Flight from my perspective
The vision of a large commercial airliner flying overhead as I'm driving on the parkway is quite amazing to watch and sometimes takes me by surprise. I love when I can share the experience with my son as well. When I'm at a baseball game I can hear the planes passing overhead too. When I think about it I am fascinated by the whole concept of flight and it's humble beginnings. When we need to be somewhere a far distance away at a specific time the best way to go is by plane. I am not a frequent flyer as I've only flown about nine times in my lifetime and the length of time between each flight has been quite long. When I do fly I enjoy being in mid flight as I always find the takeoffs and the landings the hardest part of the flight. The longest flight I ever made was from John F. Kennedy International airport to London's Heathrow airport and it was about 8 hours. Other cities I've flown to from New York were Los Angeles, CA; Orlando, Florida; Norfolk, Virginia and St. Lucia.
I must admit that since September 11th I have yet to fly and the last time I did fly was with my wife and son when he was a baby to Los Angeles, CA for a week and we flew back home a week before the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. I do miss the experience of flying but I have become a little bit leary about flying after 9/11 and hearing of other flight disasters.
I had developed an interest in learning about Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic flight from my dad who read his story The Spirit of St. Louis and watched the movie by the same name starring Jimmy Stewart as Charles Lindbergh. I loved watching the movie with my dad and I recently bought the dvd to watch it again to relive the great memories of my childhood and to cherish the fond memories of my dad and to share "Lucky Lindy's" historic flight with my son.
I love watching clips of the early days of flight and the early inventions and drawing board ideas of early day flying machines. I learned about Kitty Hawk, NC and the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur's first flight of 1903 back in grade school and I was amazed by the spirit, dedication and the engineering know how of the Wright brothers as they opened the doors to early flight and made it all possible with the first piloted flight of approximately 1 minute on that historic day of December 17, 1903 with 4 separate flights. They were fascinated with the idea of flying and first started their pursuit of the air with constructing gliders that resembled large boxed kites made from wood from as early as the turn of the century in 1899. Their father was a Bishop in the Church and he travelled and was away relying on their mom to raise their 5 children. Orville and Wilbur had 2 older brothers and 1 younger sister. Their father would bring back gifts when he was back from his travels with the church and one such gift was the impetus to sparking Orville and Wilbur's interest in flight which was a toy helicopter that influenced them later in their design ideas. Orville and Wilbur Wright were very crafty and resourceful and were also inventors of bicycles that they used to travel and were owners of a bicycle shop and a print shop in the early days.
Many scholars and scientists formulated their theories of flight through the centuries and the famed artist Leonardo Da Vinci most famous for his portrait of Mona Lisa and his painting of The Last Supper drew sketches of his interpretation of flight. He was not only a renowned artist but also a visionary of math, science, engineering and the arts and had visionary ideas concerning principles of flight. Da Vinci was a true Renaissance man who was worldly in so many areas and had amazing talents and abilities that spark the interest of today's scholars in debate given that Da Vinci's life spanned part of the 15th and 16th centuries. He also developed mutual respect and friendships with other scientists and mathematicians of his day as he collaborated with them.
Living today with all these modern conveniences I find it truly amazing how far we have come with flight and aviation technology. Our world has been brought closer as we can fly to almost anywhere and flight has become such a common part of life that we all seem to take it for granted yet when you think about it if we were born a century earlier we would never have had the opportunities we have today of seeing the world. It is quite astounding when you think about it. We can be here in New York today and tomorrow be in the outback of Australia which is a world away and by flight time approximately 24 hours.
A famous aviator who made the first transatlantic flight from Roosevelt Field, Long Island NY to Le Bourget Aerodrome in Paris, France and paved the way for transatlantic flying was Charles Augustus Lindbergh back in 1927 with his historic 33 hour flight. Charles Lindbergh started out as a flyer delivering mail after learning how to fly on a Curtis "Jenny" bi plane. He was an engineering student who decided to pursue flying lessons instead and took a job delivering air mail from St Louis to Chicago. In his early days of flying as a young man he did some barnstorming throughout the country and in 1924 he began his military flight training with the Army Air Service. In a few of his mail delivery flights Lindbergh was forced to abandon his plane and parachute out due to bad weather conditions and mechanical problems.
His flight to Paris was historic and tested his mettle and demanded all his flight skills as a young pilot and tested his endurance and his ability to stay awake to make the complete flight. Many aviators had attempted the same flight from both directions but none were successful and some lost their lives in their ill fated attempts. "Lucky Lindy" had his Saint Christopher medal with him as he made the solo flight and he successfully crossed the Atlantic landing in Paris France to stunning crowds awaiting his famed historic landing. He was a hero to many and he was a pioneer in aviation and set the standard with his courage, his training and his dedication.
Women took to the skys too and one of the most famous woman aviators was Amelia Earhart who was the first to cross the Atlantic Ocean on May 20, 1932 at the age of 34 and was awarded the distinguished flying cross for this achievement. She was 23 years old when she had her first taste of flying and knew that was what she wanted to do with her life. She worked all sorts of jobs to save for flying lessons after deciding to leave school and pursue her passion for flying. In July 1937 Amelia went missing on her attempted flight to traverse the world and was intending to schedule a landing at Howland Island which is located between Hawaii and Australia but upon her final radio communication on July 2, 1937 was never seen or heard from again sadly and was officially declared dead on January 5, 1939 as she would have been 41. She did a lot to advance aviation and inspired many young women to take to the skys as aviators.
During the 2 world wars aviation started to take shape as planes were designed for using in attacks and delivering supplies. WW I was the introduction of flight in warfare and it was only a decade before that the Wright brothers made their historic first flight. From that time on planes were being conceptualized for use in the war effort and engineers and scientists were brought together to design planes that could support payloads and a pilot and co-pilot to fly missions. The planes of WW I were evolving and were being designed to also have machine guns mounted to help in combat missions. As the needs of warfare demanded the technology to keep up it was only a matter of time that the air corps would become a valuable resource of the military.
As WW II took shape flight had evolved to a level of sophistication that the technology really dictated the design and use of the aircraft. Pilots were an integral part of the war effort and planes were designed to carry bombs for use in attacks and pilots were specially trained to make their missions with precision and to carry out their coordinated and well planned out attacks.
It is quite an amazing history piecing together the origins of flight and learning of all the dedicated individuals who played a part in making it all possible, so next time you're at the airport waiting to catch your flight think and reflect for a moment how lucky we are to have such a wonderful opportunity to fly. Always remember also that with flying there is still an element of danger that comes with it which is beyond our control.
To fly is to be truly free like the birds.
Edward D. Iannielli III
The Wright Brothers
- Introduction to the Adventure Wing
Level 1 Template. Part of the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company, a virtual museum of pioneer aviation, the invention of the airplane, and man's first flights. Sponsored by the First To Fly Foundation, Inc.