The history of aviation extends for more than two thousand years, from the earliest forms of aviation such as kites and attempts at tower jumping to supersonic and hypersonic flight by powered, heavier-than-air jets.
Kite flying in China dates back to several hundred years BC and slowly spread around the world. It is thought to be the earliest example of man-made flight.
Leonardo da Vinci’s 15th-century dream of flight found expression in several rational but unscientific designs, though he did not attempt to construct any of them.
The discovery of hydrogen gas in the 18th century led to the invention of the hydrogen balloon, at almost exactly the same time that the Montgolfier brothers rediscovered the hot-air balloon and began manned flights. Various theories in mechanics by physicists during the same period of time, notably fluid dynamics and Newton’s laws of motion, led to the foundation of modern aerodynamics, most notably by Sir George Cayley.
Balloons, both free-flying and tethered, began to be used for military purposes from the end of the 18th century, with the French government establishing Balloon Companies during the Revolution.
The term aviation, noun of action from stem of Latin avis “bird” with suffix -ation meaning action or progress, was coined in 1863 by French pioneer Guillaume Joseph Gabriel de La Landelle (1812–1886) in “Aviation ou Navigation aérienne sans ballons”.
Experiments with gliders provided the groundwork for heavier-than-air craft, and by the early-20th century, advances in engine technology and aerodynamics made controlled, powered flight possible for the first time. The modern aeroplane with its characteristic tail was established by 1909 and from then on the history of the aeroplane became tied to the development of more and more powerful engines.
The first great ships of the air were the rigid dirigible balloons pioneered by Ferdinand von Zeppelin, which soon became synonymous with airships and dominated long-distance flight until the 1930s, when large flying boats became popular. After World War II, the flying boats were in their turn replaced by land planes, and the new and immensely powerful jet engine revolutionised both air travel and military aviation.
In the latter part of the 20th century the advent of digital electronics produced great advances in flight instrumentation and “fly-by-wire” systems. The 21st century saw the large-scale use of pilotless drones for military, civilian and leisure use. With digital controls, inherently unstable aircraft such as flying wings became possible.
The origin of mankind’s desire to fly is lost in the distant past. From the earliest legends there have been stories of men strapping birdlike wings, stiffened cloaks or other devices to themselves and attempting to fly, typically by jumping off a tower. The Greek legend of Daedalus and Icarus is one of the earliest known; others originated from India, China and the European Middle Age. During this early period the issues of lift, stability and control were not understood, and most attempts ended in serious injury or death.
In medieval Europe, the earliest recorded tower jump dates from 852 AD, when Armen Firman, also known as Abbas ibn Firnas (810–887 A.D.), made a jump in Cordoba, Spain, reportedly covering his body with vulture feathers and attaching two wings to his arms. Eilmer of Malmesbury soon followed and many others have continued to do so over the centuries. As late as 1811, Albrecht Berblinger constructed an ornithopter and jumped into the Danube at Ulm.
The kite may have been the first form of man-made aircraft. It was invented in China possibly as far back as the 5th century BC by Mozi (Mo Di) and Lu Ban (Gongshu Ban). Later designs often emulated flying insects, birds, and other beasts, both real and mythical. Some were fitted with strings and whistles to make musical sounds while flying. Ancient and medieval Chinese sources describe kites being used to measure distances, test the wind, lift men, signal, and communicate and send messages.
Kites spread from China around the world. After its introduction into India, the kite further evolved into the fighter kite, where an abrasive line is used to cut down other kites.
Man-carrying kites are believed to have been used extensively in ancient China, for both civil and military purposes and sometimes enforced as a punishment. An early recorded flight was that of the prisoner Yuan Huangtou, a Chinese prince, in the 6th Century AD. Stories of man-carrying kites also occur in Japan, following the introduction of the kite from China around the seventh century AD. It is said that at one time there was a Japanese law against man-carrying kites.
Main article: Bamboo-copter
The use of a rotor for vertical flight has existed since 400 BC in the form of the bamboo-copter, an ancient Chinese toy. The similar “moulinet à noix” (rotor on a nut) appeared in Europe in the 14th century AD.
