The History of Flight

The History of Flight

Update: 2021-08-09


Sophie (age 7) and Ellie (age 5) decide to tell the history of flight.


We start off with legendary tales of flight like the story of Icarus. Icarus and his father need to escape a castle. They build some wings out of feathers and wax and flap them to escape the castle. They start flying but then Icarus flies too high. As he gets close to the sun his wax melts and his wings fall off. He falls to the ground with a splat.

This story actually tells us a lot about what people thought you needed to do in order to fly. People looked at birds and thought that what you needed to do was to fly like a bird. They would make big wings and try and flap with them. They did not realise that a person is much heavier than a bird so you would need to make a huge wing that flapped really fast. One inventor called Leonardo da Vinci studied how flying might work. He was a famous artist and inventor 500 years ago. He even made a design for something that he called an Ornithopter but which was a lot like a helicopter. However, it was never built.

300 years ago people started to come with ideas for balloons. The Montgolfier brothers invented the hot air balloon. This saw a fire lit in a basket. The hot air then filled a balloon which was above the basket. The hot air rose and this made the balloon take off. They first experiment by putting animals in the basket. Later they put people inside. The Balloon was very good at going high up. However, it could not fly in a particular place. It was carried by the wind. So it was not that useful.

Later a man called George Cayley realised that what was important about birds was not how they could fly, but instead how they could glide. He studied the science behind gliding and made many gliders over the next 50 years.

However, what was really needed was an engine in the glider. Then it could take off more easily and stay in the air for longer.

This is where the Wright brothers come in. They were American brothers who were very interested in flying. They read up lots about it. They also realised that if could move the wings slightly that would help with take off. This is where modern planes get the ideas for the flaps from. They spent a long time trying to make the perfect glider. They they put a small engine in it and had the engine work some propellers. The plane took off. But it didn’t fly for long. So they brothers spent the next two years working to improve the plane. This time it worked. The plane flew for 40 minutes. The Wright brothers had cracked flying.

Now planes are part of our everyday lives. We use them for holidays, transport, war, fighting fires, exploring and more.

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The History of Flight

The History of Flight

Sophie (7) & Ellie (5) tell history for kids