Category Flying and Gliding

Otto Lilienthal

Though increasingly daring—and dangerous—experiments through the mid-1800s helped to refine gliders, by the 1890s they remained heavy and primitive contraptions. But it was the important advances by these glider pioneers that gave Wilbur and Orville Wright a leg up on their first sustained, powered flight.

One of the most dedicated of the glider pioneers was a Prussian-born inventor named Otto Lilienthal. Lilienthal blazed some of the design trails that the Wrights would later follow in designing the earliest airplanes. In fact, the Wrights corresponded with Lilienthal, whose designs influenced the makeup of their first successful airplane.

But Lilienthal was not to live to see the fruits of his work. After returning to Berlin from Egypt, where he built a miniature pyramid to use as a launch pad for his glides, Lilienthal made the last of his 2,000-odd glider flights. Although Lilienthal was a superbly skilled flyer, something went wrong that day in August 1896. The glider pitched up, then fluttered to the ground. Lilienthal suffered a broken spine and was rushed to a hospital. He survived for one more day, enough time to weigh the risks he had taken against the advances he was able to make toward controlled human flight. In the end he approved of the balance he had struck, and with his dying breath was heard to say, “Sacrifices must be made…”

Подпись: The Least You Need to Know ► The dream of flying is universal to all cultures. ^ Leonardo da Vinci was a Renaissance genius whose sketches were prototypes for later aviation inventions. ► The desire to imitate birds and base designs on their wing structures ironically hindered the progress of aviation. V Like the Space Race, intense competition among balloonists accelerated technical advances in aviation. V The insights and exploits of gliding pioneers, such as Englishman Sir George Cayley and Prussian-born inventor Otto Lilienthal, set the stage for the Wright brothers.

Lilienthal was not alone in his fondness for gliders and his conviction that gliders could help speed the development of powered flight. In America, a French-born engineer named Octave Chanute was inspired by Lilienthal’s life and courageous death. In 1896, at the age of 64, Chanute began experimenting with gliders and wrote books about his findings. This research was to help a pair of brothers from Ohio to launch a revolution that would change the lives of every person on earth.

Gliding Pioneers

Even before the Wright brothers flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, aviators at the end of the 1800s knew that motorized flight was the wave of the future. They mounted motors to frame-strengthened balloons, called “dirigibles”, but the giant craft were slow and ungainly. Still, those brave innovators succeeded at making the sky a familiar, if not a comfortable, place to be. The stage was set for the next stage in human flight—gliding.

Gliding Pioneers

By the Book

Aerodynamics is part of an arcane branch of physics called "fluid mechanics." In the case of aerodynamics, scientists and engi­neers study the mob*on of air, including the forces it exerts on objects that move through it. Acrodynamicists study wing shapes, jet propulsion, and the extreme conditions of high­speed flight, among other things.

Although centuries had passed since the days of Leonardo, the master engineer was viewed as prophetic in the late nineteenth century when gliders began to replace balloons as the next major advance in aviation. Designs for the early gliders bore a striking resemblance to the articulated wings that Leonardo had sketched in his notebooks. But now science was coming to the aid of fancy, and engineers were puttering around with wing designs that took advantage of some of the new discoveries about the physical properties of air and the effect it can have on objects like wings. The newly fashionable science was called aerodynamics.

Sir George Cayley

The theoretical capabilities of gliders became apparent as early as 1804, when Englishman Sir George Cayley foreshadowed many of the later

discoveries of glider and airplane builders, earning himself the honored title of “father of aerial navigation.” Cayley’s greatest contribution to human flight was his understanding that, in order to sustain an aircraft in heavier-than-air flight—meaning without hot air or other gases to keep it buoyant—a designer had to create a structure so large that the force of air resistance on its wings was greater than the craft’s weight.

But Cayley’s insights went much further than describing the fundamentals of flight; he put into writing many of the very principles that we continue to practice today when we design safe, stable aircraft. The remarkable thing is that Cayley did it a full century before the Wright brothers were able to fly the first powered plane!

