One of the first pioneers to enter the area of heavier than-air flight in the nineteenth century was Sir George Cayley. As a teenager he built small model helicopters, and studied the flight of birds just like Leonardo da Vinci. In 1804, he constructed a whirling arm device which tested the behavior of air pressure on various types of wings. During his life time he identified the forces of lift, drag, and thrust, developed the cambered upper surface on a wing to increase lift; worked on engines and propellers; two wing (bi-wing) and three wing (tri-wing) aircrafts; and build the first successful full-size, manned glider.
Another American who entered the field of aviation was Samuel Pierpont Langley. His major contribution to flight involved attempts at adding a power plant to a glider. In 1896, he successfully built a steam powered model which flew for three quarters of a mile before running out of fuel. In order for him to make an aircraft that had a reasonable range he needed to make a lighter engine.
The person who designed the lighter aircraft engine, was Charles M. Manley, Langleys assistant. By October 1903 the engine was placed in a full scale life model. With the help of a United States grant of $70,000 he was able to build the navy an aircraft that could be launched off of a ship. The Aerodrome, as Langley called his aircraft, was to be launched by catapult from the barge anchored in the Potomac River, two tries were made and both where failed, with the aircraft crashing. Despite the slight setback this failure did not set back the dreamers.
Langley (above) inspects his engine. Unfortunately, (left) his inspection did not account for the ridiculous design.
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