[ Early - 1782 ] [ 1783 - 1849 ] [ 1850 - 1876 ] [ 1877 - 1892 ] [ 1893 - 1903 ] [ 1904 - 1960 ]


January - Lawrence Hargrave begins his Kite experiments

January 21 - Hargrave flies his first soaring machine with curved wings in tandem flies in open air. It is flown as a kite

February 10 - Hargrave flies a kite 'of three dimensions' 3'3" long [illust. fig.a Shaw p.69]

February 15(16) - Hargrave flies a kite 'of three dimensions' [first 'true cellular kite'] [illust. fig. c Shaw p.69]

April 19 - Hargrave builds Engine No. 21 three cylinder radial - steam powered

June 7 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW Flying-machine Motors and Cellular Kites

August 1/3 - Professor A. F. Zahm invites paper from Hargrave to be read at the International Conference on Aerial Navigation at Chicago's World Columbian Exposition - Hargrave sends compressed-air flapper propelled monoplane No. 8 fitted with Vibrating Engine No. 14 [which had flown 312' on March 1891] + nine papers and 32 photographs.

August - Hargrave moves to Stanwell Park (into a home inherited from elder brother Ralph who had died in Hong Kong in 1888

December - Eddy writes to Hargrave regarding the use of box kites for meteorological experiments

Maxim predicts that even "under the most unfavourable circumstances, aerial navigation will be an accomplished fact inside of ten years."


February 25 - Hargrave sends follow-up letter to Zahm with 4 more photographs

June - Hargrave builds kite No. 38 (10'1" long 5' high with a span of 11'6" and weight of 24 lb 11 oz) Triplane cell design with seat.

July 31 - Maxim makes the chief test with his huge steam-powered test-rig at Baldwyns Park, Kent, England. It lifts it own weight but fouls the restraining rails. It makes no free flight [Gibbs p.79]

September 14 - Hargrave attempts 'kite-supported manned flight' with kite No. 38 - fails

November 12 - Hargrave enlists help of James Swain, part time caretaker of his estate. Using four box kites Hargrave is lifted 16 feet in air. Kites No. 25 No. 37 No. 39 and No. 40. No. 39 fail and are replaced with No. 39 and No.40 with No. 41

Chanute publishes his Progress in Flying Machines. It is the most complete and well thought-out work on aeronautics to date contains 14 pages on Hargrave's experiments

Lilienthal is regularly making glides of over 1000 feet. He begins to outfit his gliders with a "rebound bow" at the front to absorb the shock of a rough landing. It saves his life on at least one occasion

Augustus M. Herring buys a glider from Otto Lilienthal. He then builds two of his own, attempting to improve on Lilienthal's design

B. F. S. Baden-Powell of Great Britain uses kites to lift human beings into the air [Hellemans and Bunch, 377]


February 15 - Experiments on Kites publihed in Engineering magazine

April 15 - Hargrave builds Engine No. 22, a steam-powered turbine

June 5 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW (Paper on) Aeronautical Work

June/Oct - Hargrave builds Engine No. 24

Hargrave builds Engine No. 25, a steam-powered 2 cylinder rotary [image avail]

August 7 - Hargrave sketches plans for full-sized man-carrier with two cellular biplane wings 18 feet long 6 foot high and with a span of 20 feet. [Shaw p.84]

October 11 - The Pembrokeshire Herald and General Advertiser, England states that Bill Frost had obtained provisional protection for his flying machine invention and had been engaged on the project for over 15 years (since before 1880)


Welsh airman beat Wrights to the skies
by Andrew Alderson, July 26 1998

ON A summer's day in 1896, a Welsh carpenter named Bill Frost may have achieved one of man's greatest ambitions: he flew.

Until now, history has credited the Wright brothers with conquering the skies. But new evidence suggests that their famous flight was not the first. Seven years before them, Frost is said to have set off in a "flying machine" from a field in Pembrokeshire and stayed in the air for 10 seconds. Newly discovered documents reveal that Frost, from Saundersfoot, Pembrokeshire, applied to register a patent for his invention - a cross between an airship and a glider - in 1894.

