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The history of aviation

The history of aviation

The animation offers a summary of the history of aviation from the Middle Ages.



aviation, aircraft, airplane, stealth, bomber, multirole fighter aircraft, passenger carrier, freighter, fighter aircraft, hang glider, airship, Zeppelin, propeller, jet engine, aerial, vehicle, society, transportation, economy, development, geography, technology

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People have long been fascinated by the idea of conquering the air. It finally happened after centuries of observation, research and trials, some ending in failure, some resulting in success.
This animation presents some of the most important milestones on this bumpy road.

Leonardo da Vinci’s flying machine

According to his observations and research concerning flight, Leonardo designed a flying machine. The aim of this extraordinarily complex study was to mimic the different phases of the flight of birds.

The Montgolfier brothers' hot air balloon

The experiments of the French Montgolfier brothers marked an important milestone in the history of flying. Joseph-Michel and Jacques-Etienne Montgolfier, sons of a family of paper manufacturers, conducted experiments with hot air balloons.

The brothers initially tried to use water vapour, but as it cooled down and therefore condensed, it made the paper balloon wet and rendered it useless. Later, they attempted to enclose smoke in the balloon, but as the smoke cooled down very fast, this did not yield any results. They finally achieved success by continuously heating the air in the balloon from the bottom.

The first balloons were unmanned, but later they put animals aboard. The official public demonstration took place near Paris in June 1783.

Otto Lilienthal’s glider

  • Otto Lilienthal’s glider (19th c.)

Otto Lilienthal was a German engineer who lived and worked in the second half of the 19th century. Lilienthal and his brother Gustave studied the flight of birds and thereby recognised the three basic factors of flying (lift, thrust, and steering).
Initially they made flapping-wing models, but after several unsuccessful attempts they decided to build gliders. They designed several models before 1874.

Even after his brother abandoned the project, Otto Lilienthal continued making plans, building gliders and flying by himself.
He developed at least 18 gliders from canvas and wicker rods. He started his flights by running against the wind from an elevated point; after several improvements made on his gliders, he managed to fly up to 300 metres.

Built in 1891, Lilienthal’s glider, became the precursor to modern hang gliders.

Wright Flyer I

  • Wright Flyer I (1903)

Wilbur and Orville Wright, two American brothers from Dayton, Ohio, started experimenting with aircraft in 1899.
The main areas of their concern were lift, thrust and control. They also built a wind tunnel to test wing shapes. After 1900, they continued their experiments in the hills near the small town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They built their Flyer I in 1903, which they later nicknamed after that town.

The aircraft's first flight on the 17th of December 1903 was a pioneering event in the history of aviation: it was the first successful controlled flight with a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft. It was piloted by Orville Wright, who covered a distance of 39 m during his 12-second flight. Besides his brother, there were five witnesses: members of a lifesaving crew, a businessman and a local boy.

Fokker Dreidecker I

  • Fokker Dreidecker I (1917)

The German Fokker I triplane was perhaps the best known aircraft in the First World War. It made its maiden flight in July 1917. Its name, Dreidecker means ‘triplane’ in German and it was designed to offset the dominance of aircraft used by the Entente Powers: Britain, France and Russia. It was nearly 6 m long with a wingspan of over 7 m.

The fighter boasted amazing manoeuvrability and an exceptional rate of climb (5.7 m/s), but its other characteristics - such as its speed and reliability - were mediocre, it proved inferior to contemporary aircraft. It had already been outdated by the end of 1917, with a total of 320 Dreideckers produced.

Zeppelin airship LZ 129 Hindenburg

  • Zeppelin airship, LZ 129 Hindenburg

A Zeppelin is a rigid, guided airship. It was named after the designer, the German Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin. Zeppelins became popular before World War I. They were used for civilian and military purposes as well. They had their heyday, however, during the 1930s.
The first Zeppelins had cylindrical hulls, with the typical teardrop shape developed only later. Their most important structural feature was the rigid metal framework consisting of longitudinal girders and rings.

