Technical Writing - Early Aviation Thesis

Excerpt from Thesis :

Since the upward forces of air pressure from the air passing below the wing becomes greater, the difference between those two forces is translated into lift (Garrison, 2008).

More recently, advanced analytical techniques not available to earlier generations of aviation designers have changed the formal understanding of the mechanics responsible for wing lift. Specifically, it turns out that most wing lift is actually provided by the angle of attack and that to the extent Bernoulli's Law applies to the equation, it may actually inhibit rather than assist lift (Garrison, 2008). Regardless of the underlying mechanism, nothing more than casual observation of soaring birds was necessary to demonstrate the functional efficiency of winged flight first proven experimentally by Lilienthal in 1891.

Whereas previous technological solutions to the problem of overcoming gravity for the purposes of manned flight relied on lighter-than-air gasses or gliding wings, the Wright brothers' aircraft design was the first to employ aerodynamic lift from horizontal wings and powered thrust together. Gliders like Lilienthal's employed aerodynamic lift in their wing surfaces but relied on wind gusts for power. The Wright brothers attached a propeller to their airframe that was designed to push air exactly the way naval ships of the day used propellers in the water. Their historic flight lasted only 59 seconds but flew nearly 1,000 feet at approximately 10 feet in altitude and demonstrated that, at least in principle, fully independent powered flight was possible (SASM, 2007).

The Evolution of Modern Aviation and its Impact on Society:

The unfortunate paradox that nothing promotes more rapid human technological advancement than warfare was true thousands of years before the birth of aviation and remains equally true of virtually all fields of science and technology. However, despite the unfortunate motive for the rapid evolution of aviation from the Wright Flyer to highly complex and powerful 21st century air and spacecraft in one century, the fact remains that modern aircraft have substantially transformed human life on earth in several major ways. Commercial aviation was the original mechanism of "globalization" and completely revolutionized modern business fifty years ago, long before that concept applied to the computer age. Previously, the only means of intercontinental transportation was via oceanic routes measured in days and weeks rather than hours. The strategic advantages in commercial business of rapid air travel in between geographically remote locations was almost as apparent as the strategic and tactical advantages already demonstrated in the context of military operations (O'Connor, 1995).

Notwithstanding the tremendous costs of modern warfare, the technology that emerged from military applications of aviation technology have transformed modern life as much as they changed modern warfare. Specifically, the jet engines pioneered by Werner von Braun (1912-1977) in connection with Nazi efforts that produced the first operational jet fighter in 1944 led directly to the successful development of U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBM). Later, those same wartime technologies led to manned space flight, under his leadership at the newly-formed National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA).

Ironically, even the successful lunar landings of the Apollo missions evolved directly from the Nazi technology developed twenty years earlier specifically to destroy U.S. bombers over Europe with first jet fighters introduced by the Luftwaffe and to target British population centers with V-2 rockets launched by the Nazis in the last years of the war. Likewise, technological evolution in other fields were spawned by advances in aviation science, including satellites, global positioning systems (GPS), and even radar and the various uses of microwave radiation, all of which can be traced back to the Wright Flyer. Conclusion:

On the smallest scale, the Wright's invention of the first man-powered heavier- than-air aircraft was a minor technological advance over previous achievements; in fact, the first airplane was much less functional than earlier lighter-than-air technologies.

However, the subsequent evolution of modern aviation changed human life on earth significantly enough to make the invention of powered flight one of the most important technological advancements in human history.


Garrison, P. (2008). "The Bernoulli Brigade." Flying. Jun/08, pp. 82-5.

Jackson, R. (2003) Modern Military Aircraft. New York, NY: Barnes & Noble

Leary, W. (2000). "High-Tech Suits Help Pilots Avoid Gravity's Perils." New York Times (Apr 22/00) Retrieved January 8, 2009, at

O'Connor, W.E. (1995). An Introduction to Airline Economics, Fifth Edition. Westport,

Connecticut: Praeger.

Smithsonian Air and Space Museum (2007) the Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age.…

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