seaplanes on the backwaters of Puget Sound. It became more than a hobby when a mechanic named Herb Munter and a number of other carpenters and craftsmen became involved. In May 1916, Boeing flew the first 'B & W' seaplane. The next month he incorporated his company as the Pacific Aero Products Company. The company's first customer was the government of New Zealand, which employed the plane for mail delivery and pilot training. In 1917 the company's name was changed to Boeing Airplane Company.
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Geoffrey de Havilland, born in 1882, was in his late twenties in 1909. He had a strong and enthusiastic interest in flying machines, but he was working in London as a draftsman, a job that did not allow him to express his enthusiasm for airplanes. Fortunately, he had a wealthy grandfather, and he invested £1000 with young de Havilland for the design and construction of his first airplane. Aviation then was much in the news. De Havilland proceeded to build an engine, while Frank Hearle, the brother of his fiancée, helped to construct the aircraft. While its wing broke on takeoff, a second airplane in 1910 was far more successful. It passed acceptance tests and became the first such craft to be purchased by the British government.
De Havilland joined His Majesty's Balloon Factory in Farnborough in 1910 and set to work designing new airplanes. In 1914, only a month before the outbreak of World War I, he transferred to private industry and became chief designer at the Aircraft Manufacturing Company (Airco). He stayed at Airco through the war.
There he achieved his first major success: the DH-4, a two-seat bomber that first flew in August 1916. Highly maneuverable and with a top speed of 143 miles per hour (230 kilometers per hour), it could outfly most fighters. In 1917, when the United States entered the war, officials in Washington selected it for production and built nearly 5,000 of them. DH-4s carried the early U.S. airmail; some also carried passengers. They remained in service through the 1920s.
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When Donald Douglas quit his aeronautical engineering job and moved to California, he had only $600 in his pocket. He ended up founding a company that would become a multi-billion dollar giant in the aviation industry.
Donald Douglas teamed up with David Davis to create the Davis-Douglas Company in 1920. Though the pairing would last only a year, the partnership was a productive one, resulting in the Cloudster, one of the first commercial transports. Although it wasn't successful in its intended goal of flying cross-country nonstop, its ability to carry a heavy payload impressed the military enough to guarantee the new company a future.
Donald Douglas moved to California and began his own plane-building company in 1920. The Cloudster was the first of many successes for Douglas.
Douglas purchased the abandoned lot of the Herman Film Corporation and based his company - newly re-named the Douglas Aircraft Company - in Santa Monica, California. The company's next project was to build a plane that could circle the globe. Aptly named the Douglas World Cruiser, two of these aircraft successfully completed the 27,000-mile route around the world over the course of six months in 1924. More than 200,000 people greeted the plane's return to Santa Monica's Clover Field. The Douglas World Cruiser's design was incorporated into many other planes. Among them was the first commercial plane to carry U.S. air mail, the Douglas M-2. Western Air Express (a forerunner to TWA) flew the plane between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. By the end of the 1920s, the company's achievements in building commercial planes, combined with its successful military planes, established the Douglas Aircraft Company as one of the most successful plane builders in the worl
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The story of Lockheed Aircraft begins with Allan and Malcolm Loughead. The brothers first became fascinated with aviation after witnessing several glider demonstrations. In 1910, Allan began work as an airplane mechanic and shortly thereafter learned how to fly. When Allan returned to San Francisco in 1912, he and his brother, Malcolm, decided they might be able to make money flying people in planes.
Borrowing $4,000 from a local cab company, the Loughead brothers built their two-seat flying boat, the Model G. in 1913. The ten-dollar fee the brothers were charging for a plane ride was apparently more than most people were willing to pay. Unable to make payments, the creditors seized their plane. For the next two years, the brothers tried every scheme possible to earn the money to get the plane back - even panning for gold. Eventually they succeeded and the brothers brought their plane to the Panama-Pacific International Exposition in San Francisco. The huge crowds there enabled the brothers to find plenty of willing passengers. With the small fortune they made at the exposition, the brothers moved to Santa Barbara and started the Loughead Aircraft Manufacturing Company in 1916.
Their first project would be the F-1, the world's largest seaplane, able to carry 10 passengers. The brothers hired Jack Northrop, a 20-year-old draftsman, to work on the project. The plane successfully flew in 1918 and the brothers soon received a request to build flying boats for the Navy. After World War I, the company devoted its energies to the S-1, a single-seat biplane for civilian use. It was supposed to be inexpensive, but after spending $30,000 developing and building it, the plane's $2,500 asking price was too much for the typical plane-buyer. Financially strained, Loughead Aircraft closed in 1921
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