100 YEARS OF FLIGHT
From the earliest days, man has dreamt of
From drawings on stone pyramids and Icarus' demise
in Greek mythology to Leonardo da Vinci's prescient
drawings of flying machines,
we have been preoccupied by flight.
Then at the dawn of
the 20th century,
man's dream became reality.
Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright finally got off the
ground in machines that were heavier than air.
Their first flight
in 1903 (left) covered just a
few feet and lasted only a few seconds.
Little could they have known how significantly
their invention was to change the world.
Across the sea
An indication of how
the world was shrinking came
on 25 July, 1909, when Frenchman Louis Bleriot
landed on a golf course near Dover (top),
having become the first man to fly across
the English Channel in a plane.
Inspired by watching
the Wright Brothers fly
in Le Mans, he created a monoplane that
was to become a template for future designs.
Two decades later,
Charles Lindbergh took aviation
to new heights, flying solo non-stop across
the Atlantic, from New York to Paris.
The Spirit of St Louis (bottom) completed the
in less than 34 hours, braving fog and sleet.
Two women were at the
forefront of the pioneering
age of aviation, defying the doubters
to achieve their places in history.
Amy Johnson (top)
flew from England to Australia
in 1930, the first woman to complete the journey solo.
Her epic flight in her Gypsy Moth lasted 19 days.
Two years later
America's Amelia Earhart,
who had already become the first woman
to fly across the Atlantic,
became the first female to do the journey solo.
Johnson died in an air crash in 1941;
Earhart was never found after her plane disappeared in 1937.
Airships had become an
established method of
long-distance travel before a horrific accident
brought their golden age to an abrupt end.
Their speed had made
them an attractive alternative
to liners for transatlantic crossings.
But on 6 May, 1937, the world's largest airship,
the 800ft German LZ129 Hindenburg,
crashed to earth in flames in New Jersey after exploding.
The crash, as it
neared the end of a 60-hour
flight from Germany, killed 36 people.
Regular passenger services died with them.
Battle of Britain
At the end of World War
I, Orville Wright confided to a friend:
"The aeroplane has made war so terrible that
I do not believe any country will again care to start a war."
But just over 20
years later, Britain and Germany
were engaged in a battle that proved a turning point
not only in World War II but also in the use of
planes as a killing machine.
Led by the fast and
graceful Spitfire and the sturdy,
but agile, Hurricane (left), the RAF successfully thwarted
German attempts to invade Britain.
More than 2,000 aircraft were lost over the summer and autumn of 1940.
His may not have been the
first helicopter to leave
the ground, but Igor Sikorsky's place in aviation history
was ensured when his VS-300 (left) hovered for a few
seconds above Connecticut in 1939.
The aircraft set a
series of records, and helped
his company establish its reputation
for helicopter mass-production.
He had left his home
in Kiev in 1919 for the
"land of opportunity". Within 20 years,
he had built and piloted the world's
first successful single-rotor helicopter.
He went on to set new standards
in speed, altitude and endurance.
Aviation owes a huge debt to
Sir Frank Whittle's jet engine,
which transformed air travel, bringing flying to the masses.
airliners that could carry hundreds
of paying passengers and vast cargoes created a new industry
- and at the forefront was the Boeing 707 (left).
It first flew in
1954, and in 1957 became
the first jet aircraft to provide a regular passenger
service, quickly becoming a transatlantic icon.
More than 1,000 were
sold, including a version that
flew successive US Presidents until 1990.
Vertical take-off and landing
was a significant
breakthrough in aviation refinement.
First developed in
the 1950s, the Harrier jump-jet (top)
flew for real in 1966, entering RAF service three years later.
and ability to take off from aircraft
carriers made it a key weapon in the Falklands war in 1982.
A decade later, the
US Air Force began using the B-2
Stealth bomber (below), which could penetrate
sophisticated air defences at a range of
altitudes and over immense distances.
Man's desire to travel ever
faster was met
by Concorde - the world's first supersonic
passenger airliner, which first flew in 1969.
wings to enable it to fly at
supersonic and subsonic speeds and an engine
design that used afterburners to provide the
required thrust, it was an engineering miracle.
But although it
could land passengers in
New York three-and-a-half hours after
leaving London - less than half the subsonic
journey time - its life was limited by the
cold reality of economics.
A century on from the first
powered flight, man's
vision of flying in the future is as vivid as ever.
Demand for air
travel will continue to grow,
but skies are becoming more crowded -
and there is a growing realisation that the
Earth's resources are finite.
The double-decker Airbus A380 (top),
due to go into service in 2006,
can carry far more people,
reducing the number of journeys.
In contrast, hypersonic
scramjets (bottom), previous
which are already being tested,
could eventually reach Sydney from London
in 90 minutes. But it could be well into the second
century of flight before they become reality.