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The History of Aircraft Engines


    • Non-powered balloons had been around since the late nineteenth century. On September 24, 1852, a French engineer made the world's first-ever first powered flight. He flew 27 km (17 miles) in a steam-powered airship.

    The Wrights

    • In December 1902, Orville and Wilbur Wright started looking for an engine to power their experimental gliders. Weight was a critical concern. Local manufacturers couldn't provide what they were looking for, so they and their mechanic, Charlie Taylor, were forced to build their own. This engine powered their first flight on December 17, 1903.

    Radials and Rotaries

    • In the years following the Wrights' successful demonstration, new forms of engines were tried. These included the radial and the rotary engines.


    • The turbocharger was an innovation that pushes compressed air into an engine, creating more power. It was invented by Swiss engineer Alfred Buchi, first used in WW I, and it is still a mainstay of modern propeller-powered aircraft.


    • The first jet engine was designed in 1913 by Rene Lorin, but never built. Research on the concept continued through the 1920s and 1930s. On August 27, 1939--four days before the beginning of WW ii--the world's first jet plane, the Heinkel He-178, took flight for the first time.

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