It was approved the following year and detailed how the invention was propelled upwards by two reversible fans. Once in the air, the wings spread and are tilted forward "causing the machine to move, as a bird, onward and downward." A fan is used to help the aircraft "soar upward", while the steering is done by a rudder at both ends.

Crucially, locals in the Welsh seaside resort insist that the aircraft was built and flown within a year of the patent being approved. Yesterday experts on both sides of the Atlantic believed that the name of William Frost, not the Wright brothers, deserves pride of place in aviation record books as the first pioneer of manned, sustained and powered flight.

Historians, descendants and a former neighbour of Frost are convinced that only his modesty - in failing to acclaim his role or having a photograph of the flight - meant his achievement went unacclaimed. Roscoe Howells, the historian and writer, used to be a neighbour of Frost in Saundersfoot and heard an account of the flight from the inventor himself. "He became airborne, so he said, and I would never believe that Bill Frost was a liar or a romancer," said Howells.

"His flying machine took off, but the undercarriage caught in the top of a tree and it came down into the field. If he hadn't caught it in the tree, he would have been right over the valley over Saundersfoot and it would have been death or glory."

Nina Ormonde, Frost's great-great-granddaughter, said: "Our family has always known that he was the first to fly. He flew for 500 to 600 yards. But Bill gave up on it and there is no point us revelling in the glory because it was his achievement."

Frost's flying machine was 31ft long and made of bamboo, canvas and wire mesh, with hydrogen-filled pouches to attain "neutral buoyancy". The Wright brothers' plane was only 22ft long, yet had a wing span of 44ft and was powered by a petrol engine. On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright, watched by his brother Wilbur, flew above the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. The initial flight lasted 12 seconds.

Frost was born in Saundersfoot in 1848 when it was a poor mining and fishing village and he worked as a carpenter and builder on the nearby Hean Castle estate. He founded the local male voice choir and was a deacon of the chapel. His determination to fly his aircraft after the initial flight was defeated by bad luck and lack of money. Although he repaired his machine after hitting the tree, it was later ripped from its moorings and damaged by gales, apparently in the autumn of 1896.

He later travelled to London and tried to get funding from the government's war department. According to Frost's descendants, he received several approaches from foreign governments for the rights to his patent, but refused on the grounds of patriotism.

The revelations about Frost's design and flight have been uncovered by Jill Waters, a producer, and Patrick French, a presenter, for Radio 4's Flying Starts, to be broadcast on Saturday.

"The Wright brothers had the benefit of independent witnesses, log books full of technical data and, most important, photographic evidence," said French. "Yet there are compelling reasons for thinking that the first person to fly was Bill Frost."

In an interview given in 1932, three years before his death, Frost described himself as "the pioneer of air travel". Then aged 85 and blind, he spoke of his lack of funding after the war department dismissed his efforts, arguing "the nation does not intend to adopt aerial navigation as a means of warfare".

Jeff Bellingham, a British-born mechanical engineer now living in Minnesota, first discovered Frost's invention after reading Howells's local history book and deciding, on a whim, to see if the inventor had filed a patent.

Today, a century on, there is a new race. Bellingham intends to build a replica, first a quarter-size and later a full-size one, of Frost's aircraft.

"I believe it [Frost's craft] will fly and that afterwards people will acknowledge the history books are wrong," Bellingham said.


the above item was brought to my attention by Paul Dunlop. Thanks Paul

November 10/11 - Hargrave draws plans for a kerosene powered turbo-jet engine[Shaw p.87]

November 21 - Hargrave builds Engine No. 23 a kerosene powered turbo-jet

Percy Pilcher in Scotland, builds a glider, the Bat. Visits Otto Lilienthal and asks for advice. Makes suggested improvement and flies the Bat. Builds and improved glider, the Gull

Edward Huffaker begins to work for Langley, designing wings for Langley's Aerodromes

Herring also works briefly for Langley, doing dynamics tests

Herring moves to Chicago and begins to build a Lilienthal-type glider for Octave Chanute