The framework contained several separate bags (or cells) filled with hydrogen or helium gas. This lighter-than-air gas kept the structure in the air. Zeppelins were powered by engines attached on the outside of the hull, in gondolas.

The LZ 129 Hindenburg airship was named after the late Paul von Hindenburg, President of Germany, who died in 1934. The airship lent its name to an entire class of airships and made its maiden flights in 1936.

Junkers G 24 floatplane

  • Junkers G 24 floatplane

The Junkers G 24 was a low-wing monoplane passenger aircraft manufactured by the German Junkers company. It made its maiden flight in 1924 and entered service in 1925.

It had an all-metal fuselage and was powered by three engines (interestingly, it was originally designed as a single-engine aircraft, but under the restrictions imposed on German aircraft by the Treaty of Versailles, high-powered engines were not allowed, so the G 24 was built with three low-powered engines). Even so, the aircraft managed to set a number of aviation records.

This type was used for both passenger transport and military purposes. A floatplane version was also derived from this model, and was used in areas where there were no available airstrips, as floatplanes are capable of taking off and landing on not only dry land, but water too.

Messerschmitt Bf 109 G

  • Messerschmitt Bf 109 G

The Messerschmitt Bf 109, designed by Willy Messerschmitt, was the most widely used German fighter plane. More than 30 thousand were completed. It made its maiden flight in 1935 and was first deployed by the Luftwaffe in 1937.
It was one of the first truly modern fighters in World War II; its innovative technologies have made it one of the most successful fighters of all time.

It is due to its flying properties, its arsenal and the well-trained German pilots that the Bf 109 won more battles in WWII than any other fighters in history.
But it was not only used as a fighter plane; it was also used as a reconnaissance or escort aircraft. It was suitable for attacks against ground-based targets as well.

The Bf 109 was constructed in several versions and each version was given a name; the one shown in the animation is known as Gustav. The Bf 109 ´Gustav´ accounted for 70% of all the Bf 109 types produced.

De Havilland Comet

  • De Havilland Comet (1949)

The de Havilland DH 106 Comet 1, manufactured by the British-owned de Havilland Aircraft Company, was the first mass-produced, turbojet-powered airliner, that is, the first jetliner. Therefore, this aircraft is considered a milestone in the history of aviation.

The first scheduled flight of the Comet took place in 1952, when the Johannesburg-bound plane took off from London.

The Comet had a clean design and was a lot more comfortable and faster than other airliners. In addition, its operation was economical and the aircraft was set for a bright future; however, the expectations were never fully realised because of the accidents, which were caused by construction flaws.

Even though the de Havilland Aircraft Company corrected the flaws of their planes and helped pave the way for safer civil aviation, the improved Comets could not compete with the airliners of ambitious American manufacturers.

Boeing 747

  • Boeing 747 (1969)

The Boeing 747 was the first wide-body commercial airliner.
The aeroplane, developed by Boeing Commercial Airplanes, is one of the best known aircraft in the world.
Several version of the Jumbo Jet have been manufactured; it is available in passenger, freighter and other versions (including military).

It made its maiden flight in February 1969 and entered service in 1970, used by Pan American and TWA. By May 2013, more than 1,500 aircraft had been delivered.

It has an excellent lift-to-drag ratio and is extremely safe.
The most widely used type is 747-400, its success story is continued by the latest model, the 747-8, introduced in 2010.


  • Concorde (1969)

Aérospatiale-BAC Concorde is a retired turbojet-powered supersonic passenger airliner. First flown in 1969, Concorde entered service in January 1976 and continued commercial flights for 27 years. It was operated by British airways and Air France and was retired in 2003 due to several unfavourable events. Only 20 aircraft were built.