What’s more, based on the same naked-eye observations that Leonardo had made when trying to divine the secret of how birds fly, Cayley hypothesized correctly that birds produce lift in part thanks to the natural “camber”, or curve, of their wings. He also declared correctly that a bird’s outermost feathers provided a sort of propeller action that pushed it forward and gave it the necessary speed to provide adequate lift. (The mechanics of flight are something we’ll discuss later in Chapters 7, “How Airplanes Fly, Part 1: The Parts of a Plane,” and 8, “How Airplanes Fly, Part 2: The Aerodynamics of Flight.”)

Gliding Pioneers

Plane Talk

Sir George Cayley war an impressively accurate prophet. In 1809, he wrote, "This noble art will soon be brought home to man’s convenience and… we shall be able to transport ourselves and families, goods and chattels more securely by air than by water, and with a velocity of 20 to 100 miles per hour."

Cayley even mapped out, in 1804, an airplane design that is basically indistinguishable from the design of those we fly today, with wings in front and tail surfaces in back. As we’ll see, even the brilliant Wright brothers didn’t put those structures into their configuration until long after their first powered flight.

For all his theoretical genius, Cayley never flew. But he inspired the very first glider daredevils, including Jean Marie Le Bris, who used a horse to tow a glider a few hundred feet in the air. Le Bris didn’t follow up on his experiments, however, and history mostly forgot him.

The Race Is On!

From the first flight by human passengers in October 1783, adventurers quickly vied to outclimb, outrace, and outthrill each other and their adoring fans waiting on the ground or chasing the “aerostations,” as the French called them, all over the countryside. The Montgolfiers didn’t have much to do with the new wave of Hying mania, however. Only one of the brothers, Joseph, ever flew in a balloon, and he did it only once. Having given aviation a single important push, the Montgolfiers went back to making paper and left the flying to a new breed of adventurer.

The Race Is On!

Plane Talk

Not everyone took kindly to the new-fangled flying machine* of the Montgolfier* and other*. The fint untethered hydrogen balloon flight, which wa* mercifully unmanned, drifted *ome 15 mile* away from it* launch *ite, where it came to earth in the hamlet of Gone**e. (Jnaccu*tomed to *eeing giant ga* bag* plopping down in their usually quiet street’, the panicked inhabitant’ set upon the balloon with knivc* and itonct, slashing the rubber-coated iilk envelope to ihred*.

As other flyers took to the air, it became clear that aviation was to become a nearly unending chain of men and women pushing the boundaries of human flight. Just a week after the flight from the Boulogne forest, two men lifted off from the Tuilleries

in the heart of Paris in a balloon filled with hydrogen rather than heated air. They floated more than 20 miles to the town of Nesles. More than 400,000 cheering people witnessed the takeoff, including Ben Franklin (who seems to have been everywhere in Paris).

The balloon technology race had been launched. Aeronauts were quick to reach greater heights and farther distances. Naturally, the English Channel, which separated England from the continent, was among the first challenges to be conquered. And using hydrogen, other aeronauts were reaching altitudes above 10,000 feet. In the 1800s, some even attempted to motorize the giant ships with primitive gasoline engines, though those efforts would not succeed on a major scale until much later.

The Race Is On!

Plane Talk

A spectator at one of the early French hydrogen balloon demonstrations was Benjamin Franklin, who was then acting as American ambassador to Versailles. In one of those almost-too-perfect-to-be-true stories with which Franklin’s mythology is peppered, a nearby balloon watcher was heard to ask skeptically, "What good is it?" Franklin replied, "What good is a newborn baby?"

A brief political dispute known as the French Revolution sharply reduced the number of flights in Europe during the last decade of the eighteenth century. But in America, the pace picked up. The first person to fly in a balloon on American soil was JeanPierre Blanchard, whose 1793 flight in Philadelphia was witnessed by George Washington and four future presidents: John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, and James Monroe.

Though the French made use of the infant balloon technology during their Revolution, it wasn’t until 1862 that Americans turned toward balloons for military purposes. During the Civil War, tethered balloons were used for reconnaissance of enemy troop movements—and probably as practice targets for bored enemy soldiers. In the Spanish-American War of 1898, a tethered balloon was used by American forces to direct artillery fire during the Battle of San Juan.

The Race Is On!