The Aeronautical Annual begins publication. It lasts for 3 years

William Avery, Illinois, builds a Chanute-designed multi-wing glider

William Paul Butusov, Russian immigrant, builds a bird-like crafts for Chanute, the Albatross

Alexander Graham Bell begins experiments with flight-rotors, wings, gliders, and kites

Langley publishes his Story of Experiments in Mechanical Flight - [full text]


May 6 - Langley attempts to launch his 9 lb. steam-driven models, tandem-wing Aerodromes Nos.5 and 6. No.5 is launched from a house boat on the Potomac River, it soars into the air, flies half a mile and lands without mishap. Bell attended and took pictures.

June 22 - Chanute, Herring, Avery, and others test their gliders at the Indiana Dunes on Lake Michigan. Chanute introduces his classic and successful type of Biplane Glider providing the Wright Brothers with their first rigging (the Pratt-truss system) and general biplane structure. It does not however have any movable control surfaces. [Gibbs p.83]

August 5 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW On the Cellular Kite

August 9 - Lilienthal killed

August - Upon hearing of Lilienthal's death, the Wright brothers begin a systematic search for literature on aeronautics

August 21 - Chanute, Herring, and others test the Albatross and a new biplane glider designed by Chanute and Herring. The performance of the Albatross is disappointing, but the biplane glider makes flights up to 359 feet

November - Hargrave builds Jet engine [Shaw p.]

November 28 - Langley tests another steam powered Aerodrome No. 6. It flies for almost a mile

Articles about Hargrave in 'Flying' 'The Aeronautical Journal' and 'Scientific American'

Article in London Daily Chronicle devotes considerable space to Hargrave's work

Hargrave elected Honorary Member Boston Aeronautical Society

Pilcher builds a much-improved glider, the Hawk, and glides up to 750 feet. He plans a powered version

The Wright brothers begin to manufacture their own bicycles

James Means, Massachusetts, writes in the Aeronautical Annual that bicycling and flying present similar problems of control and balance

Hargrave's boxkite is illustrated in Means's Aeronautical Annual for 1896 and plays a vital part in the development of the European aeroplane [Gibbs p.79]

Summer - Pilcher completes and first tests at Eynsford in Kent, England his best hang-glider the Hawk. It has a wheeled undercarriage and is often launched by being towed by men or horses. [Gibbs p.84]

and finally, some possibly not so serious flying activity...

Phantom Airships: "Phantom Zeppelins," strange airships, flying cigars, and "ghost aeroplanes" before 1940


February - Hargrave builds Ladder Kite to be used with Engine No. 23 - unsuccessful

March/May 8 - Hargrave builds Engine No. 24. It is unsuccessful

June - Hargrave designs, but does not build Engine No. 25 a steam-powered four cylinder rotary

Hargrave begins experiments with Soaring machines [Chanute refers to 'soaring machines' as 'aspirational kites']

September 1 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW The Possibility of Soaring in Horizontal Wind

September - Herring tests a biplane glider with a tail of his own design

October 12-14 - Ader's twin-screw Avion III is twice tested on a circular track at Satory near Versailles in France. It does not leave the ground on either occasion as per the report not published until 1910. In 1906 however, Ader mendaciously claims he flew for about 300 m on October 14 [Gibbs p.84]

November 13 - The first successful all-metal dirigible, designed by David Schwarz, a Hungarian, takes off from Berlin's Tempelhof Field and, powered by a 16-hp Daimler engine, flies several miles before leaking gas causes it to crash December 2 - Hargrave builds Engine No. 25 [Shaw p.90]


Jan/June - Hargrave builds and flies 13 'Soaring Machines' incl. Model No. 72 with wings of variable angle of incidence

March 29 - Hargrave builds Engine No. 25 and on ninth trial run deemed unsuccessful - abandoned

April - Hargrave builds Engine No. ??, a kerosene-powered turbo-jet

June 1 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW Aeronautics re Engine No. 25?