Hot air balloons
From ancient times the Chinese have understood that hot air rises and have applied the principle to a type of small hot air balloon called a sky lantern. A sky lantern consists of a paper balloon under or just inside which a small lamp is placed. Sky lanterns are traditionally launched for pleasure and during festivals. According to Joseph Needham, such lanterns were known in China from the 3rd century BC. Their military use is attributed to the general Zhuge Liang (180–234 AD, honorific title Kongming), who is said to have used them to scare the enemy troops.
There is evidence that the Chinese also “solved the problem of aerial navigation” using balloons, hundreds of years before the 18th century.
Eventually some investigators began to discover and define some of the basics of rational aircraft design. Most notable of these was Leonardo da Vinci, although his work remained unknown until 1797, and so had no influence on developments over the next three hundred years. While his designs were at least rational, they were not based on particularly good science.
Leonardo studied bird flight, analyzing it and anticipating many principles of aerodynamics. He did at least understand that “An object offers as much resistance to the air as the air does to the object.” Newton would not publish the Third law of motion until 1687.
From the last years of the 15th century on he wrote about and sketched many designs for flying machines and mechanisms, including ornithopters, fixed-wing gliders, rotorcraft and parachutes. His early designs were man-powered types including ornithopters and rotorcraft, however he came to realise the impracticality of this and later turned to controlled gliding flight, also sketching some designs powered by a spring.
Lighter than air
Beginnings of modern theory
In 1670 Francesco Lana de Terzi published a work that suggested lighter than air flight would be possible by using copper foil spheres that, containing a vacuum, would be lighter than the displaced air to lift an airship. While theoretically sound, his design was not feasible: the pressure of the surrounding air would crush the spheres. The idea of using vacuum to produce lift is now known as vacuum airship but remains unfeasible with any current materials.
In 1709 Bartolomeu de Gusmão presented a petition to King John V of Portugal, begging for support for his invention of an airship, in which he expressed the greatest confidence. The public test of the machine, which was set for June 24, 1709, did not take place. According to contemporary reports, however, Gusmão appears to have made several less ambitious experiments with this machine, descending from eminences. It is certain that Gusmão was working on this principle at the public exhibition he gave before the Court on August 8, 1709, in the hall of the Casa da Índia in Lisbon, when he propelled a ball to the roof by combustion.[clarification needed]
1783 was a watershed year for ballooning and aviation. Between June 4 and December 1, five aviation firsts were achieved in France:
On 4 June, the Montgolfier brothers demonstrated their unmanned hot air balloon at Annonay, France.
On 27 August, Jacques Charles and the Robert brothers (Les Freres Robert) launched the world’s first unmanned hydrogen-filled balloon, from the Champ de Mars, Paris.
On 19 October, the Montgolfiers launched the first manned flight, a tethered balloon with humans on board, at the Folie Titon in Paris. The aviators were the scientist Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, the manufacture manager Jean-Baptiste Réveillon, and Giroud de Villette.
On 21 November, the Montgolfiers launched the first free flight with human passengers. King Louis XVI had originally decreed that condemned criminals would be the first pilots, but Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier, along with the Marquis François d’Arlandes, successfully petitioned for the honor. They drifted 8 km (5.0 mi) in a balloon powered by a wood fire.
On 1 December, Jacques Charles and the Nicolas-Louis Robert launched their manned hydrogen balloon from the Jardin des Tuileries in Paris, as a crowd of 400,000 witnessed. They ascended to a height of about 1,800 feet (550 m) and landed at sunset in Nesles-la-Vallée after a flight of 2 hours and 5 minutes, covering 36 km. After Robert alighted Charles decided to ascend alone. This time he ascended rapidly to an altitude of about 9,800 feet (3,000 m), where he saw the sun again, suffered extreme pain in his ears, and never flew again.
Ballooning became a major “rage” in Europe in the late 18th century, providing the first detailed understanding of the relationship between altitude and the atmosphere.
Non-steerable balloons were employed during the American Civil War by the Union Army Balloon Corps. The young Ferdinand von Zeppelin first flew as a balloon passenger with the Union Army of the Potomac in 1863.
In the early 1900s ballooning was a popular sport in Britain. These privately owned balloons usually used coal gas as the lifting gas. This has half the lifting power of hydrogen so the balloons had to be larger, however coal gas was far more readily available and the local gas works sometimes provided a special lightweight formula for ballooning events.
Airships were originally called “dirigible balloons” and are still sometimes called dirigibles today.
