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One Hundred Years of Flight - and Beyond

Hiroyuki Terada
						Former Director, Operations and External Relations Office
						of National Aerospace Laboratory of Japan (NAL)

It was on December 17, 1903, just a hundred years ago, that the Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville, took to the sky at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, in the United States. That first-ever motor-powered flight was only 250 meters long, at a speed of about 16 kilometers (10 miles) per hour. But their success was built on a long line of scientific inquiry: studies of bird wings, and research into non-powered flight by men such as Otto Lilienthal. "Flying like a bird" had been a dream of humankind for long time. In Japan, as early as in 1895, eight years before the Wright Brothers' flight, Chuhachi Ninomiya conceptualized an airplane shaped like a jewel-beetle, which promised to be much more effective than the Wright Brothers' Flyer I.

After the Wright Brothers, many people plunged into the design and development of various types of airplanes, in the hopes of having great adventures and achieving world-wide fame. In 1919, John Alcock and Arthur Whitten became the first to fly over the Atlantic Ocean, in an unprecedented 3,000-kilometre journey. Eight years after that, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo trans-Atlantic flight, in his Spirit of St. Louis.

In 1937, the Hindenburg, a Zeppelin-type airship, crashed at Lake Hurst, New York, bursting into flames as a result of a hydrogen leak. That tragic accident ended public confidence in the airplane's chief competitor, and from then on the popularity of the airplane was assured.

At the same time, governments realized the airplane could be a powerful weapon of war, and this stimulated rapid advances in the performance of planes. In the Second World War, air power determined success. In the early stage of the war, Japan's Fighter Zero, whose operational performance was pushed to the very limit by ignoring the safety of the pilots, played an amazing role. But later in the war, Fighter Zero's engine technology and performance were surpassed by those of American planes. And this resulted in the end of the War.

The Wright Brothers First Heavier-than-air Flight

Fighter Zero
(It was exhibited in the Orange-kan Building)

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