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Aviation, Airplanes

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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 civil 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.

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