Concorde (from the French word ‘concorde’, agreement, harmony) set several records (e.g. the fastest transatlantic flight, from Heathrow to New York JFK airport, taking only 2 hours, 52 minutes, 59 seconds). Even today it is considered as a symbol of modern aviation.

F-16 Fighting Falcon

  • F-16 Fighting Falcon (1978)

The F-16 Fighting Falcon is a jet fighter originally developed for the United States Air Force. Since its first flight in 1978, it has been deployed in several armed conflicts. Produced by Lockheed Martin, it is still rolling off the assembly line.
With its afterburning turbofan jet engine, the aircraft can accelerate to more than twice the speed of sound at high altitudes.

With its excellent air-fight capabilities, the F-16 is indisputably the most successful aircraft in its category.

B-2 Spirit

  • B-2 Spirit (1989)

The code name ”Spirit” was given to an aircraft developed for the US Air Force. It received the name due to its stealth technology, while the letter B in its official designation refers to its capacity as a bomber. The prototype for the B-2 Spirit strategic bomber first took off in 1989.

The B-2 is covered with a special material that absorbs most radar signals, while the rest are scattered by the special shape of the aircraft.

We can conclude that it is nearly undetectable by most surveillance equipment. The ”stealth” designation and the ”Spirit” code name are both well earned.

Airbus A380

  • Airbus A380 (2005)

The aircraft manufactured by the France-based Airbus SAS is one of the world's largest airliners. Due to impressive dimensions, it is often referred to as the "Superjumbo". It is about 73 m long with a wingspan of approx. 80 m.
It made its maiden flight in 2005 and entered commercial service in 2007.
The Airbus 380 is a double-deck, wide-body, four-engine jetliner. On both decks, the passenger space takes up nearly the entire length of the fuselage, therefore it can carry up to 850 passengers (depending on the configuration).

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Airbus A380 (2005)

The double-decked, wide-bodied passenger aircraft can carry more then 500 passengers.


Airports provide infrastructure and services necessary for aviation.

B-2 Spirit (USA, 1989)

The B-2 Spirit heavy stealth bomber was deployed in the Balkan war, Afghanistan and Iraq.

Boeing 747 (1969)

The Jumbo Jet is one of the best known airliners.

Concorde (1969)

The first supersonic passenger airliner entered service in 1976.

Daedalus and Icarus

An ancient Greek myth about the tragedy of father and son who wanted to flee the island of Crete.

De Havilland DH-106 Comet 1 (1949)

The aircraft manufactured by the British de Haviland company was the world's first mass-produced commercial jetliner.

Evolution of the bicycle

The changing bicycle, at first mocked as a toy, is a true mirror of the technical development over the last three centuries.

F-16 Fighting Falcon (USA, 1978)

The Fighting Falcon is the most successful aircraft in the category of multi-purpose fighters.

Fokker Dreidecker I (1917)

The German triplane was perhaps the best known plane in World War I.

Hot-air balloon (18th century)

The French Montgolfier brothers were the first pioneers of flying.

Junkers JU-52 (1932)

The most popular European-made transport aircraft before World War II.

Leonardo da Vinci’s inventions - Flying machine (1488–1489)

The aim of this extraordinarily complex study was to mimic the different phases of the flight of birds.

Otto Lilienthal’s glider

The German engineer Otto Lilienthal was the first person to make successful flights with a glider designed by himself.

The development of automobiles

Automobiles have evolved a lot since the late 19th century.

The development of freight transport

This animation demonstrates the development of freight transport, from horse-drawn carts to modern lorries.

Transport networks

The animation presents the main air, water and land routes and transport hubs.

Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV)

The range of applications of unmanned aerial vehicles ('drones') keeps growing.

Wright Flyer I (1903)

The Wright Flyer was the first successful powered, heavier-than-air aircraft, designed and built by the Wright brothers.

Zeppelin airship, LZ 129 Hindenburg

A Zeppelin is a type of rigid-framed airship.

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