After 17th century, people learned more about mechanics and dynamics, more complex flying machines was manufactured.
Heavier than air: sustained flight
The 17th and 18th centuries
Leonardo da Vinci’s realisation that manpower alone was not sufficient for sustained flight was rediscovered independently in the 17th century by Giovanni Alfonso Borelli and Robert Hooke. Hooke realised that some form of engine would be necessary and in 1655 made a spring-powered ornithopter model which was apparently able to fly.
Attempts to design or construct a true flying machine began, typically comprising a gondola with a supporting canopy and spring- or man-powered flappers for propulsion. Among the first were Hautsch and Burattini (1648). Others included de Gusmão’s “Passarola” (1709 on), Swedenborg (1716), Desforges (1772), Bauer (1764), Meerwein (1781), and Blanchard (1781) who would later have more success with balloons. Rotary-winged helicopters likewise appeared, notably from Lomonosov (1754) and Paucton. A few model gliders flew successfully although some claims are contested, but in any event no full-size craft succeeded.
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”.
Bartolomeu de Gusmão’s “Passarola” was a hollow, vaguely bird-shaped glider of similar concept but with two wings. In 1709, he 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 24 June 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 8 August 1709, in the hall of the Casa da Índia in Lisbon, when he propelled a ball to the roof by combustion.[clarification needed] He also demonstrated a small airship model before the Portuguese court, but never succeeded with a full-scale model.
However, both understanding and a power source were still lacking. This was recognised by Emanuel Swedenborg in his “Sketch of a Machine for Flying in the Air” published in 1716. His 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”. The Editor of the Royal Aeronautical Society journal wrote in 1910 that Swedenborg’s design was “…the first rational proposal for a flying machine of the aeroplance [heavier-than-air] type…”
Meanwhile, rotorcraft were not wholly forgotten. In July 1754, Mikhail Lomonosov demonstrated a small coaxial twin-rotor system, powered by a spring, to the Russian Academy of Sciences. The rotors were arranged one above the other and spun in opposite directions, principles still used in modern twin-rotor designs. In his 1768 Théorie de la vis d’Archimède, Alexis-Jean-Pierre Paucton suggested the use of one airscrew for lift and a second for propulsion, nowadays called a gyrodyne. In 1784, Launoy and Bienvenu demonstrated a flying model with coaxial, contra-rotating rotors powered by a simple spring similar to a bow saw, now accepted as the first powered helicopter.
Attempts at man-powered flight still persisted. Paucton’s rotorcraft was man-powered, while another approach, also originally studied by da Vinci, was the use of flap valves. The flap valve is a simple hinged flap over a hole in the wing. In one direction it opens to allow air through and in the other it closes to allow an increased pressure difference. An early example was designed by Bauer in 1764. Later in 1808, Jacob Degen built an ornithopter with flap valves, in which the pilot stood on a rigid frame and worked the wings with a movable horizontal bar. His 1809 attempt at flight failed, so he then added a small hydrogen balloon and the combination achieved some short hops. Popular illustrations of the day depicted his machine without the balloon, leading to confusion as to what had actually flown. In 1811, Albrecht Berblinger built an ornithopter based on Degen’s design but omitted the balloon, plunging instead into the Danube. The fiasco did have an upside: George Cayley, also taken in by the illustrations, was spurred to publish his findings to date “for the sake of giving a little more dignity to a subject bordering upon the ludicrous in public estimation”, and the modern era of aviation was born.
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.
From the age of ten Cayley began studying the physics of bird flight and his school notebooks contained sketches in which he was developing his ideas on the theories of flight. It has been claimed that these sketches show that Cayley modeled the principles of a lift-generating inclined plane as early as 1792 or 1793.
In 1796 Cayley made a model helicopter of the form commonly known as a Chinese flying top, unaware of Launoy and Bienvenu’s model of similar design. He regarded the helicopter as the best design for simple vertical flight, and later in his life in 1854 he made an improved model. He gave a Mr. Cooper credit for being the first person to improve on “the clumsy structure of the toy” and reports Cooper’s model as ascending twenty or thirty feet. Cayley made one and a Mr. Coulson made a copy, described by Cayley as “a very beautiful specimen of the screw propellor in the air” and capable of flying over ninety feet high.
