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Timeline of aviation – 19th century

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Title: Timeline of aviation – 19th century  
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Timeline of aviation – 19th century

of aviation
pre-18th century
18th century
19th century
20th century begins
21st century begins

This is a list of aviation-related events during the 19th century (1 January 1801 – 31 December 1900):


  • 1800s - 1850s 1
  • 1860s 2
  • 1870s - 1880s 3
  • 1890s - 1900 4
  • Notes 5
  • References 6

1800s - 1850s

An 1818 technical illustration shows early balloon designs.
A late 19th-century illustration of Gay-Lussac and Biot ascending to 4,000 m (13,000 ft) in a hot-air balloon in 1804.
  • 1804
    • Sir [4]
    • August/September – The scientists Joseph Louis Gay-Lussac and Jean Baptiste Biot use a balloon to conduct experiments on the earth's magnetic field and the composition of the upper atmosphere.[5]
  • 1807
  • 1809
    • Degen propels a hydrogen-filled balloon by flapping large ornithopter-style wings.[6]
    • September – Sir George Cayley published the first part of his seminal paper On Aerial Navigation, setting out for the first time the scientific principles of heavier-than-air flight.[4]
  • 1811
    • 31 May – Albrecht Berblinger crashes a hang glider (possibly a copy of Degen's) into the Danube. A reproduction built according to the design drawing in 1986 was capable of flight.
Harris jumps from his balloon to save his fiancée. Illustration from the late 19th Century.
  • 1819
    • 6 July – Sophie Blanchard launches fireworks from her balloon in flight during an exhibition at the Tivoli Gardens in Paris. The fireworks accidentally ignite the gas in the balloon, which crashes on the roof of a house. She falls to her death, becoming the first woman to die in an aviation accident.[7]
  • 1824
    • Englishman Thomas Harris dies when his balloon crashes near Carshalton, London, England. His female passenger survives. The exact cause is not determined but is apparently due to a valve Harris has designed to release gas from the balloon becoming stuck open. Despite dropping all ballast Harris was unable to stop a precipitous plunge.[8][9]
  • 1836
    • 7–8 November – Flight of a coal gas balloon by Charles Green covering 722 km (449 mi) from London to Weilburg, with passengers Holland and Mason.[10] It is the first overnight balloon flight.[11]
  • 1837
    • Robert Cocking jumps from a balloon piloted by Charles Green at a height of 2,000 m (6,600 ft) to demonstrate a parachute of his own design, and is killed in the attempt.[12]
  • 1839
    • The American John Wise introduces the ripping panel which is still used today. The panel solved the problem of the balloon dragging along the ground at landing and needing to be stopped with the help of anchors.[13]
    • Charles Green and the astronomer Spencer Rush ascend to 7,900 m (25,900 ft) in a free balloon.
Francisque Arban is rescued by Italian fishermen, 1846. Illustration from the late 19th century.
  • 1840
  • 1841
    • An ironsmith kalfa (journeyman) Manojlo who "came to Belgrade from Vojvodina"[15] attempts flying with an ornithopter. Refused by the authorities a permit to take off from the belfry of Belgrade Serbian Orthodox Cathedral, he clandestinely climbs to the rooftop of the Đumrukhana (Import Tax Headoffice) and takes off, landing in a heap of snow, and surviving.[16]
  • 1842
    • November – English engineer William Samuel Henson makes the first complete draft of a power-driven aeroplane with steam-engine drive. The patent follows the works of Cayley. The English House of Commons rejects the motion for the formation of an "Aerial Transport Company" with great laughter.
  • 1843
  • 1845
    • William Samuel Henson and John Stringfellow build a steam-powered model aircraft, with a wingspan of 10 ft (3.0 m).
  • 1848
    • John Stringfellow flies a powered monoplane model a few dozen feet in a powered glide at an exhibition at Cremorne Gardens in London.[17]
  • 1849
    • 12–25 July – While blockading Venice, the Austrian Navy launches unmanned balloons (Montgolfières) equipped with explosive charges from the deck of the steamship Vulcano in an attempt to bombard Venice. Although the experiment is unsuccessful, it is both the first use of balloons for bombardment and the first time a warship makes offensive use of an aerial device.[18]
    • Sir glider being towed by a team of people running down a hill. This is the first known flight by a person in a heavier-than-air machine.[19]
  • 1852
  • 1853
    • Late June or early July – glider, designed by his employer, some proportion of the distance across Brompton Dale in Yorkshire, becoming the world's first adult aeroplane pilot.[21] Unimpressed with this honour, the coachman promptly resigns his employment.
  • 1856
    • December – French Captain Jean Marie Le Bris is towed into the air in his 600 ft (180 m) in his Artificial Albatross glider.
  • 1857
    • Félix Du Temple flies clockwork and steam-powered model aircraft, the first sustained powered flights by heavier-than-air machines.
    • French brothers du Temple de la Croix apply after successful attempts with models for a patent for a power-driven aeroplane.
  • 1858
    • John Wise and three companions complete a Montgolfière flight over a distance of 802 miles (1,291 km), (St. Louis - Henderson, USA).
    • French airman Nadar takes the first aerial photographs.[22]