Work on developing a steerable (or dirigible) balloon continued sporadically throughout the 19th century. The first powered, controlled, sustained lighter-than-air flight is believed to have taken place in 1852 when Henri Giffard flew 15 miles (24 km) in France, with a steam engine driven craft.
Another advance was made in 1884, when the first fully controllable free-flight was made in a French Army electric-powered airship, La France, by Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs. The 170-foot (52 m) long, 66,000-cubic-foot (1,900 m3) airship covered 8 km (5.0 mi) in 23 minutes with the aid of an 8½ horsepower electric motor.
However, these aircraft were generally short-lived and extremely frail. Routine, controlled flights would not occur until the advent of the internal combustion engine (see below.)
The first aircraft to make routine controlled flights were non-rigid airships (sometimes called “blimps”.) The most successful early pioneering pilot of this type of aircraft was the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont who effectively combined a balloon with an internal combustion engine. On October 19, 1901 he flew his airship Number 6 over Paris from the Parc de Saint Cloud around the Eiffel Tower and back in under 30 minutes to win the Deutsch de la Meurthe prize. Santos-Dumont went on to design and build several aircraft. Subsequent controversy surrounding his and others’ competing claims with regard to aircraft overshadowed his great contribution to the development of airships.
At the same time that non-rigid airships were starting to have some success, the first successful rigid airships were also being developed. These would be far more capable than fixed-wing aircraft in terms of pure cargo carrying capacity for decades. Rigid airship design and advancement was pioneered by the German count Ferdinand von Zeppelin.
Construction of the first Zeppelin airship began in 1899 in a floating assembly hall on Lake Constance in the Bay of Manzell, Friedrichshafen. This was intended to ease the starting procedure, as the hall could easily be aligned with the wind. The prototype airship LZ 1 (LZ for “Luftschiff Zeppelin”) had a length of 128 m (420 ft) was driven by two 10.6 kW (14.2 hp) Daimler engines and balanced by moving a weight between its two nacelles.
Its first flight, on July 2, 1900, lasted for only 18 minutes, as LZ 1 was forced to land on the lake after the winding mechanism for the balancing weight had broken. Upon repair, the technology proved its potential in subsequent flights, bettering the 6 m/s speed attained by the French airship La France by 3 m/s, but could not yet convince possible investors. It would be several years before the Count was able to raise enough funds for another try.
Although airships were used in both World War I and II, and continue on a limited basis to this day, their development has been largely overshadowed by heavier-than-air craft.
Heavier than air
The 17th and 18th centuries
Italian inventor Tito Livio Burattini, invited by the Polish King Władysław IV to his court in Warsaw, built a model aircraft with four fixed glider wings in 1647. Described as “four pairs of wings attached to an elaborate ‘dragon'”, it was said to have successfully lifted a cat in 1648 but not Burattini himself. He promised that “only the most minor injuries” would result from landing the craft. His “Dragon Volant” is considered “the most elaborate and sophisticated aeroplane to be built before the 19th Century”.
The first published paper on aviation was “Sketch of a Machine for Flying in the Air” by Emanuel Swedenborg published in 1716. This flying machine consisted of a light frame covered with strong canvas and provided with two large oars or wings moving on a horizontal axis, arranged so that the upstroke met with no resistance while the downstroke provided lifting power. Swedenborg knew that the machine would not fly, but suggested it as a start and was confident that the problem would be solved. He wrote: “It seems easier to talk of such a machine than to put it into actuality, for it requires greater force and less weight than exists in a human body. The science of mechanics might perhaps suggest a means, namely, a strong spiral spring. If these advantages and requisites are observed, perhaps in time to come some one might know how better to utilize our sketch and cause some addition to be made so as to accomplish that which we can only suggest. Yet there are sufficient proofs and examples from nature that such flights can take place without danger, although when the first trials are made you may have to pay for the experience, and not mind an arm or leg.” Swedenborg would prove prescient in his observation that a method of powering of an aircraft was one of the critical problems to be overcome.
The 19th century
Throughout the 19th century, tower jumping was replaced by the equally fatal but equally popular balloon jumping as a way to demonstrate the continued uselessness of man-power and flapping wings. Meanwhile, the scientific study of heavier-than-air flight began in earnest.
