Aeronautics (from the ancient Greek words ὰήρ āēr, which means
"air", and ναυτική nautikē which means "navigation", i.e.
"navigation into the air") is the science or art involved with the
study, design, and manufacturing of air flight capable machines, and
the techniques of operating aircraft and rockets within the
atmosphere. The British
Royal Aeronautical Society
Royal Aeronautical Society identifies the
aspects of "aeronautical Art, Science and Engineering" and "the
Aeronautics (which expression includes Astronautics)."
While the term originally referred solely to operating the aircraft,
it has since been expanded to include technology, business, and other
aspects related to aircraft. The term "aviation" is sometimes used
interchangeably with aeronautics, although "aeronautics" includes
lighter-than-air craft such as airships, and includes ballistic
vehicles while "aviation" technically does not.
A significant part of aeronautical science is a branch of dynamics
called aerodynamics, which deals with the motion of air and the way
that it interacts with objects in motion, such as an aircraft.
1.1 Early ideas
1.2 Balloon flight
1.3 Cayley and the foundation of modern aeronautics
1.4 The 19th century
1.5 The 20th century
2.2 Aeronautical science
2.3 Aeronautical engineering
3 See also
5 External links
Designs for flying machines by Leonardo da Vinci, circa 1490
Attempts to fly without any real aeronautical understanding have been
made from the earliest times, typically by constructing wings and
jumping from a tower with crippling or lethal results.
Wiser investigators sought to gain some rational understanding through
the study of bird flight. An early example appears in ancient Egyptian
texts. Later medieval Islamic scientists also made
such studies. The founders of modern aeronautics,
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci in
the Renaissance and Cayley in 1799, both began their investigations
with studies of bird flight.
Man-carrying kites are believed to have been used extensively in
ancient China. In 1282 the European explorer
Marco Polo described the
Chinese techniques then current. The Chinese also constructed small
hot air balloons, or lanterns, and rotary-wing toys.
An early European to provide any scientific discussion of flight was
Roger Bacon, who described principles of operation for the
lighter-than-air balloon and the flapping-wing ornithopter, which he
envisaged would be constructed in the future. The lifting medium for
his balloon would be an "aether" whose composition he did not know.
In the late fifteenth century,
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci followed up his study
of birds with designs for some of the earliest flying machines,
including the flapping-wing ornithopter and the rotating-wing
helicopter. Although his designs were rational, they were not based on
particularly good science. Many of his designs, such as a
four-person screw-type helicopter, have severe flaws. He did at least
understand that "An object offers as much resistance to the air as the
air does to the object." (Newton would not publish the Third law of
motion until 1687.) His analysis led to the realisation that manpower
alone was not sufficient for sustained flight, and his later designs
included a mechanical power source such as a spring. Da Vinci's work
was lost after his death and did not reappear until it had been
overtaken by the work of George Cayley.
Main article: History of ballooning
Francesco Lana de Terzi's flying boat concept c.1670
The modern era of lighter-than-air flight began early in the 17th
century with Galileo's experiments in which he showed that air has
weight. Around 1650
Cyrano de Bergerac
Cyrano de Bergerac wrote some fantasy novels in
which he described the principle of ascent using a substance (dew) he
supposed to be lighter than air, and descending by releasing a
controlled amount of the substance. Francesco Lana de Terzi
measured the pressure of air at sea level and in 1670 proposed the
first scientifically credible lifting medium in the form of hollow
metal spheres from which all the air had been pumped out. These would
be lighter than the displaced air and able to lift an airship. His
proposed methods of controlling height are still in use today; by
carrying ballast which may be dropped overboard to gain height, and by
venting the lifting containers to lose height. In practice de
Terzi's spheres would have collapsed under air pressure, and further
developments had to wait for more practicable lifting gases.
Montgolfier brothers flight, 1784
From the mid-18th century the
Montgolfier brothers in France began
experimenting with balloons. Their balloons were made of paper, and
early experiments using steam as the lifting gas were short-lived due
to its effect on the paper as it condensed. Mistaking smoke for a kind
of steam, they began filling their balloons with hot smoky air which
they called "electric smoke" and, despite not fully understanding the
principles at work, made some successful launches and in 1783 were
invited to give a demonstration to the French Académie des Sciences.
