Five Little-Known Facts about the History of Flight

Are you traveling this summer? Will you take an airplane to get to your destination? The history of flight is rich with experiments, trial and error, and new discoveries along the way – each step took us just a bit closer to the dependable aircrafts we use today!


1.Human being discovered how to fly using balloons in the 1700s, but the balloons could not be steered.

2.The first inventors tried many different options for steering the balloons, even training and harnessing birds! (It didn’t work.)

3.The first craft big enough to hold a person was built in 1852 and was powered by wind. It was called a “heavier-than-air” machine even though it was actually the world’s first airplane. The first person to fly in a heavier-than-air machine was the son of one of the inventor’s servants, an unnamed 10-year old boy.

4.In 1900, a wealthy French businessman offered a large cash prize to any airship flier who could circle the Eiffel Tower in Paris. To win, the airship had to take off from the nearby town of Saint-Cloud, fly to Paris, circle the tower, and fly back to Saint-Cloud, all within 30 minutes. A number of pilots tried for the prize and failed. Santos-Dumont did not care about the money, but he wanted to show how well his dirigibles could fly. He tried for the prize once and failed, as all the others had. But on Oct. 19, 1901, he tried again, and won. His Dirigible Number 6 came from Saint-Cloud, flew in a little circle around the Eiffel Tower, and made it back to Saint-Cloud in exactly 29½ minutes!
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5.What made the Wright brothers’ flight so much more important than the flight of a balloon, airship, or a glider? Flyer took off under its own power, pulled upward by its whirling propellers!



A Dream Takes Flight


An introduction to the history of flight, including information about the invention and development of balloons, parachutes, airships, gliders, helicopters, airplanes, missiles, rockets, and spaceships. Features include stories, activities, and a list of additional resources


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