Sir George Cayley and the first modern aircraft
Sir George Cayley was first called the “father of the aeroplane” in 1846. During the last years of the previous century he had begun the first rigorous study of the physics of flight and would later design the first modern heavier-than-air craft. Among his many achievements, his most important contributions to aeronautics include:
Clarifying our ideas and laying down the principles of heavier-than-air flight.
Reaching a scientific understanding of the principles of bird flight.
Conducting scientific aerodynamic experiments demonstrating drag and streamlining, movement of the centre of pressure, and the increase in lift from curving the wing surface.
Defining the modern aeroplane configuration comprising a fixed wing, fuselage and tail assembly.
Demonstrations of manned, gliding flight.
Setting out the principles of power-to-weight ratio in sustaining flight.
Cayley’s first innovation was to study the basic science of lift by adopting the whirling arm test rig for use in aircraft research and using simple aerodynamic models on the arm, rather than attempting to fly a model of a complete design.
In 1799 he set down the concept of the modern aeroplane as a fixed-wing flying machine with separate systems for lift, propulsion, and control.
In 1804 Cayley constructed a model glider which was the first modern heavier-than-air flying machine, having the layout of a conventional modern aircraft with an inclined wing towards the front and adjustable tail at the back with both tailplane and fin. A movable weight allowed adjustment of the model’s centre of gravity.
In 1809, goaded by the farcical antics of his contemporaries (see above), he began the publication of a landmark three-part treatise titled “On Aerial Navigation” (1809–1810). In it he wrote the first scientific statement of the problem, “The whole problem is confined within these limits, viz. to make a surface support a given weight by the application of power to the resistance of air.” He identified the four vector forces that influence an aircraft: thrust, lift, drag and weight and distinguished stability and control in his designs. He also identified and described the importance of the cambered aerofoil, dihedral, diagonal bracing and drag reduction, and contributed to the understanding and design of ornithopters and parachutes.
In 1848 he had progressed far enough to construct a glider in the form of a triplane large and safe enough to carry a child. A local boy was chosen but his name is not known.
He went on to publish in 1852 the design for a full-size manned glider or “governable parachute” to be launched from a balloon and then to construct a version capable of launching from the top of a hill, which carried the first adult aviator across Brompton Dale in 1853.
Minor inventions included the rubber-powered motor, which provided a reliable power source for research models. By 1808 he had even re-invented the wheel, devising the tension-spoked wheel in which all compression loads are carried by the rim, allowing a lightweight undercarriage.
The age of steam
Drawing directly from Cayley’s work, Henson’s 1842 design for an aerial steam carriage broke new ground. Although only a design, it was the first in history for a propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft.
1866 saw the founding of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain and two years later the world’s first aeronautical exhibition was held at the Crystal Palace, London, where John Stringfellow was awarded a £100 prize for the steam engine with the best power-to-weight ratio. In 1848 Stringfellow achieved the first powered flight using an unmanned 10 ft wingspan steam-powered monoplane built in a disused lace factory in Chard, Somerset. Employing two contra-rotating propellers on the first attempt, made indoors, the machine flew ten feet before becoming destabilised, damaging the craft. The second attempt was more successful, the machine leaving a guide wire to fly freely, achieving some thirty yards of straight and level powered flight. Francis Herbert Wenham presented the first paper to the newly formed Aeronautical Society (later the Royal Aeronautical Society), On Aerial Locomotion. He advanced Cayley’s work on cambered wings, making important findings. To test his ideas, from 1858 he had constructed several gliders, both manned and unmanned, and with up to five stacked wings. He realised that long, thin wings are better than bat-like ones because they have more leading edge for their area. Today this relationship is known as the aspect ratio of a wing.
The latter part of the 19th century became a period of intense study, characterized by the “gentleman scientists” who represented most research efforts until the 20th century. Among them was the British scientist-philosopher and inventor Matthew Piers Watt Boulton, who studied lateral flight control and was the first to patent an aileron control system in 1868.
In 1871 Wenham and Browning made the first wind tunnel.
Meanwhile, the British advances had galvanised French researchers. In 1857 Félix du Temple proposed a monoplane with a tail plane and retractable undercarriage. Developing his ideas with a model powered first by clockwork and later by steam, he eventually achieved a short hop with a full-size manned craft in 1874. It achieved lift-off under its own power after launching from a ramp, glided for a short time and returned safely to the ground, making it the first successful powered glide in history.