Meanwhile, the discovery of hydrogen led
Joseph Black in c. 1780 to
propose its use as a lifting gas, though practical demonstration
awaited a gastight balloon material. On hearing of the Montgolfier
Brothers' invitation, the French Academy member Jacques Charles
offered a similar demonstration of a hydrogen balloon. Charles and two
craftsmen, the Robert brothers, developed a gastight material of
rubberised silk for the envelope. The hydrogen gas was to be generated
by chemical reaction during the filling process.
The Montgolfier designs had several shortcomings, not least the need
for dry weather and a tendency for sparks from the fire to set light
to the paper balloon. The manned design had a gallery around the base
of the balloon rather than the hanging basket of the first, unmanned
design, which brought the paper closer to the fire. On their free
flight, De Rozier and d'Arlandes took buckets of water and sponges to
douse these fires as they arose. On the other hand, the manned design
of Charles was essentially modern. As a result of these exploits,
the hot-air ballon became known as the Montgolfière type and the
hydrogen balloon the Charlière.
Charles and the Robert brothers' next balloon, La Caroline, was a
Charlière that followed Jean Baptiste Meusnier's proposals for an
elongated dirigible balloon, and was notable for having an outer
envelope with the gas contained in a second, inner ballonet. On 19
September 1784, it completed the first flight of over 100 km,
between Paris and Beuvry, despite the man-powered propulsive devices
In an attempt the next year to provide both endurance and
controllability, de Rozier developed a balloon having both hot air and
hydrogen gas bags, a design which was soon named after him as the
Rozière. The principle was to use the hydrogen section for constant
lift and to navigate vertically by heating and allowing to cool the
hot air section, in order to catch the most favourable wind at
whatever altitude it was blowing. The balloon envelope was made of
goldbeaters skin. The first flight ended in disaster and the approach
has seldom been used since.
Cayley and the foundation of modern aeronautics
George Cayley (1773-1857) is widely acknowledged as the founder of
modern aeronautics. He was first called the "father of the aeroplane"
in 1846 and Henson called him the "father of aerial
navigation." He was the first true scientific aerial investigator
to publish his work, which included for the first time the underlying
principles and forces of flight.
In 1809 he began the publication of a landmark three-part treatise
titled "On Aerial Navigation" (1809–1810). In it he wrote the
first scientific statement of the problem, "The whole problem is
confined within these limits, viz. to make a surface support a given
weight by the application of power to the resistance of air." He
identified the four vector forces that influence an aircraft: thrust,
lift, drag and weight and distinguished stability and control in his
He developed the modern conventional form of the fixed-wing aeroplane
having a stabilising tail with both horizontal and vertical surfaces,
flying gliders both unmanned and manned.
He introduced the use of the whirling arm test rig to investigate the
aerodynamics of flight, using it to discover the benefits of the
curved or cambered aerofoil over the flat wing he had used for his
first glider. He also identified and described the importance of
dihedral, diagonal bracing and drag reduction, and contributed to the
understanding and design of ornithopters and parachutes.
Another significant invention was the tension-spoked wheel, which he
devised in order to create a light, strong wheel for aircraft
The 19th century
During the 19th century Cayley's ideas were refined, proved and
expanded on. Important investigators included
Otto Lilienthal and
The 20th century
Pedro Paulet, scientist born in the city of Arequipa, Peru in the year
of 1874, was one of the first to experiment with propulsion rockets
being considered the «Father of Modern Rocket» and by others as the
Aeronautics Modern ». He developed plans for a
"torpedo plane", which is why he is considered ahead of his time. When
the internal explosion engines were invented, small enough to be able
to propel a flying device with them, a race started between two flight
possibilities: the lighter than the air (dirigibles) and the heavier
than the air (airplanes) .
The Eurofighter Typhoon.
Antonov An-225 Mriya, the largest aeroplane ever built.
Aeronautics may be divided into three main branches comprising
Aeronautical science and Aeronautical engineering.
Main article: Aviation
Aviation is the art or practice of aeronautics. Historically aviation
meant only heavier-than-air flight, but nowadays it includes flying in
balloons and airships.
Aeronautical science covers the practical theory of aeronautics and
aviation, including operations, navigation, air safety and human
A candidate pilot is likely to study for a qualification in
Main article: Aerospace engineering
Aeronautical engineering covers the design and construction of
aircraft, including how they are powered, how they are used and how
they are controlled for safe operation.
A major part of aeronautical engineering is aerodynamics, the science
of passing through the air.
With the increasing activity in spaceflight, nowadays aeronautics and
astronautics are often combined as aerospace engineering.
Main article: Aerodynamics
The science of aerodynamics deals with the motion of air and the way
that it interacts with objects in motion, such as an aircraft.