July 31 - Hargrave builds Soaring Machine No. 80, a monoplane

August 25 - Hargrave builds Soaring Machine No. 82 a rebuild of Soaring Machine No. 80 [Kite N] with wings of variable angle of incidence and vert tail [Shaw p.98]

Hargrave builds Soaring Machine No. 84, a monoplane

Hargrave builds Soaring Machine No. 86, a monoplane

Hargrave builds Soaring Machine No. 87, a biplane with a 20" wingspan

November 2 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW "Soaring Machines" [Shaw p.101]


March - Hargrave takes family to England to seek physical and financial assistance for his research - unsuccessful

April 10 - Hargrave arrives in England

May - Hargrave presents paper six cellular kites and one soaring machine to the Aeronautical Society London

June 23 - Hargrave departs England for Australia

August - The Wright Brothers fly their warping kite (helical twisting of the wing) [Gibbs p.85]

September - Hargrave arrives back in Australia and settles in Rushcutters Bay

September 6 - Hargrave presents paper to the RSNSW "Sailing Birds are Dependent on Wave-Power"

September 30 - Pilcher at Stanford Park in Market Harborough Leicestershire, England decides not to fly his powered triplane (based on Hargrave RS lecture in May and powered by a 4 hp engine weighing 40 lbs) due to bad weather. He flies his 'Hawk' Glider and crashes. He dies of his injuries two days later, July 2 [Copley p.7 and Gibbs p.85]

The Wright brothers experiment with twisting wings, trying to deform the front edges. They can't come up with a device light enough or strong enough to control a glider in flight

Lilienthal publishes Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst (Bird Flight as the Basis of Aviation) [Gibbs p.77]

Mobile inventor John Fowler built a flying machine in the late 1890s, and some people contend he conquered the air before the Wright brothers "Fowler was trying to fly at a time when other people laughed at the notion. There's a heroic, courageous notion in this. The courage, the risk you don't have to steal the credit from someone who made the great breakthrough in order to recognize Fowler as a pioneer."



Throughout the spring and summer - The Wrights plan and build parts for their first glider

Hargrave builds Engine No. 27, a petrol-powered, air-cooled, four cylinder internal-combustion [ he has trouble in getting it 'constructed to a suitable standard'] [Shaw p.112] Hargrave also works equally unsuccessfully on several other steam engines

May 13 - Wilbur Wright writes Chanute and asks for advice

June - Chanute publishes his Experiments on Flying - [full text]

July 2 - Germany's Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin flies the first of his long series of rigid-frame airships. It attained a speed of 18 mph and got 31/2 mi. before its steering gear failed

August 3 - Wilbur Wright writes to Kitty Hawk, asking for information on weather and lodging

August 16 - Joseph Dosher, the chief of the Kitty Hawk weather station, responds to Wilbur's letter. Dosher also refers Wilbur's letter to William Tate, the postmaster. Tate also writes Wilbur, providing more details about Kitty Hawk

September 13 - Wilbur Wright arrives in Kitty Hawk, stays with the Tates, and begins to assemble a glider

September 28 - Orville Wright arrives with camping gear, food, and a mandolin. He also brings a camera, the first ever seen in Kitty Hawk. The brothers stay in a 12-foot by 22-foot tent, about a mile from the Tates. They assemble a biplane glider with movable front elevator - they have located the elevator at the front not only to provide control, but to serve the same function as Lilienthal's rebound bow. They begin to test the glider as a kite. [...]