In 1865 Louis Pierre Mouillard published an influential book The Empire Of The Air (l’Empire de l’Air).
In 1856, Frenchman Jean-Marie Le Bris made the first flight higher than his point of departure, by having his glider “L’Albatros artificiel” pulled by a horse on a beach. He reportedly achieved a height of 100 meters, over a distance of 200 meters.
Alphonse Pénaud, a Frenchman, advanced the theory of wing contours and aerodynamics and constructed successful models of aeroplanes, helicopters and ornithopters. In 1871 he flew the first aerodynamically stable fixed-wing aeroplane, a model monoplane he called the “Planophore”, a distance of 40 m (130 ft). Pénaud’s model incorporated several of Cayley’s discoveries, including the use of a tail, wing dihedral for inherent stability, and rubber power. The planophore also had longitudinal stability, being trimmed such that the tailplane was set at a smaller angle of incidence than the wings, an original and important contribution to the theory of aeronautics. Pénaud’s later project for an amphibian aeroplane, although never built, incorporated other modern features. A tailless monoplane with a single vertical fin and twin tractor propellers, it also featured hinged rear elevator and rudder surfaces, retractable undercarriage and a fully enclosed, instrumented cockpit.
Equally authoritative as a theorist was Pénaud’s fellow countryman Victor Tatin. In 1879 he flew a model which, like Pénaud’s project, was a monoplane with twin tractor propellers but also had a separate horizontal tail. It was powered by compressed air. Flown tethered to a pole, this was the first model to take off under its own power.
In 1884 Alexandre Goupil published his work La Locomotion Aérienne (Aerial Locomotion), although the flying machine he later constructed failed to fly.
In 1890 the French engineer Clément Ader completed the first of three steam-driven flying machines, the Éole. On October 9, 1890 Ader made an uncontrolled hop of around 50 m (165 ft); this was the first manned airplane to take off under its own power. His Avion III of 1897, notable only for having twin steam engines, failed to fly: Ader would later claim success and was not debunked until 1910 when the French Army published its report on his attempt.
Sir Hiram Maxim was an American engineer who had moved to England. He built his own whirling arm rig and wind tunnel, and constructed a large machine with a wingspan of 105 feet (32 m), a length of 145 feet (44 m), fore and aft horizontal surfaces and a crew of three. Twin propellers were powered by two lightweight compound steam engines each delivering 180 hp (130 kW). Overall weight was 8,000 pounds (3,600 kg). It was intended as a test rig to investigate aerodynamic lift: lacking flight controls it ran on rails, with a second set of rails above the wheels to restrain it. Completed in 1894, on its third run it broke from the rail, became airborne for about 200 yards at two to three feet of altitude and was badly damaged upon falling back to the ground. It was subsequently repaired, but Maxim abandoned his experiments shortly afterwards.
Learning to glide
In the last decade or so of the 19th century, a number of key figures were refining and defining the modern aeroplane. Lacking a suitable engine, aircraft work focused on stability and control in gliding flight. In 1879 Biot constructed a bird-like glider with the help of Massia and flew in it briefly. It is preserved in the Musee de l’Air, France, and is claimed to be the earliest man-carrying flying machine still in existence.
The Englishman Horatio Phillips made key contributions to aerodynamics. He conducted extensive wind tunnel research on aerofoil sections, proving the principles of aerodynamic lift foreseen by Cayley and Wenham. His findings underpin all modern aerofoil design.
Otto Lilienthal became known as the “Glider King” or “Flying Man” of Germany. He duplicated Wenham’s work and greatly expanded on it in 1884, publishing his research in 1889 as Birdflight as the Basis of Aviation (Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst). He also produced a series of hang gliders, including bat-wing, monoplane and biplane forms, such as the Derwitzer Glider and Normal soaring apparatus. Starting in 1891 he became the first person to make controlled untethered glides routinely, and the first to be photographed flying a heavier-than-air machine, stimulating interest around the world. He rigorously documented his work, including photographs, and for this reason is one of the best known of the early pioneers. Lilienthal made over 2,000 glides until his death in 1896 from injuries sustained in a glider crash.