Plane Talk

Francois Pilatrc de Rosier, the first man to fly in an иntethered balloon, alto suffered the distinction of being the first man to die in one. During an attempt at a high-altitude crossing of the English Channel from France to England, his hydrogen balloon exploded and he was killed. De Rozier’s wife, who later became a noted aeronaut in her own right, was also killed in a ballooning accident in 1819.

Aeronauts and the Balloon Revolution

For millennia, men and women crowding around crackling fires and steaming pots noticed a universal constant: Smoke rises. That principle is so simple that it’s not clear why humankind waited until the eighteenth century to create a hot-air balloon and try to take to the skies. In fact, the simple fabric that the first balloons were made of has been available since the time of the ancient Sumerians and Egyptians.

Aeronauts and the Balloon Revolution


It took people until the 1700s to ; invent the hot-air balloon, but і that doesn’t mean people weren’t thinking about it long before then. A Jesuit priest named Francesco de Lana wrote in 1670 that four copper spheres with most of the air sucked out of them would become buoyant, and could be tethered to a gon­dola equipped with a sail.

A Lot of Hot Air

In 1783, two French brothers named Joseph and Etienne Montgolfier made what is considered to be the first vehicle to achieve sustained flight—a hot-air balloon.

The brothers, who were inventors, were experimenting one day at their paper factory when they noticed that a paper bag rose toward the ceiling when it was filled with hot air. They tried filling another bag with steam, but the water vapor soaked the paper and weighed it down. They held bags over a fire and found that the bags rose quickly and remained aloft as long as the air inside stayed hot.

The Very First Aviators

Knowing they were on to something big, the brothers announced they were ready to publicly display their invention. On June 4, 1783, the Montgofiers staged a Paris demonstration for Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette, and their full-size balloon created a Gallic sensation. Worried that the air a few hundred feet off the ground

might be too thin to breathe, the brothers didn’t actually participate in the ascension—they left those honors to a sheep, a chicken, and a duck. While an enormous crowd watched, the animals slowly ascended 1,700 feet into the sky. The sheep and duck were unharmed in the return to earth, but the chicken broke its neck on landing and wound up that evening as part of a family’s dinner.

Aeronauts and the Balloon Revolution

Hot air kept early balloons aloft, and the onboard fire that provided the heat kept pilots on the alert for embers that could ignite the delicate paper the first balloons were made of.

The first human balloon flyers, or aeronauts, in history were not the Montgofier brothers, but two French courtiers named Jean-Francois Pilatre de Rozier and Francois Laurent, the Marquis d’Arlandes. They stoked a fire in the balloon the Montgolfier brothers had built and lifted off from the verge of the Boulogne forest near Paris and

drifted to a safe landing five miles downwind. The two men set a number of “firsts” in aviation history, including sustaining a prolonged flight in a craft they powered themselves—in this case by keeping a fire burning under the balloon’s envelope.

Aeronauts and the Balloon Revolution

By the Book

If the word aeronaut (oundi vaguely familiar, it should. Aero­naut, the name balloon flyers call themselves, derives from Greek words meaning "voyager of the air." Likewise, "astronaut" means "voyager to the stars," while the Russian word "cosmo­naut" means "voyager to the universe."

Leonardo and His Flying Machines

As Leonardo’s understanding of bird flight grew, so did his visions of machines that would lift man off the ground and allow him to fly freely over the treetops. His flying machine featured complex wings and controls that fitted over the head and neck of the pilot. These cumbersome controls were meant to help a flyer control the sideways motion of the machine, much like a ship’s rudder.

One of Leonardo’s quirkier inventions was his take on the helicopter, whose design might not win any beauty contests but at least demonstrates that Leonardo understood the fluid properties of air. The main part of the machine, which never evolved beyond a drawing in a sketch book and a crude model, resembled a screw, a design that Leonardo had integrated into many of his mechanical inventions. Rather than wood or metal, the “thread” of this screw was constructed of heavy fabric that spiraled upward in a broad sweep around a vertical axle. As Leonardo sketched it, the helicopter was meant to be powered by human muscle; a pilot was to turn the central axle rapidly enough to force air down the sloping spiral of fabric, and therefore drive the machine upward.

Leonardo’s machine was far too heavy to have been able to fly under human power alone, but it inspired a lot of imitators—including the Wright brothers, in an indirect way, as we’ll see in Chapter 2, “The Bishop’s Boys: Wilbur and Orville Wright”.

