A Thought on the National Aviation Day 2019*

Tenzin Pasang. September 05, 2019 06:25 AM. 1798

 By Tenzin Choephel**


Wright Brothers' first flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina


In 1895, Lord Kelvin, the renowned Scottish scientist, declared that Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible. Less than eight years later, Wright brothers made their first flight over the sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Their flight lasted for only about twenty something seconds, but it was able to demonstrate the possibility of a machine that is heavier than air to get off the ground in a sustained manner. The brothers laid the framework for what a working airplane should look like in terms of propulsion, aerodynamics, controls and structures.



Bell X-1, first manned airplane to accomplish supersonic flight


Numerous iterations later, engineers were designing and flying small propeller-driven airplanes successfully, followed by larger and more mature airplanes that carried more people and stuff. Introduction of gas turbine engines ushered in the jet age that expanded the flight envelope of the airplanes in terms of speed, altitude and efficiency. In the meantime, rocket propulsion allowed humans to fly an aircraft faster than the speed of sound for the first time in history. Rapid innovations in the design of large airplanes, first propeller-powered and then jet-powered, helped energize the era of commercial aviation. The biggest commercial airplane today can carry 600 times more people than the Wright brother’s first airplane that flew in Kitty Hawk. All these happened within a century!



Airbus A380, a superjumbo that can carry more than 600 passengers


What to look out for in this new century? People are hard at work, designing unconventional airplane concepts, including blended-wing-body airplanes (which is basically a flying wing with no separate fuselage), hypersonic commercial airplanes that can fly at more than five times the speed of sound, electric and hybrid-electric commercial transport airplanes that not only rely on jet fuel but also on electric batteries, urban air taxis that can transport you from your home to the airport by avoiding ground traffic etc. Think about what Lord Kelvin said in 1895. Now this, ladies and gentlemen, is a true definition of “Nothing is Impossible!”


An urban air taxi concept from Embraer Aircraft Company 



* The National Aviation Day (August 19) is a United States national observation that celebrates the development of aviation (Wikipedia).

** Sr. Aerospace Engineer, Pratt & Whitney, USA


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