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Dawn of Flight Timeline

1843-1901 Flight Timeline

The Wright glider­.
The Wright glider­.
Wright State University Archives

­1843 William Henson patents the Aerial Steam Carriage, a proposal for a practical flying machine.

1849 Sir George Cayley tests the first glider to carry a person.


August 22, 1849 Austria uses hot-air balloons to bomb Venice.

June 1853 Sir George Cayley has his coachman make a free fight in a glider.

1858 Gaspard-Félix Tournachon (Nadar) takes the first aerial photograph from a balloon.

1859 John Wise and two others fly from St. Louis to Henderson, New York, in a hydrogen balloon.

1860 Jean Joseph Etienne Lenoir invents the internal combustion engine, which will prove necessary for heavier-than-air flight.

1861 Thaddeus Lowe makes the first aerial telegraphic transmission from a balloon.

August 3, 1861 Fanny, a steam tug used by John La Mountain, becomes the first aircraft carrier.

October 1, 1861 The Army Balloon Corps is formed.

November 1861 The George Washington Parke Custis, a coal barge, is converted into army service as a balloon boat, a craft for inflating and launching balloons.

1862 G. P. D'Amecourt of France builds the first steam-powered model helicopter.

1862 Thaddeus Lowe uses the balloon Intrepid for observation in the Battle of Fair Oaks.

1865 Charles de Louvrie of France designs the first jet-engine plane.

1865 Jules Verne's book From the Earth to the Moon forecasts future space travel.

1867 The design for the delta wing is patented in England.

1870 During the Franco/Prussian War, balloons are used to carry mail, government papers, and important public officials to safety from the besieged city of Paris.

1870-1871 Alphonse Penaud flies model helicopters using rubber-band motors.

October 8, 1883 Albert Tissandier flies an electric-powered dirigibile.

August 9, 1884 The French army airship La France makes a closed-circuit flight on electric power.

1889 Otto Lilienthal publishes Bird Flight as the Basis of the Flying Art.

October 9, 1890 Clement Ader of France makes a hop from level ground in a steam-powered plane.

May 6, 1896 Samuel Pierpont Langley makes a success­ful flight of a steam-powered model Aerodrome.

August 10, 1896 After more than 2,000 successful flights, Otto Lilienthal dies of injuries sustained in a glider crash.

July 11, 1897 The ill-fated Salomon August Andrée expedition attempts to fly a balloon over the North Pole; three people vanish.

1899 Orville and Wilbur Wright experiment with a model biplane kite to test the key idea of wing warping.

1900 The Wright brothers produce their first glider.

July 2, 1900 Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin successfully flies his first dirigible, the LZ 1.

1901 The second Wright glider is tested at Kitty Hawk.

June 1901 Samuel Pierpont Langley makes 1/4-scale model Aerodrome and flies it successfully with an internal combustion steam engine.

August 14, 1901 Gustave Whitehead claims powered flight.

October 1901 Austrian Wilhelm Kress attempts to fly a powered heavier-than-air craft from water but fails. His is the first aeroplane with a gasoline-powered engine.

­October 19, 1901 Alberto Santos-Dumont flies a dirigible around the Eiffel Tower.