Picking up where Lilienthal left off, Octave Chanute took up aircraft design after an early retirement, and funded the development of several gliders. In the summer of 1896 his team flew several of their designs eventually deciding that the best was a biplane design. Like Lilienthal, he documented and photographed his work.
In Britain Percy Pilcher, who had worked for Maxim, built and successfully flew several gliders during the mid to late 1890s.
The invention of the box kite during this period by the Australian Lawrence Hargrave would lead to the development of the practical biplane. In 1894 Hargrave linked four of his kites together, added a sling seat, and flew 16 feet (4.9 m). Later pioneers of manned kite flying included Samuel Franklin Cody in England and Captain Génie Saconney in France.
After a distinguished career in astronomy and shortly before becoming Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, Samuel Pierpont Langley started a serious investigation into aerodynamics at what is today the University of Pittsburgh. In 1891 he published Experiments in Aerodynamics detailing his research, and then turned to building his designs. He hoped to achieve automatic aerodynamic stability, so he gave little consideration to in-flight control. On May 6, 1896, Langley’s Aerodrome No. 5 made the first successful sustained flight of an unpiloted, engine-driven heavier-than-air craft of substantial size. It was launched from a spring-actuated catapult mounted on top of a houseboat on the Potomac River near Quantico, Virginia. Two flights were made that afternoon, one of 1,005 metres (3,297 ft) and a second of 700 metres (2,300 ft), at a speed of approximately 25 miles per hour (40 km/h). On both occasions the Aerodrome No. 5 landed in the water as planned, because in order to save weight, it was not equipped with landing gear. On November 28, 1896, another successful flight was made with the Aerodrome No. 6. This flight, of 1,460 metres (4,790 ft), was witnessed and photographed by Alexander Graham Bell. The Aerodrome No. 6 was actually Aerodrome No. 4 greatly modified. So little remained of the original aircraft that it was given a new designation.
With the successes of the Aerodrome No. 5 and No. 6, Langley started looking for funding to build a full-scale man-carrying version of his designs. Spurred by the Spanish–American War, the U.S. government granted him $50,000 to develop a man-carrying flying machine for aerial reconnaissance. Langley planned on building a scaled-up version known as the Aerodrome A, and started with the smaller Quarter-scale Aerodrome, which flew twice on June 18, 1901, and then again with a newer and more powerful engine in 1903.
With the basic design apparently successfully tested, he then turned to the problem of a suitable engine. He contracted Stephen Balzer to build one, but was disappointed when it delivered only 8 hp (6.0 kW) instead of 12 hp (8.9 kW) he expected. Langley’s assistant, Charles M. Manly, then reworked the design into a five-cylinder water-cooled radial that delivered 52 hp (39 kW) at 950 rpm, a feat that took years to duplicate. Now with both power and a design, Langley put the two together with great hopes.
To his dismay, the resulting aircraft proved to be too fragile. Simply scaling up the original small models resulted in a design that was too weak to hold itself together. Two launches in late 1903 both ended with the Aerodrome immediately crashing into the water. The pilot, Manly, was rescued each time. Also, the aircraft’s control system was inadequate to allow quick pilot responses, and it had no method of lateral control, and the Aerodrome’s aerial stability was marginal.
Langley’s attempts to gain further funding failed, and his efforts ended. Nine days after his second abortive launch on December 8, the Wright brothers successfully flew their Flyer. Glenn Curtiss made 93 modifications to the Aerodrome and flew this very different aircraft in 1914. Without acknowledging the modifications, the Smithsonian Institution asserted that Langley’s Aerodrome was the first machine “capable of flight”.
Gustave Weißkopf was a German who emigrated to the U.S., where he soon changed his name to Whitehead. From 1897 to 1915 he designed and built early flying machines and engines. On August 14, 1901, two and a half years before the Wright Brothers’ flight, he claimed to have carried out a controlled, powered flight in his Number 21 monoplane at Fairfield, Connecticut. The flight was reported in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald local newspaper. About 30 years later, several people questioned by a researcher claimed to have seen that or other Whitehead flights.
In March 2013 Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft, an authoritative source for contemporary aviation, published an editorial which accepted Whitehead’s flight as the first manned, powered, controlled flight of a heavier-than-air craft. The Smithsonian Institution (custodians of the original Wright Flyer) and many aviation historians continue to maintain that Whitehead did not fly as suggested.
Source from Wikipedia