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Guest Blog: Birds – The Inspiration for Planes PART 1

Drawing of Davinci's Ornithopter

Drawing of Davinci's Ornithopter

Introduction from David: My mom has always loved birds and I have always loved planes. We have talked about the similarities a lot and she loves reminding me how birds were around before planes. I asked if she wanted to put some thoughts down for a blog on the concept of birds, planes and flight and she was more than happy. Here are her thoughts in her own words…

For eons and eons, birds had the skies to themselves. Even though there were insects and bats, birds were the dominant aviators.

Man would look up to the skies from Earth and marvel at the wonder of flight. The shepard with his flock, the fisherman at sea, the Indian on the plains would enviously wish that some day they could soar above the mountains, prairies and oceans.

For thousands of years, Man could only wish for flight, so the birds were free to tease the earth-bound. As the years progressed, humans began to study birds and how they can defy gravity. It probably began in China in about 400BC with the invention of kites.

Wings were obviously important to flight. Many early attempts at flight tried using the flapping of wings like birds. These attempts all failed because the shoulder muscles of birds are so much stronger than humans, plus the fact that birds have hollow bones, making them much lighter.

So Man floundered in his experiments with flight.

The turning point seems to have begun during the Renaissance with a man named Leonardo Da Vinci. Yes, that Da Vinci! He was a scientist and inventor as well as an artist. He was intrigued with flight and believed humans could conquer it. In 1485, Da Vinci wrote, “The bird is a machine that operates according to mathematical law. It lies within the power of man to make this instrument with all its motions”. To try to prove this statement, DaVinci produced a hundred drawings of what he called the ornithopter, and even though there is no proof that he created a model that flew, it is considered the forerunner of the helicopter.

So Man began to realize that perhaps it was possible to break the bounds of gravity and soar like an eagle!

It took another 300 years for the hot air balloon to be invented by the Montgolfier Brothers. Then during 1799-1850, Cayley invented the glider and realized the importance of a tail( birds knew that!) and the need for a power source.

Later in 1891, Lilienthal showed that a glider could fly a person and go long distance. Based on a study of birds and how they fly, he wrote a text. And this text was studied by the Wright Brothers who also through experimentation, created that historical flight at Kitty Hawk. Their first flight traveled 120 feet and lasted 12 seconds!

The rest is history! From the time of the first flight until putting a man on the moon was less than seventy years-one generation. In fact, my grandmother who was born in 1878 and died in 1973 saw during her lifetime the entire evolution of the flight of Man!

So now Man has conquered the skies and now dominates the air. Birds, who once were his inspiration are now a nuisance.

What are we doing so man and birds can coexist? Stay tuned for Part 2 early next week.