Wednesday, February 07, 2007
The First Aviator
Whilst researching my current book, a historical set in the Edwardian era, I discovered that the true father of aviation was in fact a Regency gentleman called Sir George Cayley. He pioneered the study of aerodynamics over a century before the first powered flight. I had no idea that experiments in flight had started as early as the Regency – I had heard about the balloonists of the period, but not of any other flying machines. Apparently Sir George, who was a Yorkshire landowner, designed not only a helicopter but also an airship and a glider. In 1799 he tested the glider with his 10 year old son aboard (!) and it flew for a short distance. Later in the nineteenth century he designed an even larger glider, which was flown by his coachman. The man apparently retorted that he had been employed to drive a coach and horses, not to fly, but he is recorded in history as the first adult aviator!