The study of aerodynamics falls broadly into three areas:
Incompressible flow occurs where the air simply moves to avoid
objects, typically at subsonic speeds below that of sound (Mach 1).
Compressible flow occurs where shock waves appear at points where the
air becomes compressed, typically at speeds above Mach 1.
Transonic flow occurs in the intermediate speed range around Mach 1,
where the airflow over an object may be locally subsonic at one point
and locally supersonic at another.
See also: Rocket
Saturn V rocket: T - 30 s through T + 40 s.
A rocket or rocket vehicle is a missile, spacecraft, aircraft or other
vehicle which obtains thrust from a rocket engine. In all rockets, the
exhaust is formed entirely from propellants carried within the rocket
Rocket engines work by action and reaction. Rocket
engines push rockets forwards simply by throwing their exhaust
backwards extremely fast.
Rockets for military and recreational uses date back to at least
13th-century China. Significant scientific, interplanetary and
industrial use did not occur until the 20th century, when rocketry was
the enabling technology of the Space Age, including setting foot on
Rockets are used for fireworks, weaponry, ejection seats, launch
vehicles for artificial satellites, human spaceflight and exploration
of other planets. While comparatively inefficient for low speed use,
they are very lightweight and powerful, capable of generating large
accelerations and of attaining extremely high speeds with reasonable
Chemical rockets are the most common type of rocket and they typically
create their exhaust by the combustion of rocket propellant. Chemical
rockets store a large amount of energy in an easily released form, and
can be very dangerous. However, careful design, testing, construction
and use minimizes risks.
Aeronautics Defense Systems
Aircraft design process
Aircraft flight control system
Aircraft flight mechanics
American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Aviation, aerospace, and aeronautical terms
Longitudinal static stability
The Royal Aeronautical Society
^ A Learned and Professional Society Archived 2014-02-09 at the
Wayback Machine. (Retrieved 8 March 2014)
^ a b Aeronautics. 1. Grolier. 1986. p. 226.
^ a b c Wragg 1974.
^ Pelham, D.; The Penguin book of kites, Penguin (1976)
^ Wragg 1974, pp. 10–11.
^ Wragg 1974, p. 11.
^ Fairlie & Cayley 1965, p. 163.
^ Ege 1973, p. 6.
^ Ege 1973, p. 7.
^ Ege 1973, pp. 97–100.
^ Ege 1965, p. 105.
^ Fairlie & Cayley 1965.
^ "Sir George Carley". Flyingmachines.org. Archived from the original
on 2009-02-11. Retrieved 2009-07-26. Sir
George Cayley is one of the
most important people in the history of aeronautics. Many consider him
the first true scientific aerial investigator and the first person to
understand the underlying principles and forces of flight.
^ Cayley, George. "On Aerial Navigation" Part 1 Archived 2013-05-11 at
the Wayback Machine., Part 2 Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback
Machine., Part 3 Archived 2013-05-11 at the Wayback Machine.
Nicholson's Journal of Natural Philosophy, 1809–1810. (Via NASA).
Raw text Archived 2016-03-03 at the Wayback Machine.. Retrieved: 30
Aeronautical engineering Archived 2012-07-27 at the Wayback
Machine., University of Glasgow.
^ Sutton, George (2001). "1".
Rocket Propulsion Elements (7th ed.).
Chichester: John Wiley & Sons. ISBN 978-0-471-32642-7.
^ MSFC History Office "Rockets in Ancient Times (100 B.C. to 17th
Ege, L. (1973). Balloons and airships. Blandford.
Fairlie, Gerard; Cayley, Elizabeth (1965). The life of a genius.
Hodder and Stoughton.
Wragg, D.W. (1974).
Flight before flying. Osprey.
Media related to
Aeronautics at Wikimedia Commons
Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article
Wikiquote has quotations related to: Aeronautics
Look up aeronautics in Wiktionary, the free dictionary.
Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum's How Things Fly website
Aeronautics History in Turkey
Aeronautics History - Charles Vivian - 1920 (eLibrary Project - eLib
Aerospace courses at MIT OpenCourseWare
American Academy of
Aeronautics aeronautical science
American Institute of
Aeronautics and Astronautics
Examples of Aeronautic Designs
What is aeronautics? The history of world
Aircraft Design: Synthesis and Analysis
CREating innovative Air transport Technologies for Europe
The Gaston and Albert Tissandier Collection in the Rare Book and
Special Collections Division in the
Library of Congress
Library of Congress contains
publications relating to the history of aeronautic