Leonardo and His Flying Machines

Plane Talk

Leonardo designed an enormous device called an "ornithopter" that featured four flap­ping wings attached to levers. He intended the human pilot to pump the levers fast enough to lift the machine off the ground. Judging by the enormous physical demands Leonardo’s machines placed on their pilots, the master engineer might have been better suited to a career as a designer of workout equipment!

The First Flight?

Legends have grown up around Leonardo that tantalize us even today, though his role as an aviation inventor has been overshadowed by his breathtaking paintings and his artistic studies of the human body. One legend that invites the wildest speculation is a story involving one of his many followers and students.

According to the tale, one of Leonardo’s assistants was so impressed by the master’s flying machine that he strapped himself to it and leaped from a tall cliff. There is no account of the flight—if it can be called that—but only of the outcome: The wouldbe flyer hit the ground hard and was seriously injured. It’s interesting to think that if the story is true, and if the flyer glided even slightly outward, then the tiny village of Vinci became on that sunny Florentine morning the site of the first human flight.

Leonardo and His Flying Machines

Leonardo’s wing designs show an amazing level of detail, and
strongly resemble bat wings.

Leonardo and His Flying Machines

Plane Talk

If the legend of Leonardo’* impetuous test-pilot assistant it true, the young man might have appreciated another of Leonardo’s inventions—the parachute. Or maybe not In his notebook, Leonardo drew a detailed sketch of a pyramid-shaped apparatus that dangled its wearer below it just as modern parachutes function. But rather than the light, billowy hemisphere of fabric used in parachutes of the twentieth century, Leonardo’s parachute featured a sturdy pyramidal wood frame covered with heavy fabric. The whole thing was gigantic, meaning that it would have been absurdly heavy. No one is known to have tested the parachute, and considering Leonardo’s scant success with his flying inventions, it’s probably a good thing.

All in all, Leonardo’s aircraft designs were startlingly fresh and innovative. But it was the world’s ill fate that Leonardo was bom too soon. Europe of the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries based its industry on wood and metal. Manufactured goods may have been durable, but they were also heavy. Leonardo must have known that each of his flying machines would ultimately fail. We can only imagine the frustration he must have felt; he was perhaps the first man ever to possess the engineering genius that could have permitted people to fly, but he was trapped by relatively primitive earth-bound technology. He died without ever seeing his inventions work the way he imagined they would.

Did Icarus Beat Orville and Wilbur?

Perhaps the most detailed mythical account of early flight comes to us courtesy of the ancient Greeks. The tale of an inventor named Daedalus and his impulsive, thrill­seeking son, Icarus, has entered our cultural lexicon as a caution against daring to rise as high as the gods.

As the Greeks told the fable, Daedalus and Icarus fled from King Minos of Crete, who had ordered that the pair be arrested for an act of treachery. The two hid in a cave high up in the cliffs overlooking the rocky Cretan shoreline. From there Daedalus spent hours watching eagles soar in the powerful wind currents that pushed upward from the sea, and puzzled over how to craft wings that would enable him and Icarus to fly away from their pursuers. After experimenting with one material after another, Daedalus decided that he would fashion wings from the same feathers that helped the eagles fly.

Once he and Icarus had collected enough feathers—and given a whole new meaning to the term “bald eagle,” no doubt—Daedalus began to press them onto two beeswax-coated, wingshaped frames. Before their escape, and with King Minos’s soldiers at the mouth of their cave, Daedalus gave his son a hasty preflight briefing: Fly halfway between heaven and the sea. Don’t fly too low, he warned Icarus, or the wings could become soaked and heavy from the sea spray. And don’t fly too high, or the heat of the sun might melt the wax and destroy the wings.

Подпись: Plane Talk Of course, it's not only feathers that enable birds to fly. They are fantastically evolved to combine strength with light weight Birds' bones must be strong enough to withstand the enormous demands of rapidly flapping wings, but they must be light enough not to overload the muscles. The weight of man's bones and his large muscle mass force him to turn to technology in order to get off the ground.

Of course, we know how the story ended. Icarus ignored his father’s warning and flew higher and higher, until the sun heated the wax and feathers and the boy fluttered into the sea. The Greeks read into the story a stern caution against arrogantly thinking that it is possible to devise tools that can reach the gods. (The rest of us hear a second message, too: Kids never listen to a thing their parents say.)

