In Hindu mythology, we come across the story of Pushpaka Viman, the flying chariot which originally belonged to Kuvera, the Yaksha chief, and later came into the possession of the devil King, Ravan. Lord Rama, after defeating Ravan, acquired it. Sita and Ram flew back from Lanka to Ayodhya in this miraculous chariot. Man has always dreamt of flying in the air. In almost all the mythologies of the world, we come across such stories which tell us about flying in the air. In Greek mythology, there is the story of Deadalus, a cunning craftsman, who flew from Crete to Haly with his son Icarus, by means of wings fastened to their shoulders by wax !
Balloons aeroplanes and aerial navigation
Balloons first rose in the air by the end the eighteenth century. But a balloon light than aircraft had its limitations. The Wright Brothers of America made an aeroplane which was heavier than aircraft. On December 17, 1908, Orville Wright made the world’s first controlled flight in power-driven aeroplane. In 1906, people were highly amazed to see a machine flying at 25 miles per hour. A year before the First World War, 1913, the highest speed record was 126 miles per hour. It was considered as a great achievement. The airship also came into existence. With this type of aircraft is associated the name of Count Zappelin, the German inventor, who made the first long fight in 1900. Though unwieldy and less speedy, an airship could carry many more passengers than an aeroplane. Aerial navigation progressed at an astonishing rate during the war. The importance of aircraft for the purpose of observation and later for bombing enemy cities was realised. At the beginning of war, England possessed only 130 aeroplanes and 5 airships. But in 1918, England had more than 2,000 aeroplanes in her possession. In trying to perfect aerial navigation many young pilots lost their lives. Flying was very risky during those days. The scientists were gathering new facts about aerial navigation at the sacrifice of numberless lives.
The introduction of civil aviation
There has been a great advancement in civil aviation after the First World War. Mails and passengers are carried by air in every civilized country now a days. Before the war broke out, aircraft carrying nearly 50 passengers used to leave Croydon, the air station in England, for the continental countries daily. There was a fixed and regular timetable for entire Europe telling about the arrival and departure of aeroplanes. There was an airmail service to India which took only 4 days to reach Calcutta from London. Five times in the week, Imperial Airliners used to leave India for London. This service covered countries up to Australia. There was also a Royal Dutch Service and a Paris Saigon Service which connected India with Europe, Aerial navigation on advance-Journey by aeroplane has be come very comfortable and easy now. A modern aircraft is like a decent house in the air. A large liner can carry 150 passengers with a crew of 7 to 8 men. It contains sleeping accommodation for nearly 100 passengers, a smoking room, a lavatory, a lounger and a deck in it. A large airship flies at 80 miles per hour with about 150 passengers and can travel 4500 miles without refueling. A large sea plane can be very large indeed. Dox of Germany was the world’s largest sea-plane before the war. It could carry 17 passengers. Long distance flights have become very common these days. Many a time, the Atlantic has been flown across. A American Colonel Lindberg was the first to do so. Even women aviators like Amelia Earhart and Amy Johnson have flown across the Atlantic. A German airship, the Gaf Zappelin made a trip round the world in 1929, in 21 days and 7 hours. Wiley Post, an American aviator, flew round the world in 7 days, 18 hours and traveled nearly 15,596 miles. The non-stop distance flight record is held by Rossi, an Italian, who flew 5912 miles in 54 hours. Some Soviet aviators have surpassed this record even.
New records in flying and climbing
Angello, an Italian flier and a warrant officer, broke all speed records in 1934. He traveled at the rate of 440 miles per hour in a sea-plane. Now we have reached the record of more than 510 miles per hour by using jet propulsion. The highest attitude climbing record before the war was held by Squadron Leader Swain, an English pilot. In 1936, he climbed up to 49,967 feet. In this direction, there has been a great advance now.
The Second World War has given a great impetus to aerial navigation. Some of the fighter planes of the Allies flew more than 400 miles per hour easily. Experiments have been made for refueling a plane in the air. The American Super Fortresses can fly 3000 miles with a full load. Gliders are well known these days Gliding was popular in Germany before the war. There is a gliding school in India in Bombay and projects for starting several others are in hand. Aerial navigation is now as common as travel by rail way trains and steamships. Commercial men have gained much. Accidents occur with ferocity. There is no effective defense against hostile aircraft. Bombers killed thousands of innocent civilians in Europe. Japan, Vietnam and recently in Egypt. This is the seamy side of aviation.