October 10 - The Wrights experience their first crash. They rebuild the glider, and once again test it like a kite. Finally, they begin to make manned glides of up to 400 feet

The Wrights send 10-year-old Tom Tate, William's nephew up on the glider as they fly it like a kite

October 23 - The Wrights break camp and head for Dayton. Puzzled by failure of glider to produce calculated lift, but encouraged by success of wing warping and elevator control


July 1 - Hargrave exhibits Engine No. 29 and Boiler and Boiler to the RSNSW - twin cylinder Whitehead built from published plans [Shaw p.117]

July 27 - The Wright's glider is tested with Huffaker and Spratt helping. It doesn't fly as well as their first glider, showing a pronounced tendency to nose up or nose down. The Wrights identify the problem as the wing curvature and begin to rebuild the glider with a shallower camber on the wings

August 8 - The Wright's rebuilt glider is tested, and it performs as well as the first. Wilbur, however, still won't let Orville fly

August 9 - When Wilbur Wright attempts a turn, the glider shows a tendency to spin - the inside wing stalls in a turn, whipping the glider around. The Wrights experience several more crashes

August 14 - Gustave A. Whitehead flies a powered-batwing aircraft thus adding his claim to the list of 'the first to fly'

Did the Wrights Fly First?

Supporters of Gustave A. Whitehead are seeking to prove that the German-born inventor flew a powered-batwing aircraft on August 14, 1901, in Bridgeport, Conn., two years before the Wright Brothers made their first powered flight. While photographs of Whitehead's plane exist, none of them show it flying, nor is there much useful evidence to prove or disprove this claim.Although Whitehead supporters have built what they claim is a replica of his plane and have flown it on several short hops in 1986, it should be noted that blueprints of Whitehead's actual craft do not exist.The current opinion of the Smithsonian is that none of Gustave Whitehead's planes actually flew and the controversy remains.



Gustav Whitehead. Born Jan 1, 1874 in Leutershausen, Germany. Died October 10, 1927. Gustav Weisskopf -- Americanized as "Whitehead" -- son of a carpenter, became orphaned at 13 and was brought up by his grandparents in Ansbach, emigrating to Brazil in 1889. As a young mariner, he made many sea voyages for several years, became familiar with wind and weather, and was an avid observer of sea birds, which made a permanent impression upon him.

Intrigued with the idea of manned flight, he returned to Germany in order to meet Otto Lilienthal, who had just published his book, "Bird Flight As Basis of Flying." With this inspiration, and study of relevant material at libraries, his new course was set. In 1895 he emigrated to Boston, where for the Boston Aeronautical Society he built a flapping-wing plane (to imitate a bird's flight), and a glider in Lilienthal's style, but only the latter was capable of flying.

In 1897, Horsman, a New York manufacturer, hired him as a specialist for hang-gliders, aircraft models, and motors for flying craft, at which time, Weisskopf occupied himself with the thought of devising a motor to power one of his gliders. Although still a groundling, on his marriage license that year he listed his occupation as "Aeronaut." There followed a troubled times for his young family. Weisskopf tried to bring his enthusiasm for flying into accord with his responsibility towards a wife and child, but in 1899 he had to accept work in a Pittsburgh coal mine to earn living expenses.

In spite of obstacles, he constructed and built an aircraft with a steam engine for power. During the trials, the take-off was successful with a "boiler-man" as a passenger in a flight of unrecorded height. Distance traveled is not known, but it and altitude were sufficient enough to result in a crash landing on the roof of a four-story house in a Pittsburgh suburb. Weisskopf was uninjured, but his passenger was scalded by steam. This steam machine was so ingenious that several years later Lawrence Hargrave told of using miniature designs of "Weisskopf-style" steam machines, as well as the "Weisskopf System" for his model trials in Australia.

In Bridgeport, Connecticut, Weisskopf found employment in 1900 as a mechanic -- because of his "dangerous" experiments, police had ordered him out of Pittsburgh. At his new home he had room for a small workshop, and neighbors, as well as police, showed more understanding. Scientific American of June 1901 reported of Weisskopf's newly rebuilt hang-glider (a term then used for motorized aircraft). Two months later, with hang-glider "Number 21," he reportedly completed a flying distance of about 2.5 kilometers at about 10-15 meters altitude. In so doing, he proved it was possible to start a flight without artificial aids from land and with two motor-driven propellers, and to land without damage.

He had recognized the basic precept that a successful take-off requires a definite minimum speed. News of his flight spread in the US and Europe. Octave Chanute found it hard to believe that a plain factory-worker alone could accomplish such a feat! In September, Weisskopf exhibited "Number 21" in Atlantic City, but certain that he was on the right track, he concentrated on improving his motors. Not business-oriented, he might have lived comfortably from the manufacture and sale of aircraft motors, but had no concept of profit structures.