The myth of Daedalus and Icarus inspired centuries of aviation innovators, but, ironically, might have hindered our progress toward flight by encouraging generations of minds to focus somewhat slavishly on copying the wing structure and flying style of birds. The determination to mimic bird flight rather than invent our own form of flying delayed the progress of human flight until the eighteenth century.

Not So Mythical

As plausible as that story may have sounded to ancient ears, virtually all scholars and airplane designers agree that the story of Daedalus and Icarus has little or no basis in truth. One notable exception, however, was the renowned science fiction writer H. G. Wells, who insisted that the story was largely based on fact. His claim seemed to gain ground in 1900, when an English expedition uncovered evidence on Crete that possibly confirmed the details of the tale. Still, most pilots are skeptical that a man could have soared on wings made of pasted feathers.

For the Birds

The tale of Daedalus and Icarus is appealing because those of us who are crazy about flying wish that we could strap on wings made of eagle feathers and fly away. The story illustrates the deceptive simplicity of bird flight and the maddening ease with which birds accomplish what men and women have yearned to do for eons.

Did Icarus Beat Orville and Wilbur?

By the Book

Lift is one of four forces of flight that we’ll describe in more detail in Part 3, “In the CockpiL" It is the pressure created by airplane wings that counteracb the pull of gravity and enables planes to fly. In an airplane, thrust is the force, created by a propeller or jet engine, that produces speed.

Did Icarus Beat Orville and Wilbur?


If we had listened to Giovanni Alfonso Borelli, we might never have learned to fly. Borelli, a seventeenth-century aviation enthusiast, speculated that birds flew by combining the flapping of their wings with an intricate twisting motion of each feather. Because people could never duplicate the complicated motion, Borelli predicted we would never fly.

So how do the birds do it? In a few words, they combine up-and-down Happing movements with a front-to-back rowing motion. Together, the coordinated movement of the wings give birds upward lift as well as forward thrust. Add to that basic motion some intricate differences in each wing’s independent motion—and mix in a timely flick of rudder-like tail feathers—and birds are capable of feats of maneuverability and aerobatics that have transfixed and baffled some of the greatest minds in history.

Even now, our rational understanding of the complex forces at work doesn’t erase the sense of wonder we humans feel at watching birds wheeling and flitting through the sky.

Leonardo da Vinci, Aviation Pioneer

Here’s a quiz: Which of the following applies to Leonardo da Vinci?

a) Designed the first machine gun.

b) Conceived a workable submarine.

c) Wrote in handwriting that had to be read using a mirror.

d) Designed an early version of a helicopter.

e) Designed a machine to manufacture gold sequins.

Answer: All of the above!

Surprised? No wonder. But the fact is that Leonardo da Vinci (1452-1519) was the epitome of the “Renaissance Man,” and he generally was able to master anything he put his mind to. Leonardo brought an artist’s keen eye to the pursuit of flight. He spent hours in the hills around the village of Vinci studying the motions of birds and visualizing the forces at work as they flew. He sketched what he saw, and when he died he left behind massive portfolios of sketches and notes that researchers continue to study and marvel over today.

Did Icarus Beat Orville and Wilbur?

Leonardo designed some of the most ingenious devices of his age, including this “flying machine” that was to enable a man to fly like a bird. Unfortunately, it didn’t fly.

Leonardo was no idle sky gazer; he was a skilled engineer and inventor whose innovations included radically speculative creations such as a flapping-wing “ornithopter” and another contraption that resembled a cross between a screw and a parasol. Believe it or not, this was a primitive precursor to the modern helicopter. As if Leonardo’s engineering and mechanical genius weren’t enough to distinguish him, he also possessed a surgeon’s understanding of the human body, not only in its physical form but in the mechanical demands that motion placed on its structure of muscles and bones.

And those accomplishments don’t even touch on the artistic genius that some say made him the finest artist in all of Western history! Gee, was there anything this guy was not good at?

Did Icarus Beat Orville and Wilbur?

Leonardo’s “ornithopter” was a complicated contraption that relied on a person’s flapping a set of mechanical wings.

