In 1783, men first soared into space, riding a hot-air balloon. It was the result of pioneering work by Joseph Montgolfier and his brother Etienne, of Annonay, France. They realized that a balloon, filled with hot air, gained the required upward thrust for flight because hot air is lighter than the air around us.
Could an object, heavier than air, defy gravity and fly? That question remained unanswered, for over 120 years. This was a time well spent. During these years, many people in Europe and the United States experimented with kites and gliders. These experiments proved that objects heavier than air could fly. But nobody knew how to engineer a flying machine that would remain airborne.
Many people tried and failed. Failures, it is said, are stepping stones to success. Each failure brought out a few more insights into what more had to be done to make the dream come true.
Finally, two young men, Wilbur Wright and his brother Orville Wright, found the answer. They became the first men to fly a machine that was heavier than air. The machine was crude, unsophisticated, yet it flew.
That event marked the beginning of the great aviation story. Daring men and women explored the frontiers of the aircraft’s range and speed by designing shapes and engines based on latest technological advances. The explorers have not reached the end of the road, either. They are still hot on
the chase of ways and means to take the aircraft to new records in speed, safety, style and elegance.
Aircraft, however, have one limitation. They can’t take off or land almost anywhere. They need long stretches of runways. The search for an alternate machine that would take off and land vertically led to the invention of the helicopter.
Innovators are working on furthering the style, design and performance of the aircraft. They predict still more spectacular developments in aviation, in the years to come. Some say that sky is the limit. Others assert that even the sky can’t set the limit to the future of aviation.
This book is history, with a difference. This is history, where facts have been touched up with the liberty of a creative writer. This presents the great story of aviation.
R. K. MURTHI