|The word ‘aviation’ stems from the Latin word ‘avis’ for
bird and relates to the design, manufacture, flying or operation
of aircraft. The word ‘aviator’ is now less frequently used and
is simply another word for a pilot. Even rarer is the word
aviatrix – a female pilot. The word ‘aircraft’ covers not only
aeroplanes but numerous other flying objects including airships,
balloons, gliders, helicopters and even ornithopters – a flying
machine that takes off by flapping its wings – and very much a
thing of the past. The dream of soaring into the air was dreamt
of long before the Montgolfier brothers took to the sky in a
balloon in 1783 and signalled the start of the modern age of
aviation. ever, it wasn’t until 1903 that the Wright brothers with
Orville Wright at the controls took off in a heavier-than-air
aircraft and soared for 12 seconds above the ground, covering a
distance of 120 feet. In 1908, after years of experimentation by
various aspiring aviators, Wilbur Wright made a 140 minute
flight in France, demonstrating full control over his aircraft.
As World War I approached, aeroplane design had made huge
progress, mostly in the direction of biplanes. Even greater
strides were made between 1919 and 1926. In 1919 Captain E. F.
White succeeded in flying nonstop from Chicago to New York and
Alcock and Brown made the first transatlantic flight in just
over 16 hours, winning the London Daily Mail prize of $50,000.
Aircraft became indispensible in World War II and towards the
end of hostilities progress literally rocketed with the
emergence of jet and rocket propelled planes.
After World War II, technology in both military and
aviation continued its ever increasing upward trend, resulting
in today's enormous aircraft industry. Flights covering
countless millions of miles per year fulfil the ever increasing
“frequent flying” demands.
|This leads to the question of how the aircraft industry will be
affected by depleting oil supplies. The simple answer is that at
present no one knows – or no one is telling. Arguments rage over
the length of time that oil reserves will last, from those who
are convinced that supplies will dry up within 30 years to
others who regard it as a bottomless well. No matter how long
supplies last, a more environmentally-friendly form of fuel
would certainly be preferable. There is talk of liquid hydrogen
and various forms of bio-fuels as alternatives, but what are
their disadvantages? Considering the progress made in many
fields over the last 50 years, it is highly probable that this
problem will be solved as and when necessary. Or perhaps as and
when the oil industry considers the change to be to its
advantage. It is certainly unlikely that we will have to revert
to human-powered vehicles.
In the meantime, plane spotters can pursue their hobby of
observing and logging the registration numbers of various types
of aircraft. Spotting habits vary. Some spotters concentrate on
a specific airline operator or solely on military aircraft.
There is a wealth of information available in print and on the
Internet and social networks bring likeminded people together to
swap information among their hobby. An airport is clearly the
best place to gain the maximum number of sightings at quite
close quarters. Air shows also afford excellent close-up
opportunities and offer the chance to enter airfields that are
normally closed to the public.