Although getting many orders for motors, as well as offers from businessmen to let them put his inventions to good use, he did not capitalize on them. He never found the time or necessary means to pay for patent protection for his inventions, and his workshop was open to everyone. At the end of l901 Weisskopf reportedly made the world's first water landing by a motorized airplane. Next he had constructed the first diesel aircraft motor, installing this in his "Number 22," in which he made a circular flight of about ll kilometers at a height of about 60 meters on January 17, 1902.

There were press reports in the US and France, and this accomplishment appeared in a German book in 1903 as a speed record. In October, l904, Professor John J Dvorak, Professor of Physics at the University of Washington in St Louis, announced publicly that Weisskopf was advanced with the development of aircraft moreso than other persons also engaged in the work. One of his financial backers applied for him for a patent on a glider in 1905.

In 1908, American aircraft manufacturer Charles Wittemann purchased a Weisskopf motor, and the following year Weisskopf*s motors were exhibited, offered in catalogs, and installed in aircraft of other manufacturers. How many of his ingenious constructions, under the name of his benefactor, brought financial gain cannot be ascertained. In his time, Weisskopf sowed what other aviation pioneers were reaping in fame -- which he did not strive for, but which he deserved.

In 1911 he experimented with a helicopter project. One day there appeared a customer who was also working on his own helicopter project, but was only interested only in one of Weisskopf's motors. Weisskopf accepted the order, but could not, as often was the case, have it finished by the time promised, and the customer filed suit. It was predestined that he would someday get into trouble because of his poor business skills, but he had never considered being sued.

Completely inexperienced, he lost the suit, and his comlpete workshop, including construction documents and finished parts were impounded. Thus was Gustav Weisskopf economically removed from any further activity. In poor health, and blinded for years in one eye from an accident at work, he could not recover from the blow. He had never achieved American citizenship and was exposed to suspicion as a "German-American," for whom President Theodore Roosevelt sympathized, dying at 53 of a heart attack. For his family he left the self-built home and eight dollars in cash, and was buried in a pauper's grave.


Whitehead (Weisskopf), Gustav: The Lost Flights of Gustave Whitehead, Stella Randolph (Places Inc 1937)

Whitehead (Weisskopf), Gustav: History by Contract: The Beginning of Motorized Aviation, William J O'Dwyer & Stella Randolph (1978)


Gustave A. Whitehead - world's first motorised flight: August 14, 1901

Whitehead Exhibit

The First to Fly

September 19 - Scientific American publishes Experiments with Motor-Driven Aeroplanes by Gustav Whitehead - [full text]

August 20 - The Wrights, discouraged, break camp. Wilbur comments to Orville that it could 1000 more years before flying is possible. Later, Wilbur remembers his dark mood, "We doubted that we would ever resume our experiments...At this time, I made the prediction that men would sometime fly, but it would not be in our lifetime."

September 18 - At Chanute's request, Wilbur Wright delivers a paper to the Western Society of Engineers in Chicago, Illinois. Wilbur suggests to the group that the Lilienthal research on wing lift is wrong

The Wrights build a wind tunnel to conduct their own research on wing surfaces

Hargrave builds a house on Woollahra Point [image with kites available taken around this time]

Chanute praises and publicises the work of the Wrights

Wilbur Wright publishes a technical paper on gliding in a British and German journal

Samuel Cody patents his man lifting kite system made of winged Hargrave box-kites [Gibbs p.85] and in 1902 Mrs Leila Marie Cody (wife of Samuel Cody) became the first woman to fly with her ascent in a 'Man-lifting War Kite'. The British Army was interested in the single-passenger-carrying kite's reconnaissance potential, for it could be flown in winds too strong for balloons.