“If Man Were Meant to Fly…”

For hundreds of generations, men and women have been obsessed with flying like birds, and maybe even better than birds. In fact, many ancient cultures seemed to acknowledge that flight is the most magical thing we could ever hope to do. Just look at their gods. The most revered figures in almost every religion and mythology were able to fly, and aviation myths form part of nearly every religion and culture—from the bird-man icons of the Egyptians to the Old Testament’s much-debated account of the priest Ezekiel’s encounter with a UFO.

“If Man Were Meant to Fly...”

By the Book

Aviab’on is the word we use to describe almost any sport or occupation that takes place in the air. For example, sports like ballooning and gliding fall into the aviation category. Appropri­ately, the word derives from avis,

і the Latin word for "bird.’

L_________ _________


As it turns out, no matter how closely we try to watch birds with the naked eye, it is almost impossible to spot the incredibly subtle secret of their flying. It wasn’t until slow-motion cameras were invented that we really began to understand how birds fly.

Ancient flying tales range from the sublime to the considerably offbeat. For example, in China, storytellers pass down accounts of noblemen who were able to fly with the aid of large hats. These immense chapeaus caught the air and bore their wearers safely away from captivity and danger. These stories could be either the earliest accounts of people using parachutes or an ancient precursor to TVs The Flying Nun!

The Earliest Aviators

The Earliest Aviators

In This Chapter

V The universal dream of flight

^ The Greeks and early flying stories

V Leonardo da Vinci: the first aviation inventor ^ Balloons "take off" in popularity

V The first airplanes: gliders

— ~ ‘ "— —————————– ■———————————————– ‘

Human beings have always been flyers—all we lack are our own wings. From the time our ancestors carved pictures on the walls of caves, we have dreamed of what it might be like to soar with the birds.

For those of us with a passion for the sky, those dreams still fuel our imagination. Sigmund Freud might disagree, but it’s possible that no other dream is as universal as the dream of flying. It’s easy to understand why. Flying releases us from the grip of gravity and enables us to soar effortlessly above the ground, where everything from impassable terrain to bumper-to-bumper traffic hinders and frustrates us. Flying enables us to take our fortunes in our own hands and provides us with a tool that carries us—quite literally—to heights and destinations we might not otherwise have seen.

But many of us love flying for reasons that go deeper than its ability to move us quickly from one nation to another, or from our hometown airport to our favorite fishing lake. For us, flying is a way of expressing our spirit of adventure and our desire

to push ourselves to greater challenges. And to make it even more exciting, there is a thrilling hint of danger thrown in. Although statistics show that some forms of flying are safer than driving a car, no one can deny that flying carries with it some risk.

The Earliest Aviators


Don’t be fooled by bad science fiction movies that show scream­ing cavemen and cave women being carried to their doom by giant pterodactyls. Humans appeared about 194 million years too late to see a Irving ptero­dactyl. In any case, because the early species of pterodactyls grew to about the size of a sparrow, they would have had their claws full to carry much of anything.

The Earliest Aviators

On Course

The surest way to get hooked on flying is to spend an afternoon at your local airsthp watching the airplanes come and go. From a safe location outside the airport boundary, you’ll begin to sense the pace and character of flying— and you’ll fall in love with it. Warning: Aviation can be habit – formingl

Tragedies like the death of John F. Kennedy Jr. in a flying accident in July 1999, remind us that flying can be unforgiving if we aren’t careful. But the death of JFK Jr. also created more interest in flying because many of us read in news reports about how much he loved to be in the air. Kennedy loved flying and he flew his airplane whenever he could, taking friends and family along with him sometimes, just to share the fun.

What is it about flying that some people find so addictive? From the wise old pilots that hang around airports—the “hangar bums” or “ramp rats” as they are affectionately called—to the sounds and sights of planes arriving and departing from the landing strip, flying has an unmistakable mystique. In addition to the indescribable feeling of taking off into a beautiful spring sunrise or flying over the breathtaking landscapes of the Southwest or the great Smoky Mountains, there is a delightful social culture that makes every plane lover feel welcome, even if they haven’t yet earned their wings.

In order to fully appreciate the culture of flying, let’s take a look at how flying began and at some of the heroes who made it what it is today.


