Theory Of Flight

Topics: Fixed-wing aircraft, Atmosphere, Wing Pages: 11 (2400 words) Published: December 9, 2013

Table of Contents
Theory of Flight3
History and Evolution of Flight
The Atmosphere5
Aerodynamics ……..…………………………..………………………………………………….........8-9 Lift, Drag, Thrust And Weight
Airflow Across An Aerofoil10

My aim in this essay to discuss the theory of flight in physical terms with reference to the atmosphere and aerodynamic features of large passenger aircraft, with the use of relevant pictures, diagrams and sufficient referencing.

In this essay I will discuss a brief history of flight and also its evolution through time. I will look into the different principles of flight and their respective origins. It is essential when discussing flight that we look into the atmosphere and its effect; also the aerodynamic features have been incorporated into aircraft design and their respective operation. I endeavor to explain how modern large passenger aircraft how evolved, the new features that have been developed and implemented to improve passenger safety and made flying one of the safest forms of transport today.

History and Evolution of Flight
Throughout time man has always dreamt to conquer the sky. The history of flight stretches of hundreds if not thousands of years but for the purpose of this essay we will start with the first untethered human (lighter-than-air) flight.

Figure - A Hot Air Balloon designed by the Montgolfier Brothers The first flight was recorded was in 1783; the Montgolfier Brothers had designed and built one of the first ever air balloons. Their maiden voyage in 1783 lasted almost eight minutes; they travelled over two miles at an altitude of 1,500ft, after which they landed safely. Air balloons though bringing a breakthrough in flight, eventually became very impractical and it was soon seen that they were also unreliable. It was almost a year later that Jean-Pierre Blanchard had designed and flown the first human-powered dirigible.

The theory of flight rapidly developed over the next few years, though we remained limited to ballooning as the primary way of ascending to the skies. The Era of Ballooning came to an end in 1799 when Sir George Cayley engraved on a silver medallion the forces believed to acting during flight. On the reverse of the medallion he sketched his ideas for a glider.

Cayley till today is regarded as “one of the most important people in the history of aeronautics”. He is thought to be one of the first people to really have a great understanding of the principles and theories of flight. Often referred to as “the father of aeronautics”, Cayley discovered after designing the first “human-carrying” glider, the four aerodynamics forces; mainly lift, weight, thrust and drag.

Figure - The Wright Brothers' Bi-Plane
It was almost fifty years later that his discoveries were implemented by the Wright Brothers with the addition of propeller to engine. During these fifty years various aircraft came about, all showing how peculiar inventors’ imagination were at the time, they all strived to master the skies. Two American Brothers, Orville and Wilbur have been well known for inventing the first sustained controlled flight – “Their aircraft-control system enabled the development of a practical and reliable airplane”.

This system was created as a direct result of experiments that were carried out with the use of kites in 1899. The Wright Brothers had mastered gliding designed and built a bi-plane with 12-horsepower engine and two propellers, this plane went on to make history being the world’s first true powered, sustained and controlled flight December 17th, 1903. This flight lasted just under a minute and so in turn started the modern era of aviation.


Figure - The Atmosphere

The layers of air surrounding the earth is known as the...

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Works, H.S., 2001. What is relative humidity and how does it affect how I feel outside? [Online] Available at: [Accessed 1 December 2012].
Anderson, J.D., 1999. A History Of Aerodynamics And It 's Impact On Flying Machines. 1st ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Barnard, R.H. & Philpott, D.R., 2004. Aircraft Flight. 3rd ed. Herts: Pearson - Prentice Hall.
Laufer, B., 1928. The Curator of Anthropology. In The Prehistory Of Aviation. 1st ed. Chicago: Field Museum Press. pp.33-35.
Reinbecker, E., 1999. Wright Brothers Foundation. [Online] Available at:
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