Alexander Graham Bell's Tetrahedral Kite
by Pierre Audette

[Alexander Graham] Bell started developing tetras [tetrahedral kites] in 1902, and received a patent on [the concept] in 1904. It started as a [research and development] effort for a powered and manned aircraft project. Bell's first concerns [were] for safety, so he was looking for an aircraft which could hover close to the ground at low air speeds while tethered. This way, the pilot, crew and passengers could disembark from a ladder.[...] It's only later that he went back to a more conventional airfoil design.

[...] Bell started his work from the Hargrave box kite concept, after realizing that triangular structures are more rigid than square ones. His basic description for the cells was a 'triangular cone'. It's only later that he found that the proper name for the shape [he had built] was [called a] tetrahedral. Each cell consist[ing] of a three sided pyramid, with four faces, where two faces are covered with fabric.

It's hard to visualize, and Bell couldn't even draw it in his notes. His design was based on [triangular] cells with 10 inch sides. The minimum number of cells needed to make a kite is four. With the two on the top side by side, and the two on the bottom in line.

In 1905, Bell built a prototype with 1300 cells in two banks side by side. When the winds got about 10 mph, he manage to lift a 165 lbs man from the line to a height of about 30 feet. This was enough to convince him that his design created enough lift to fly a man and motor.

In 1906, after creating the 'Aerial Experiment Association' group, he built a kite with 3400 cells with floats, [that] carried a man while the kite was towed by a small boat. It raised to 168 feet and hovered for seven minutes until the wind dropped. The kite (and man) then descended slowly towards the water 'gently as a butterfly'.

Unfortunately, when it touched the water, the line was not disconnected, and the kite was dragged to pieces. The passenger managed to [get] clear the wreckage unhurt. This was the last tetra kite experiment Bell attempted, since the AEA decided to pursue their work on a biplane design instead of the tetrahedral aircraft. All of this took place about the same time the Wright brothers were tinkering in their bike shop on their own design.

The tetrahedral was also used for construction purposes. Bell built a tower from four feet cells, into a tetrahedron shape with 72 feet legs, with half inch iron pipe. The structure was raised from the ground, by adding cells from the bottom without the assistance of a crane. This became the birth of space frame architecture.

May - Hargrave designs full size flying machine No. 6 Trimaran Float Plane [Shaw p.119 plan p.121 front view p.122]

September 22 - Spencer's airship makes first flight by a powered aircraft in Britain [Gibbs p.87]

October 5 - Chanute and Herring arrive at the Wright camp

October 8 - The Wright's modified glider work perfectly, with no tendency to spin

October 17 - Herring leaves Kitty Hawk and visits Langley in Virginia, looking for work. He tells Langley of the Wright's success

October 19 - Langley cables the Wrights, requesting information on their "special curved surfaces" and asking to come to Kitty Hawk. The Wrights decline

Late - The Rev. Burrell Cannon builds his his 'Ezekiel Airship' and on a "...Sunday morning in late 1902, fired up its 80-horsepower engine and briefly took the ship aloft to a height of 12 feet above a pasture at the edge of downtown Pittsburg."


The Ezekiel Airship

December - Langley asks Chanute to help him get a foot in the door with the Wrights. Chanute can't get them to talk to Langley

December - completes a large model Float Plane for Engine No. 29 span 7' [Shaw p.117]


US Winter - The Wrights begin to design their aircraft propellers. The calculations are complex and confusing, and there are many heated arguments

? - William Luther Paul (1869 -1946) builds and 'flies' a heavier than air craft "...what may be described as an experimental helicopter..., 'The Bumblebee'

? - Preston Watson (1880-1914) a Scot builds and 'flies' a heavier than air powered craft first near Dundee, and later on the banks of the river Tay near Errol around 1903/1904

Preston Watson The First "Flying Scot" Did He Fly Before The Wrights? By J. F. Riley

February - Hargrave begins Engine No. 30 a "two cylinder double acting reciprocal engine" (ie a four cylinder engine)

March 23 - First Wright brothers airplane patent, based on their 1902 glider, is filed in America

March 31 - On or about this day Richard William Pearse (1877-1953) flew a heavier-than-air craft in New Zealand

On or about 31 March 1903 Richard William Pearse of Waitohi New Zealand, became airborne in a high-wing monoplane he designed and built himself. This aircraft, of prophetic design, was powered by an ingenious petrol engine which he also designed and constructured. It was not until 17 December 1903 that the Wright Brothers' 'Flier I' took to the air at the Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina. Though Pearse himself later conceded that the Americans deserved the honour of being the first to make a controlled and sustained flight, it is almost certain that he got into the air under power before they did.