In building the first airplane, the Wright brothers realized a dream that had captured the imaginations ofpeople from the ancient Greeks to the Renaissance genius Leonardo da Vinci. In this part of the book, you’ll follow each step in the evolution of airplanes from the dangerous playthings of daredevils to machines capable of crossing oceans. You’ll also be introduced to the colorful personalities whose names have become aviation legends, from the barnstormers of an age gone by to heroes of today like Chuck Yeager.


Flying and Gliding

Flying! Leaving the bonds of the earth behind and seeing the world from above! It’s been our dream from the beginning of time. But only in the last 200 years or so— mere droplets in the great river of time—have humans realized this dream and enjoyed the wonderful exhilaration of flight.

We’ve reveled in our enjoyment of flying in every way imaginable. We’ve risen above the earth in balloons, airships, airplanes, helicopters, gyroplanes, and gliders— every contraption we can conceive of to take to the skies.

Bill Lane explores it all. Ever wonder what makes an airship or a helicopter fly? The answers are right here. Bill takes you from the ancient dream to modern-day reality and explains how each of these marvelous inventions works. In a delightfully playful and clear style he takes you beyond the mechanics of flight and shares his passion for every type of flying—letting you in on the behind-the-scenes jokes and stories that pilots usually share only with other pilots.

Bill is the perfect person to write this book. He comes by his love of flying naturally. His grandfather was a barnstormer who toured the country with an aerial circus. His father followed as a fighter pilot and then airline pilot. Bill himself learned to fly in high school and became a highly qualified flight instructor while obtaining his degree at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University. After a career of sharing the gift of flight with others ranging from university students to fledgling airline pilots, Bill became a professional wordsmith, writing for newspapers and magazines on a wide variety of subjects—especially aviation.

With these special skills, Bill brings to you a clear view of the big picture of aviation. Y ou will not only understand the deep satisfaction that pilots get from commanding an aircraft in flight, but you’ll have a perspective on the inevitable risks involved. You’ll realize that the habit all pilots have of talking about crashes among themselves comes not from a morbid preoccupation with death and destruction, but from a lifelong desire to understand and carefully manage the risks of flight.

No matter what it is that fascinates you about flying—its promise of freedom, its beauty, its precision and science, or the prospect of adventure—you will find it all waiting for you in this book. Enjoy it! And who knows—you might just find, like thousands before you have, that you, too, become inescapably drawn to the sky!


Flying and Gliding

John and Martha King have, through the magic of video, instructed more pilots than anyone in the world. Known for their entertaining and personable onscreen style, the Kings have revolutionized the flight-training industry. They have pursued their enthusiasm for Hying to the fullest, Hying their Citation jet wherever they go and swapping captain and co-pilot duties on each leg. They are the first husband and wife to hold every class of pilot and instructor rating available. From airships and balloons to helicopters, gyroplanes, airplanes, and gliders, John and Martha enjoy them all.

What is the appeal of aviation that draws thousands of new pilots to the skies every year? Is it the legacy of brave men like the earliest barnstormers and air mail pilots? Is it the legend of Charles Lindbergh or the mystery that haunts the memory of Amelia Earhart? Or is it the technicalities of flying, the simple forces of nature that enable tons of metal to lift free of the earth and behave like a bird?

By the time you finish reading The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flying and Gliding, you’ll have a better idea about which aspect of aviation attracts you to this fascinating pursuit. This book is written for the prospective pilot as well as for the spectator who longs for a deeper understanding. The would-be pilot will find it an excellent introduction to concepts that he or she will soon understand in greater depth. And the spectator will come away with a greater appreciation for the sport that already gives him or her immense satisfaction.

What You’ll Learn in This Book.

In The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flying and Gliding, you’ll learn everything you need to know about the history of aviation, the fundamental physical principles that make flight possible, what it takes to make a flight, the secrets behind the thrilling aerobatics that spice up air shows, and the mental and physical obstacles that face human beings when we go aloft.