Cayley’s next innovations were twofold: the adoption of the whirling arm test rig, invented in the previous century by Benjamin Robbins to investigate aerodynamic drag and used soon after by John Smeaton to measure the forces on rotating windmill blades, for use in aircraft research together with the use of aerodynamic models on the arm, rather than attempting to fly a model of a complete design. He initially used a simple flat plane fixed to the arm and inclined at an angle to the airflow.
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. On a small silver disc dated that year, he engraved on one side the forces acting on an aircraft and on the other a sketch of an aircraft design incorporating such modern features as a cambered wing, separate tail comprising a horizontal tailplane and vertical fin, and fuselage for the pilot suspended below the center of gravity to provide stability. The design is not yet wholly modern, incorporating as it does two pilot-operated paddles or oars which appear to work as flap valves.
He continued his researches and in 1804 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. The wing was just a toy paper kite, flat and uncambered. A movable weight allowed adjustment of the model’s centre of gravity. It was “very pretty to see” when flying down a hillside, and sensitive to small adjustments of the tail.
By the end of 1809, he had constructed the world’s first full-size glider and flown it as an unmanned tethered kite. In the same year, 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 argued that manpower alone was insufficient, and while no suitable power source was yet available he discussed the possibilities and even described the operating principle of the internal combustion engine using a gas and air mixture. However he was never able to make a working engine and confined his flying experiments to gliding flight. 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 the design for a full-size manned glider or “governable parachute” to be launched from a balloon in 1852 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. The identity of the aviator is not known. It has been suggested variously as Cayley’s coachman, footman or butler, John Appleby who may have been the coachman or another employee, or even Cayley’s grandson George John Cayley. What is known is that he was the first to fly in a glider with distinct wings, fuselage and tail, and featuring inherent stability and pilot-operated controls: the first fully modern and functional heavier-than-air craft.
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. Henson proposed a 150 feet (46 m) span high-winged monoplane, with a steam engine driving two pusher configuration propellers. Although only a design, (scale models were built in 1843 or 1848 and flew 10 or 130 feet) it was the first in history for a propeller-driven fixed-wing aircraft. Henson and his collaborator John Stringfellow even dreamed of the first Aerial Transit Company.
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.
The British advances had galvanised French researchers. In 1857, Félix du Temple built several large models together with his brother Luis. One of them was able to fly, first using a clockwork mechanism as an engine, and then using a miniature steam engine. The two brothers managed to make the models take off under their own power, fly a short distance and land safely
Francis Herbert Wenham presented the first paper to the newly formed Aeronautical Society (later the Royal Aeronautical Society), On Aerial Locomotion. He took Cayley’s work on cambered wings further, making important findings about both the wing aerofoil section and lift distribution. To test his ideas, from 1858 he constructed several gliders, both manned and unmanned, and with up to five stacked wings. He concluded correctly that long, thin wings would be better than the bat-like ones suggested by many, because they would 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 wrote an important paper in 1864, On Aërial Locomotion, which also described lateral flight control. He was the first to patent an aileron control system in 1868.
In 1864, Le Comte Ferdinand Charles Honore Phillipe d’Esterno published a study On The Flight Of Birds (Du Vol des Oiseaux, and the next year Louis Pierre Mouillard published an influential book The Empire Of The Air (l’Empire de l’Air).
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 Stringfellow was awarded a £100 prize for the steam engine with the best power-to-weight ratio.
In 1871 Wenham and Browning made the first wind tunnel. Members of the Society used the tunnel and learned that cambered wings generated considerably more lift than expected by Cayley’s Newtonian reasoning, with lift-to-drag ratios of about 5:1 at 15 degrees. This clearly demonstrated the possibility of building practical heavier-than-air flying machines: what remained were the problems of controlling and powering the craft.
Alphonse Pénaud, a Frenchman living from 1850 to 1880, made significant contributions to aeronautics. He 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 metres (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.
By the 1870s, lightweight steam engines had been developed enough for their experimental use in aircraft.
Félix du Temple eventually achieved a short hop with a full-size manned craft in 1874. His “Monoplane” was a large aircraft made of aluminium, with a wingspan of 42 ft 8 in (13 m) and a weight of only 176 pounds (80 kg) without the pilot. Several trials were made with the aircraft, and 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 hop in history, a year ahead of Moy’s flight.
