Take a moment to look up and gaze at the skies. What do you see? There are birds, clouds and flying insects. Hold on, there is something else. What is that shiny, winged body soaring in the air? Is it a bird? Perhaps it is a butterfly. No, it is an aeroplane! What is an aeroplane? Let’s investigate.
The word aeroplane is coined from two ancient Greek words namely: ‘ἀήρ’ which means ‘air’, and ‘πλάνος’, which means ‘wandering’. Altogether, they form the word ‘ἀερόπλανος’ which literally means ‘wandering in the air’. An aeroplane or airplane, as it is called in North America, may be described as a flying vehicle which has two fixed wings and is propelled by an engine. Now, where did the inspiration to create an aeroplane come from?
Humans only wished to fly like birds. So many attempts were made to create a device that would make this possible. Until this was finally achieved in form an aeroplane. So what inspired the design of aeroplanes? Aeroplanes, both past and present derive their designs from animals. For example, in the past, the design of some aeroplane wings were copied from bat wings. Today, however, aeroplanes are designed like birds. Let us compare the two to see which features were copied. First of all, birds have a streamlined body structure to deal with air friction so do aeroplanes. Secondly, both are made up of light material for flight; birds have light bones and feathers while aeroplanes are made of a strong yet light metal which is aluminum. Lastly, some aeroplanes have winglets similar to that of an eagle so that they can soar better. But, it is not only flying creatures that the aeroplane is being designed from. Even the designs of aquatic animals are being used! A cargo aeroplane named Airbus beluga was invented in France. It is so unique because this is the first time a plane design is derived from an aquatic animal. In fact, this aeroplane is named after the whale which the design is gotten from; the beluga whale and since the plane looks a lot like a real beluga whale it was nicknamed the ‘flying whale’. That is incredible! Truly, the greatest designs comes from nature. So what is the use of this invention?
Aeroplanes are used for the movement of people and goods from a location to another by air. The aeroplanes used for transportation of people are called passenger aeroplanes, while those used for the transportation of goods and heavy-duty are known as cargo aeroplanes. Aeroplanes come in various shapes and sizes. So by examining the structure of an airplane, one can tell its use. For instance, seeing a small or medium-sized aeroplane with seats inside one can say that it is a passenger aeroplane. But a big airplane with a large volume would be said to be a cargo airplane. Now we see that the aeroplane is pretty useful for transportation. But to see the true value of this glorious invention, we need to rewind the clock and go back to the time before the invention of the aeroplane and see what transportation was like then.
Before the invention of the aeroplane, transportation was a very tedious act. It was so tedious that people considered travelling as the job of explorers alone and no one else. Men travelled on foot, bicycles, beast of burden such as horses, donkeys and camel, buggy, ships and steam-powered train. Travelling to a far place meant that you would spend weeks or even months depending on the distance on the road or sea. Carl Benz and Henry Ford had already invented cars but an average man could not afford one. This slow transportation also affected communication. Communication? What connection do transportation and communication share in the first place? One might ask.
Well, today we can be anywhere in the globe and with a click of a button we are conversing with someone who is residing far away but, it was not always like that. In the past, letter writing was still a widely used means of communication. So if you wanted to talk to a friend, you had to pen your words down on paper, put it in an envelope, buy a stamp at the post office, stick it to it, post it at the post office, then you would have to wait for your letter to be delivered to the receiver and to get feedback. Remember that transportation was slow so you had to wait a really long time. Can you picture yourself in this scenario? All that waiting would have truly been unbearable. What then happened after the invention of an aeroplane? Did it put an end to slow transportation?
After its invention, the aeroplane made transportation faster, safer and more convenient! Thanks to this marvelous invention, we can now travel from place to place with ease and the best part of it all is that it does not take months neither does it take weeks in fact not even days but hours and even minutes depending on your destination. What about the speed of delivery of letters? Did aeroplanes improve that too?
Yes. How did it do this? Even after the telephone had been invented in 1876, this mode of communication was very costly, so letter writing was still popular. Instead, of waiting a long time before your letters or parcels were delivered, the use of an aeroplane in postal service speeded up delivery. The American postal service was the first to incorporate the use of aeroplane in delivery and they observed that it took lesser time so shorty after other postal services from around the world started using it too. What about transportation of goods?
Transportation not only involves movement of people from one location to another but goods also can be transported. So how did the aeroplane change the way goods were transported? Well, freight; the transportation of goods, has been greatly improved since the arrival of the aeroplane. How? When transporting perishables, we need a super fast means of transportation because they do not keep for long and what is the fastest means of transportation? You guessed it! It is air transportation! Cargo aeroplanes are capable of carrying tons of goods over a long distance in a shorter period of time compared to cargo ships. Now that we know the usefulness of an aeroplane. Who are we to thank for this astonishing invention?
The master minds behind this ingenious invention are no other than the Wright brothers. This American brothers; Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the first successful airplane in December 17, 1903 near Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. Their airplane was a heavier-than-air, gasoline-powered, biplane that was propelled by a propeller and they called it the Wright flyer. After some years of testing it was finally ready, then in the year 1908, it was released to the public. This new mode of transportation was a breakthrough in technology because before that time, men only dreamed of flying in the air like the birds but the aeroplane made that dream a reality. We have talked about the past a lot. Now let us talk a little about the future. What do you think future aeroplanes would be like?
The early aeroplanes before the Wright flyer were powered by steam. The Wright flyer and some aeroplanes after it were powered by petrol. But today’s aeroplanes however are powered by avgas. Since there were gasoline-powered cars before but now the latest cars are powered by electricity, future aeroplanes would also be powered by electricity in fact solar panels would even be mounted on top them to generate electricity from the sun.
In summary, aeroplanes flying devices used for transportation. Animals inspired the invention and modification of the aeroplane. They are better than other means of transportation because they are very fast. This speed accounts for better transportation of both people and goods. The Wright brothers are the inventors of the aeroplane. So now that we know that aeroplanes do a lot of transportation work, the next time you see one in the sky do not forget to say well done aeroplane.
By Aituamen Justice Eromosele