Here’s what you’ll find in each part of the book:

Part 1, “Taking to the Sky: The History of Flight,” traces the history of the human race’s fascination with birds, the sky, and dreams of flight. You’ll learn about the influence Leonardo da Vinci had on Renaissance thinking, the French ballooning craze of the eighteenth century, and the pioneers of airplanes, the glider pilots. You’ll find out what drove the Wright brothers to develop the first successful flying machine, and follow the early aviators on their daredevil flights around the country to introduce a nation to aviation. You’ll find out which airplanes and which pilots helped win the World Wars, how Charles Lindbergh and Amelia Earhart ignited the imagination of the traveling public, and how pioneering airplane makers gave the public safe, affordable planes in which to indulge in their new hobby—sport flying.

Part 2, “The Thrill of Flight,” explores the nuts and bolts of flying, from the composition of a typical airplane to the physical forces at work to get it off the ground. You’ll be introduced to the science of aerodynamics in simple, clear steps that will help you make sense of this complex subject. You’ll learn about gliders and how they differ from powered airplanes, both in form and in function, and discover how glider pilots keep their craft flying for hours at a time without the aid of an engine. You’ll understand how helicopters function and why they differ so starkly from airplanes, both in the way they operate and in the way they’re put together. You’ll be introduced

to the placid, graceful world of hot-air balloons, which is full of fancifully shaped craft and tradition-bound pilots. Finally, you’ll glimpse some of the oddballs of aviation, from airplanes that behave like helicopters to balloons that can circumnavigate the globe nonstop.

Part 3, “In the Cockpit,” brings you to the front of the plane where the action takes place. For those who want to earn their wings, this part tells you how to achieve that goal. Here, too, you’ll learn the principles of navigation, from the specialized maps used by pilots to the system of latitude and longitude that forms the basis for flight planning. You’ll ride along on a flight and discover how pilots take off, navigate a course, interact with air-traffic controllers, and land their planes. Finally, you’ll be introduced to modern stunt flying. We’ll take a look at how aerobatic pilots execute their amazing maneuvers, from flying upside-down to the wild—and potentially dangerous—maneuvers that thrill crowds around the world.

Part 4, “Meeting the Challenges to the Perfect Flight,” brings you face-to-face with the potential hazards of flying that all pilots must know about to make safe decisions. The weather, the most crucial factor in a pilot’s planning, is explained in clear terms, from the structure of the atmosphere to the names and habits of clouds. You’ll learn about how the body responds to high altitude and strenuous maneuvers, and how the effects of mental and emotional stresses can be amplified in flight conditions. We’ll look at the last flight of John F. Kennedy Jr. and learn how his decisions before and during the flight created a chain of events that could have led to the tragedy. In the last chapter of the book, we’ll take a look at the future of aviation.


Throughout The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Flying and Gliding, you’ll find four types of boxes that contain special information about aviation.

Flying and Gliding


Подпись: These sidebars contain tips and
Подпись: insights to make you more
Подпись: knowledgeable about flying.
Flying and Gliding

Flying and GlidingTurbulence

By the Book

These boxes define aviation terms that might be unfamiliar. ————————————————— )


I wish to thank those who generously lent their time and energy in reading and advising on the manuscript. Special thanks to Shawn Arena, my cousin, a private pilot, airport manager at Phoenix Goodyear Airport in Goodyear, Arizona, and a fellow alumnus of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, who shares with me the inspiration and passion for flying passed on to us by our grandfather, Joseph Lacona, a flyer who first taught us to turn our eyes to the sky.

Very special thanks, too, to Sean Jeralds, a one-time classmate and now chief flight instructor at the finest flight campus in the country—Embry-Riddle in Prescott. Sean’s joy of flying is perhaps equaled only by his joy of teaching it.

Thanks also to Bob Martel, who planted the hot-air ballooning bug in me.

Thanks to my co-author Azriela Jaffe, whose inspiration and encouragement helped ease me through the tough days.

For their generous offer of photographs, I thank Cessna Aircraft Company, Guenther Eichhorn, Allen Matheson, Groen Brothers Aviation, and Vince Miller. Thanks to Heather Potter for her generous help in typing the manuscript.

And, most important, I thank my wife Jennifer, whose faith in me was often greater than my own.


All terms mentioned in this book that are known to be or are suspected of being trademarks or service marks have been appropriately capitalized. Alpha Books and Macmillan U SA, Inc., cannot attest to the accuracy of this information. Use of a term in this book should not be regarded as affecting the validity of any trademark or service mark.