  • 1860
    • 13 October – Ascending in Samuel Archer King‍ '​s balloon The Queen of the Air, James Wallace Black takes eight photographs of Boston, Massachusetts, from an altitude of 1,200 feet (370 meters). The single clear print is the first successful aerial photograph in the United States and the first clear aerial photograph of a city ever taken anywhere.[23]
  • 1861
  • 1862
  • 1863
  • 1864
    • Outbreak of the Paraguayan War between the Alliance of Argentina, Brazil and Uruguay against Paraguay. The Alliance forces made much use of balloon reconnaissance over the next six years.
    • English philosopher-scientist Matthew Piers Watt Boulton of the UK writes his short paper, On Aerial Locomotion, detailing several inventions, including that of the aileron almost as an afterthought (he later patents them in 1868). Boulton's inspiration has been attributed to French Count Ferdinand Charles Honore Phillipe d'Esterno, who's detailed analysis of flapping and soaring bird flight, Du Vol des Oiseaux (On the flight of birds) was published as a pamphlet in 1864.[30]
  • 1865
    • Solomon Andrews flies a Dirigible airship twice over New York City.
    • German experimenter Paul Haenlein takes out a patent for the "Earliest Known Airship With a Semi-rigid Frame," envisioned to have a coal-gas-burning engine which draws its fuel from the craft‍ '​s envelope, which is filled with coal gas. He later will construct the craft in Germany.[31]
    • Jules Verne describes in his novel The Journey to the Moon the launch of a rocket from Florida, from which many years later American space flights actually will start.
    • The Frenchman Le Comte Ferdinand Charles Honore Phillipe d'Esterno writes in his book About the Flight of Birds, "Gliding seems to be characteristic for heavy birds; there are no odds which are stacked against that humans can not do the same at fair wind." He had earlier published the 1864 pamphlet Du Vol des Oiseaux (On the flight of birds).[30]
    • French artist and farmer Louis Pierre Mouillard makes a tentative gliding flight. After years of studies of bird flight he publishes his book L'Empire de l'Air in 1881. He thinks that imitation of gliding and soaring flight of birds is possible, but not the imitation of the flapping of wings.
    • 20 September – Jacob Brodbeck, in his coil-spring-driven airship, flies 100 feet before crashing in a field near Luckenbach, Texas, USA.[32]
  • 1866
    • First South American military balloon reconnaissance ascent. On 6 July, Lieutenant Colonel Roberto A. Chodasiewicz, an Argentine Army military engineer, makes the first South American military observation ascent, manning a Brazilian Army's captive ballon over Paraguayan troops, during the Paraguayan War.
    • Foundation of the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain later to become the Royal Aeronautical Society, the world's oldest society devoted to all aspects of aeronautics and astronautics.[33]
    • Francis Herbert Wenham, British, presents his paper on "Aerial Locomotion" to the RAeS. Patented superposed wing design (biplane, multiplane).
    • Jan Wnęk claims gliding flights (1866–1869) from the Odporyszów church tower.[34] Kraków Museum of Ethnography, the source of claims of documentary evidence, refuse to allow independent researchers access to these.
    • First exhibition of aviation in London's Crystal Palace.

