Aviation Lesson for Kids: History, Facts & Terms

Instructor: Suzanne Rose

Suzanne has taught all levels PK-graduate school and has a PhD in Instructional Systems Design. She currently teachers literacy courses to preservice and inservice teachers.

The next time you fly in a plane, you'll think about the information you'll learn in this lesson! Read on to find out what aviation is, a little about its history, and to learn about some famous flyers.

Aviation History

Have you ever looked at a bird flying and wished you could fly? People have always wanted to fly! The problem they had to solve was how they could take something that was heavier than air and make it stay up.

Scientist Leonardo da Vinci drew a ''flying machine,'' but never built it. It wasn't until 1799 that a realistic plan for an aircraft was made by George Cayley. He's called the ''Father of Aviation'' because he drew plans for a plane with ''fixed wings,'' which meant that they didn't move. Before this, scientists tried to imitate the flight of birds; they made aircraft with wings that flapped up and down!

Glider plans
glider plans

Cayley also was the first person to create a working glider, which is a plane that doesn't have an engine; it just glides through the air. He designed many parts for airplanes, but wasn't able to create an airplane that would fly on its own.

A German inventor, Otto Lilienthal, built 16 different kinds of gliders in the 1890s and made over 2,000 glider flights. He's known as the ''Glider King.'' Lilienthal got a lot of publicity in newspapers, and many others became interested in flying because of him.

The word aviation means anything to do with flying in aircraft. Aviators are men who pilot aircraft. A female pilot is called an aviatrix. It might seem odd, but the plural of aviatrix is ''aviatrices.''

Wright Brothers and Lindbergh

You've probably heard of some famous aviators, including Charles Lindbergh and the Wright Brothers.

Although the Wright Brothers owned a bicycle repair shop, they were fascinated with flying and spent all their free time trying to create an airplane.

First Powered Flight

Until their flight in 1903, airplanes couldn't be controlled well by the pilot, didn't have their own source of power, and could only make very short flights. The Wright Brothers' plane completely changed aviation. They created a plane that was heavier than air, but which was powered, controlled, and could stay up more than just a few seconds.

Lindbergh, who was also called ''Lucky Lindy,'' was the first aviator to fly alone across the Atlantic Ocean without making a stop. He made this trip in 1927; at the time, it was such an amazing feat that he became famous.

Famous Aviatrices

Many women also had the dream to fly. These aviatrices aren't as well-known as other aviators, but they also made contributions to aviation.

In 1911, women couldn't vote and most didn't drive automobiles, but Harriet Quimby was determined to fly. She became the first American woman to earn a pilot's license!

Katherine Stinson

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