The invention of first plane is generally attributed to Clement Ader, French engineer and brilliant inventor. If he is considered one of the pioneers of aviation, he is far from being the only one to have contributed to the development of the plane, a machine which revolutionized the art of military as much as transport. civil. Alberto Santos Dumont, the Wright brothers or even Otto Lilienthal were among those who in a few years transformed a simple utopia into a breathtaking reality: man could finally defy nature and fly.
The first plane, the origins of aeronautics
Observing the flight of birds, Leonardo da Vinci imagined as early as the 16th century the concept of the propeller, the parachute and the helicopter and the glider. The only driving force usable at the time being that of the muscles of the man, these brilliant ideas will remain a long time in the state of concept. Moreover, the Italian physiologist and physicist Giovanni Borelli concluded in 1680 that man was incapable of flying on his own: the inventors then turned to the design of lighter-than-air devices, like the Montgolfier brothers who made the first hot air balloon fly in 1783.
The history of aviation reached a decisive turning point at the beginning of the 19th century, thanks to advances in the fields of construction and mechanics. Consideration was once again given to flying objects heavier than air, replacing the muscular force of man with the motive force of a machine. Many experiments were then carried out to try to improve the flying machines, and thus arrive at a better understanding of the flight of a machine. It was in the last years of the sixteenth century. that the Briton George Cayley sets out the principles of what will become aviation. Research, very active, leads v. 1840 at the first flight of a model of a steam airplane.
Who invented the airplane?
Clément Ader's work on systems allowing men to fly began during the war of 1870, during which he tried to develop kites for the army capable of making a man fly. In vain. His collaboration with the military did not end, however: Ader found there a source of funding and support for his research, complementary to his own fortune, which he owed to the numerous inventions patented by him. His efforts paid off: between 1890 and 1897 he produced three prototypes: Éole (the Plane), the Zephyr (Ader Avion II) and Aquilon (Ader Avion III). From 50 meters for the first test, the flying distance was increased to 300 meters with Plane 3, in front of a military committee which did not miss a beat. Very observant of nature, Ader is inspired by the wings of bats for his sails and even incorporates mechanisms capable of modifying their structure once in flight.
At the same time a certain Otto Lilienthal manages to develop a glider capable of flying 400 meters when launched from a hill 20 meters high. Its prototypes were made from bamboo ribs covered with cotton.
Finally, let's not forget the feats by Alberto Santos-Dumont, Brazilian aviation pioneer, who built a number of balloons and airships in which he flew, as well as an aircraft, the 14 Bis, on board which he approved the first world aviation record, on October 23, 1906.
The Wright brothers invent the first motor planes
If Ader was the inventor of the plane, as we have just seen, it is the brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright who succeeded, after multiple prototypes of gliders, to succeed in the first motorized and controlled flight of an aircraft (heavier than air), on December 17, 1903. The event nevertheless goes almost unnoticed in the columns of the newspapers of the 'time.
They are also the first to have correctly analyzed the mechanics necessary for the turn in flight and to have developed the control of the trajectory. From 1905, their planes thus made it possible to perform stable flights of long duration and with perfect control of turns. Their models are called the Flyer I, II then III : object of covetousness of the American army, they will inspire most biplanes engaged during the First World War.
Some other key dates in aviation
- 1909 - French aviator Louis Bleriot crosses the Channel from Calais to Dover aboard his "Blériot XI"
- 1911 - Roland Garros beats the world altitude record: 3,910 meters (September 4)
- 1914 - On October 5, the Aviatik of German lieutenant Von Zangen was shot down, near Reims, by Voisin III of Sergeant Frantz and Corporal Quénault: it is the first air combat
- 1927 - May 21, Lindbergh cross the Atlantic
- 1930 - First transatlantic postal link 12 May, by the French aviator Jean Mermoz
To go further on the invention of the airplane
- Stephen Woolford's Aviation History. 2009.
- The History of Aviation for Dummies by Philippe Benhamou. First Editions, 2010.