1870s - 1880s

  • 1870
    • Balloons are used by the French to transport letters and passengers out of besieged Paris during the Franco-Prussian War. Between September 1870 and January 1871, 66 flights – of which 58 land safely – carry 110 passengers and up to three million letters out of Paris, as well as 500 carrier pigeons to deliver messages back to Paris.[35] One balloon accidentally sets a world distance record by ending up off the coast of Norway.[36]
  • 1871
    • The Englishmen Wenham and Browning construct the first wind tunnel and conduct airflow experiments.
    • Alphonse Pénaud flies his Planophore, a small rubber-powered model which is designed to have automatic pitch and roll stability.[37]
  • 1872
    • 2 February – French naval architect Henri Dupuy de Lôme achieves 9 to 11 km/h (5.6 to 6.8 mph) with his airship driven by a propeller turned by eight men.[38]
    • 13 December – The German experimenter Paul Haenlein tests the first airship with an internal combustion engine in Brünn, Austria-Hungary, achieving 19 km/h (12 mph); the engine burns coal gas drawn from its balloon. The tests are stopped because of a shortage of money.
  • 1873
  • 1874
    • 20 September – Felix and Louis du Temple de la Croix build a piloted steam-powered monoplane which achieves a short hop after gaining speed by rolling down a ramp.[39]
  • 1875
    • Englishman Thomas Moy tests a tethered aeroplane powered by a steam engine drive and with a wing span of 4 metres (13 feet).[40]
    • German experimenter Paul Haenlein improves his airship by providing it with a car slung below its framework to accommodate the crew, engine, and extras. This will become a standard practice in the design of later dirigibles.[41]
    • 15 April – the flight of the "Zenith" up to 8,000 metres (26,000 feet) ends in the death of two aeronauts and the deafness of Gaston Tissandier.
  • 1876
    • Alphonse Pénaud and Paul Gauchot apply for a patent for a power-driven aeroplane with a retractable undercarriage, wings with dihedral and joystick control.[42]
  • 1877
  • 1878
    • Charles F. Ritchel publicly demonstrates of his hand-powered, one-man rigid airship, and eventually sells five of them.
  • 1879
    • The British Army gains its first balloon, the Pioneer.
    • Frenchman Victor Tatin builds a power-driven model aeroplane with airscrews and a compressed air motor, successfully flying it off the ground.
    • American scientist Edmund Clarence Stedman proposes a rigid airship inspired by the anatomy of a fish, with a framework of steel, brass, or copper tubing and a tractor propeller mounted on the front of the envelope, later changed to an engine with two propellers suspended beneath the framework. The airship never is built, but Stedman‍ '​s design foreshadows that of the Zeppelins of World War I.[44]
    • Biot makes short hops in the Biot-Massia glider.
  • 1880
  • 1883
    • M.A. Goupil proposes a steam-powered monoplane with tractor propeller. His full-size test rig lifts itself and two men in a light breeze, but the design is never built.
    • The first electric-powered flight is made by Gaston Tissandier who fits a Siemens AG electric motor to a dirigible. Airships with electric engines (Tissandier brothers, Renard and Krebs).
    • John J. Montgomery makes a brief flight heavier-than-air flight in a glider.
    • Wölfert unsuccessfully tests a balloon powered by a hand-cranked propeller
    • The Berlin-based "German Society for Promoting Aviation" publishes a magazine, the "Zeitschrift für Luftschiffahrt" (Magazine of Aviation).
The astronomer Jules Janssen took this photo of the French officers' Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs La France dirigible from his Meudon astrophysic observatory in 1885.
  • 1884
    • 9 August – The first fully controllable free-flight is made in the French Army dirigible La France by Charles Renard and Arthur Krebs. The flight covers 8 km (5.0 mi) in 23 minutes. It was the first flight to return to the starting point.[46]
    • Mozhaiski finishes his monoplane (span 14 m, or 46 ft). It makes a short flight, taking off after running down a launching ramp.[47]
    • British Army balloons are taken on an expedition to Bechuanaland in South Africa.
    • The Imperial Russian Army adopts the balloon for military service.[48]
    • Englishman Horatio Phillipps has a patent issued for curved aerofoil sections.[49]
    • Goupil publishes his book on La Locomotion Aérienne.
  • 1885
    • The Prussian Airship Arm (Preussische Luftschiffer Abteilung) becomes a permanent unit of the army.
    • British Army balloons are taken to Sudan by the expeditionary force headed there.
    • Frenchmen Hervé and Alluard achieve a Montgolfiere flight of over 24 hours.
  • 1888
    • Wölfert flies a petrol powered dirigible at Seelburg, the first use of a petrol-fuelled engine for aviation purposes. The engine was built by Gottlieb Daimler.[50]
  • 1889
    • Percival G. Spencer makes a successful parachute jump from a balloon at Drumcondra, Ireland
    • Otto Lilienthal publishes in his book Der Vogelflug als Grundlage der Fliegekunst (Bird Flight as the Basis for the Art of Aviation) measurements on wings, so called polar diagrams, which are the concept of description of artificial wings even today. The book gives a reference for the advantages of the arched wing.
    • Pichancourt develops a mechanical bird which aimed to imitate the motion of a bird's wings in flight.
    • Lawrence Hargrave, a British immigrant to Australia, constructs a rotary engine driven by compressed air.