The Aerial Steamer, made by Thomas Moy, sometimes called the Moy-Shill Aerial Steamer, was an unmanned tandem wing aircraft driven by a 3 hp (2.25 kW) steam engine using methylated spirits as fuel. It was 14 ft (4.27 m) long and weighed about 216 lb, (98 kg) of which the engine accounted for 80 lb (36 kg), and ran on three wheels. It was tested in June 1875 on a circular rolled gravel track of nearly 300 ft (90 m) diameter. It did not reach a speed of above 12 mph (19 kph), but a speed of around 35 mph (56 kph) would be necessary to lift off. However it is credited with being the first steam-powered aircraft to have left the ground under its own power by the historian Charles Gibbs-Smith.
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 airscrews, 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, with the air tank forming the fuselage.
In Russia Alexander Mozhaiski constructed a steam-powered monoplane driven by one large tractor and two smaller pusher propellers. In 1884, it was launched from a ramp and remained airborne for 98 feet (30 m).
That same year in France, Alexandre Goupil published his work La Locomotion Aérienne (Aerial Locomotion), although the flying machine he later constructed failed to fly.
Sir Hiram Maxim was an American who moved to England and adopted English nationality. He chose to largely ignore his contemporaries and built his own whirling arm rig and wind tunnel. In 1889 he built a hangar and workshop in the grounds of Baldwyn’s Manor at Bexley, Kent, and made many experiments. He developed a biplane design which he patented in 1891 and completed as a test rig three years later. It was an enormous 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 horsepower (130 kW). Overall weight was 7,000 pounds (3,200 kg). Later modifications would add more wing surfaces as shown in the illustration. Its purpose was for research and it was neither aerodynamically stable nor controllable, so it ran on a 1,800 feet (550 m) track with a second set of restraining rails to prevent it from lifting off, somewhat in the manner of a roller coaster. In 1894, the machine developed enough lift to take off, breaking one of the restraining rails and being damaged in the process. Maxim then abandoned work on it, but would return to aeronautics in the 20th century to test a number of smaller designs powered by internal combustion engines.
One of the last of the steam-powered pioneers, like Maxim ignoring his contemporaries who had moved on (see next section), was Clément Ader. His Éole of 1890 was a bat-winged tractor monoplane which achieved a brief, uncontrolled hop, thus becoming the first heavier-than-air machine to take off under its own power. However his similar but larger Avion III of 1897, notable only for having twin steam engines, failed to fly at all: Ader would later claim success and was not debunked until 1910 when the French Army published its report on his attempt.
Learning to glide
The glider constructed with the help of Massia and flown briefly by Biot in 1879 was based on the work of Mouillard and was still bird-like in form. It is preserved the Musee de l’Air, France, and is claimed to be the earliest man-carrying flying machine still in existence.
In the last decade or so of the 19th century a number of key figures were refining and defining the modern aeroplane. The Englishman Horatio Phillips made key contributions to aerodynamics. The German Otto Lilienthal and the American Octave Chanute worked independently on gliding flight. Lillienthal published a book on bird flight and went on, from 1891 to 1896, to construct a series of gliders, of various monoplane, biplane and triplane configurations, to test his theories. He made thousands of flights and at the time of his death was working on motor-powered gliders.
Phillips conducted extensive wind tunnel research on aerofoil sections, using steam as the working fluid. He proved the principles of aerodynamic lift foreseen by Cayley and Wenham and, from 1884, took out several patents on aerofoils. His findings underpin all modern aerofoil design. Phillips would later develop theories on the design of multiplanes, which he went on to show were unfounded.
Starting in the 1880s, advances were made in construction that led to the first truly practical gliders. Four people in particular were active: John J. Montgomery, Otto Lilienthal, Percy Pilcher and Octave Chanute. One of the first modern gliders was built by John J. Montgomery in 1883; Montgomery later claimed to have made a single successful flight with it in 1884 near San Diego and Montgomery’s activities were documented by Chanute in his book Progress in Flying Machines. Montgomery discussed his flying during the 1893 Aeronautical Conference in Chicago and Chanute published Montgomery’s comments in December 1893 in the American Engineer & Railroad Journal. Short hops with Montgomery’s second and third gliders in 1885 and 1886 were also described by Montgomery. Between 1886 and 1896 Montgomery focused on understanding the physics of aerodynamics rather than experiment with flying machines. Another hang-glider had been constructed by Wilhelm Kress as early as 1877 near Vienna.