Gordon Ogilvie, 1994, The Riddle of Richard Pearse, Reed Books, Auckland, New Zealand


English farmers came to New Zealand in the 1830s and for nearly a century getting a spare part generally meant waiting for a boat to come from England. That made New Zealand farmers into legendary mechanics. Kiwis claim that a South Island farmer (Richard Pearse) developed and flew a practical airplane a year before the Wright brothers, but that poor communications resulted in him not getting credit for the achievement.


In Focus

Auckland Airport Information & History


First Man to 'Fly' a Mechanically Powered Aeroplane  Notable Site

Aviation Pioneer

Aviation Pioneer

Man's First Powered Flight
Man's First Powered Flight

and just new (Jan 2001)

Heroes : Richard Pearse

April - The Wrights complete their first set of propellers

April - Chanute lectures the Aero Club of France on the gliding experiments of the Wright brothers

May 14 - Hargrave completes 'shop drawings' for Engine No. 30 [Shaw opp.p.109 upper image]

July - Aida de Acosta, born in Cuba and reared in the United States, soloed in a dirigible near Paris in 1903 - five months before the Wright brothers' historic flight. The press severely criticized her instructor, Alberto Santos-Dumont, for allowing a woman to fly. Her parents believed a woman's name should only appear in a newspaper upon her marriage or her death, and were horrified at the publicity. They made Santos-Dumont promise never to reveal her identity. He reluctantly agreed, but recorded the event in his book "Dans l'Air" so the story would be recorded in the history of flight.

August 8 - Langley successfully launches a gasoline powered model plane from a catapult on a houseboat omn the Potomac River, Washington DC.

August 18 - Karl Jatho tests his aeroplane in Germany. It makes a small hop of 60 feet but does not 'fly'. At the time this was seriously claimed as 'the first flight' but is later officially discounted.

September 19 - Scientific American publishes Experiments with Motor-Driven Aeroplanes by Gustav Whitehead - [full text]

September 25 - The Wrights return to Kitty Hawk

September 28 - Wrights practice flying with the 1902 glider

October 7 - Langley tests his man-carrier Aerodrome on the Potomac River, with Charles M. Manly, a co-designer, at the controls. The machine snags on its launch mechanism and plunges into the river

October 17 - Scientific American publishes The Failure of Langley's Aerodrome - [full text]

November - Hargrave builds Engine No. 31 a 'gunpowder' powered jet engine - it is abandoned [Shaw refers to this also as Engine No. 30]

December 8 - Langley conducts the second (and last) trial of his full size Aerodrome. Piloted again by Manly, it is wrecked on launching.

December - Hargrave contracts Typhoid Fever

December 17 - Orville Wright makes the worlds first controlled flight with a powered heavier-than-air aircraft 'The Wright Flyer' at Kill Devil Hills near Kittyhawk North Carolina USA. The first flight lasts twelve seconds in which he flies 112 feet. His fourth and longest flight of the day is 852 feet in fifty-nine seconds. Three days earlier, Wilbur Wright achieved the world's first powered airplane flight, 105 feet in 3.5 seconds but crashed soon after takeoff. His flight is not regarded as being either sustained or controlled

[ Early - 1782 ] [ 1783 - 1849 ] [ 1850 - 1876 ] [ 1877 - 1892 ] [ 1893 - 1903 ] [ 1904 - 1960 ]


© Copyright 1999 CTIE - All Rights Reserved - Caution
Created and maintained by russell.naughton@eng.monash.edu.au
Last updated November 17, 2001