1890s - 1900

Patent drawing of Ader's Eole
Otto Lilienthal in flight, ca. 1895
  • 1890
    • 9 October – The first brief flight of Clément Ader's steam-powered fixed-wing aircraft Eole takes place in Satory, France. It flies uncontrolled approximately 50 metres (160 feet) at a height of 20 cm (7.9 in) before crashing, but it is the first take-off of a powered airplane solely under its own power.[51][52][53][54]
  • 1891
    • Otto Lilienthal flies about 25 m (82 ft) in his Derwitzer Glider.
    • Clément Ader makes a second flight in Eole, an uncontrolled 100-meter (328-foot) hop that ends in a crash. Ader later will experiment with an even less successful twin-engined steam-powered aircraft before giving up his aircraft experiments.[54]
    • 29 April – Chuhachi Ninomiya flies the first model airplane in Japan, a rubber-band-powered monoplane with a four-bladed pusher propeller and three-wheeled landing gear. It makes flights of 3 and 10 meters (10 and 33 feet). The next day it flies 36 metres (118 feet).[55]
  • 1892
    • February – The first contract is awarded for the construction of a military airplane: Clément Ader is contracted by the French War Ministry to build a two-seater aircraft to be used as a bomber, capable of lifting a 75-kilogram (165-pound) bombload.[56]
    • August – Clément Ader flies 200 metres (660 feet) uncontrolled in the Avion II (also referred to as the Zephyr or Éole II) at a field in Satory.
    • Otto Lilienthal flies over 82 metres (90 yards) in his Südende-Glider.
    • Austria-Hungary's army gains a permanent air corps, the Kaiserlich und Königliche Militäraeronautische Anstalt ("Imperial and Royal Military Aeronautical Group")
  • 1893
    • Otto Lilienthal flies about 250 m (820 ft) in his Maihöhe-Rhinow-Glider.
    • Lawrence Hargrave demonstrates a human-carrying glider in Australia at an aeronautical congress in Sydney. It is based on the box kite, an invention of Hargrave's. It becomes an example for several scientific kites and aeroplane constructions.
    • Horatio Phillips builds a steam-powered test rig at Harrow. A "venetian blind" style multiplane with a stack of wings each with a span of 5.8 metres (19 ft) and a chord of only 4 cm (1.5 in). Tethered to the centre of a circular track, its rear wheels rose 60–90 cm (2.0–3.0 ft) while front wheels remained on ground.[57]
  • 1894
    • 31 July – Hiram Maxim launches an enormous biplane test rig with a wingspan of 32 m (105 ft) propelled by two steam engines. It lifts off and engages the restraining rails, which prevent it from leaving the track.[53]
    • November – Lawrence Hargrave demonstrates stable flight with a tethered box kite.
    • 4 December – German meteorologist Arthur Berson ascends to 9,155 metres (30,036 feet) in a balloon.
    • Czeslaw Tanski successfully flies powered models in Poland and begins work on full-size gliders.
    • Railway engineer Octave Chanute publishes Progress in Flying Machines, describing the research completed so far into flight. Chanute's book, a summary of many articles published in the "American Engineer and Railroad Journal", is a comprehensive account on the stage of development worldwide on the way to the aeroplane.
    • Otto Lilienthal's Normal soaring apparatus is the first serial production of a glider. Using different aircraft constructions he covers distances of up to 250 metres (820 ft).
  • 1895
    • Percy Pilcher makes his first successful flight in a glider named the Bat.[58]
    • In the book L'Aviation Militaire, Clément Ader writes aircraft carrier will become indispensable. Such ships will be very differently constructed from anything in existence today. To start with, the deck will have been cleared of any obstacles: it will be a flat area, as wide as possible, not conforming to the lines of the hull, and will resemble a landing strip. The speed of this ship will have to be at least as great as that of cruisers or even greater...Servicing the aircraft will have to be done below this deck...Access to this lower deck will be by means of a lift long enough and wide enough to take an aircraft with its wings folded...Along the sides will be the workshops of the mechanics responsible for refitting the planes and for keeping them always ready for flight.[54]
    • Pablo Suarez flies his Suarez Glider in Argentina, following correspondence with Lilienthal.
    • The Sanskrit scholar Shivkar Bapuji Talpade designed an unmanned aircraft called Marutsakthi or Marutsakha (meaning Power of Air), supposedly based on Vedic technology. It is claimed that it took off before a large audience in the Chowpathy beach of Bombay and flew to a height of 1,500 feet[59] but the claim has not been verified.