Otto Lilienthal was 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 gliders of a type now known as the hang glider, 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. He also promoted the idea of “jumping before you fly”, suggesting that researchers should start with gliders and work their way up, instead of simply designing a powered machine on paper and hoping it would work. Lilienthal made over 2,000 glides until his death in 1896 from injuries sustained in a glider crash. Lilienthal had also been working on small engines suitable for powering his designs at the time of his death.
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 many times at Miller Beach, Indiana, eventually deciding that the best was a biplane design. Like Lilienthal, he documented his work and also photographed it, and was busy corresponding with like-minded researchers around the world. Chanute was particularly interested in solving the problem of aerodynamic instability of the aircraft in flight, which birds compensate for by instant corrections, but which humans would have to address either with stabilizing and control surfaces or by moving the center of gravity of the aircraft, as Lilienthal did. The most disconcerting problem was longitudinal instability (divergence), because as the angle of attack of a wing increases, the center of pressure moves forward and makes the angle increase yet more. Without immediate correction, the craft will pitch up and stall. Much more difficult to understand was the relationship between lateral and directional control.
In Britain, Percy Pilcher, who had worked for Maxim and had built and successfully flown several gliders during the mid to late 1890s, constructed a prototype powered aircraft in 1899 which, recent research has shown, would have been capable of flight. However, like Lilienthal he died in a glider accident before he was able to test it.
Publications, particularly Octave Chanute’s Progress in Flying Machines of 1894 and James Means’ The Problem of Manflight (1894) and Aeronautical Annuals (1895–1897) helped bring current research and events to a wider audience.
The invention of the box kite during this period by the Australian Lawrence Hargrave led 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). By demonstrating to a sceptical public that it was possible to build a safe and stable flying machine, Hargrave opened the door to other inventors and pioneers. Hargrave devoted most of his life to constructing a machine that would fly. He believed passionately in open communication within the scientific community and would not patent his inventions. Instead, he scrupulously published the results of his experiments in order that a mutual interchange of ideas may take place with other inventors working in the same field, so as to expedite joint progress. Octave Chanute became convinced that multiple wing planes were more effective than a monoplane and introduced the “strut-wire” braced wing structure which, with its combination of rigidity and lightness, would in the form of the biplane come to dominate aircraft design for decades to come. The inventor of the box kite Lawrence Hargrave also experimented in the 1880s with monoplane models and by 1889 had constructed a rotary engine driven by compressed air.
Even balloon-jumping began to succeed. In 1905, Daniel Maloney was carried by balloon in a tandem-wing glider designed by John Montgomery to an altitude of 4,000 feet (1,200 m) before being released, gliding down and landing at a predetermined location as part of a large public demonstration of aerial flight at Santa Clara, California. However, after several successful flights, during an ascension in July 1905, a rope from the balloon struck the glider, and the glider suffered structural failure after release, resulting in Maloney’s death.
Powered, controlled flight
Powered, controlled flight was finally achieved around the turn of the century.
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 flying machines and engines. On 14 August 1901, Whitehead claimed to have carried out a controlled, powered flight in his Number 21 monoplane at Fairfield, Connecticut. An account of the flight appeared in the Bridgeport Sunday Herald and was repeated in newspapers throughout the world. Whitehead claimed two more flights on 17 January 1902, using his Number 22 monoplane. He described it as having a 40 horsepower (30 kW) motor with twin tractor propellers and controlled by differential propeller speed and rudder. He claimed to have flown a 10 kilometres (6.2 mi) circle.
For many years the Whitehead claims were ignored or dismissed by mainstream aviation historians. In March 2013, Jane’s All the World’s Aircraft published an editorial which accepted Whitehead’s flight as the first manned, powered, controlled flight of a heavier-than-air craft. The Smithsonian Institution is among those who do not accept that Whitehead flew as reported.
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 6 May 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 28 November 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 18 June 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 horsepower (6.0 kW) instead of the 12 horsepower (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 horsepower (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 8 December, 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”.
Source from Wikipedia