    • By the mid-1890s, the Imperial Russian Navy has established "aerostatic parks" on the coasts of the Baltic Sea and Black Sea.[60]
  • 1896
    • 6 May – Samuel Pierpont Langley flies the unmanned Aerodrome No. 5 from a houseboat on the Potomac River a distance of 3,300 ft (1,000 m), the first truly successful flight of one of his powered models.[61]
    • June – Octave Chanute organises a flyer camp at Lake Michigan during which both a copy of one of Lilienthal's designs and a biplane built by Chanute are tested.[62]
    • 9 August – Otto Lilienthal crashes after a stall caused by a gust, breaking his back. He dies the following day.[63]
    • October – Ground testing of an all-aluminium airship designed by the Austro-Hungarian engineer David Schwarz and built by Carl Berg, begins in Berlin. Schwarz will die of a heart attack before seeing it fly.[64]
    • November – Samuel Pierpont Langley flies the unmanned Aerodrome No. 6 a distance of 4,200 ft (1,300 m).
    • Germans August von Parseval and Hans Bartsch von Sigsfeld invent the kite balloon for observations in strong winds.
    • William Paul Butusov, a Russian immigrant to U.S, with the Chanute group, construct the Albatross Soaring Machine which achieves an unmanned unpowered uncontrolled hop from a ramp.
    • William Frost, Welsh, flies the Frost Airship Glider 500 meters, possibly with balloon assist.
  • 1897
    • 11 June – Salomon Andrée, N. Strindberg, and K. Fraenkel attempt an expedition to the North Pole by free balloon from Spitsbergen. They crash within three days but manage to survive for several months in the pack ice. Their remains are discovered in 1930 on White Island. It was possible to develop the preserved film material.[65]
    • 12 June – Friedrich Hermann Wölfert and his mechanic are killed when their petrol-powered airship catches fire during a demonstration at the Tempelhof field.[66]
    • 14 October – Clément Ader later asserts that on this date he made a 300 m (980 ft) flight in his steam-powered uncontrolled Avion III also referred to as Aquilon or the Éole III. His claim is disputed. The French Army is not impressed and withdraws funding.
    • 3 November – The first flight in a rigid airship is made by Ernst Jägels, flying the all-aluminium craft designed by David Schwarz and built by Carl Berg. It reaches an altitude of 24 m (79 ft), proving metal-framed airships can become airborne, but after an engine failure is damaged beyond repair in an emergency landing.[67]
    • Carl Rickard Nyberg starts working on his Flugan.
  • 1899
    • The Hague Convention of 1899 prohibits military aircraft from discharging projectiles and explosives, but permits the wartime use of aircraft for reconnaissance and other purposes.[72]
    • The Wright brothers begin experimenting with wing-warping as a means of controlling an aircraft.
    • Samuel Cody begins experiments with kites big enough to lift a person.
    • Percy Pilcher flies various gliders and is close to completing a powered machine but is killed when his glider crashes at Stanford Hall, England after a tail strut fails. Pilcher used a team of horses to pull the glider into the air.[73]
    • April – Gustave Whitehead claims to have flown his steam-powered aircraft a distance of 500 m (1,600 ft) in Pennsylvania with a passenger.
  • 1900
    • 2 July – Count Ferdinand von Zeppelin pilots his experimental first Zeppelin, LZ 1, over Lake Constance, reaching an altitude of 400 metres (1,300 feet) with five men on board. Although the flight lasts only 18 minutes, covers only 5.6 kilometers (3.5 mi), and ends in an emergency landing on the lake, it is the first flight of a truly successful rigid airship.[74]
    • 12 September – The Wright brothers arrive at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to begin their first season of glider experiments there.[75]
    • 3 October - Probably on this date, Wilbur Wright makes the Wright brothers‍ '​ first glider flight at Kitty Hawk. During their tests, they will fly the 1900 glider both as a glider and as a kite under various wind conditions.[76]
    • 17 October – On her second flight, the Zeppelin LZ 1 remains aloft for 80 minutes.[77]
    • 23 October – The Wright brothers abandon their 1900 glider in a sand hollow and break camp at Kitty Hawk to return home to Dayton, Ohio.[78]


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