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Unit IV

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The history of aviation

Many cultures have built devices that travel through the air, from earliest projectiles such as stones and spears, to more sophisticated buoyant or aerodynamic devices such as the boomerang in Australia, and kites. There are early legends of human flight such as the story of Icarus, and latter, more credible claims of short-distance human flights including a kite flight by Yuan Huangtou in China.

The modern age of aviation began with the first flight on November 21, 1783, in a hot air balloon designed by the Montgolfier brothers.

The practicality of balloons was limited because they could only travel downwind. It was immediately recognized that a steerable or dirigible balloon was required. Although several airships were built during the 1800s, the first aircraft to make routine flights were made by the Brazilian aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont effectively combined an elongated balloon with an internal combustion engine. On October 19, 1901 he became world famous when he flew his airship «Number 6» over Paris to win the Deutch de la Meurthe prize. Santos-Dumont’s success with airships proved that controlled and sustained flight was possible.

On December 17, 1903, the Wright brothers flew the first fully-documented, successful powered, heavier-than-air flight, though their aircraft was impractical to fly for more than a short distance because of control problems. The widespread adoption of ailerons much easier to manage, and only a decade later, at the start of World War I, heavier-than-air powered aircraft had become practical for reconnaissance, artillery spotting and even attacks from the ground positions.

Aircraft began to transport people and cargo as designs grew larger and more reliable. In contrast to small non-rigid blimps, giant rigid airships became the first aircraft to transport passengers and cargo over the great distances. The best known aircraft of this type were manufactured by the German Zeppelin company. The «Golden Age» of the airships ended on June 6, 1937, when Hindenburg caught fire killing 36 people.

Great progress in the field of aviation was made during the 1920s and 1930s. One of the most successful designs of this period was the Douglas DC-3 which became the first airliner that was profitable carrying passengers exclusively, stating the model era of passenger airline service. By the beginning of World War II, many towns and cities had built airports, and there were numerous qualified pilots available. The war brought many innovations to aviation, including the first jet aircraft and the first liquid-fueled rockets.

After the WWII, especially in North America, there was a boom in general aviation, both private and commercial. Manufactures such as Cessna, Piper and Beechraft expanded production to provide light aircraft for the new middle class aircraft market. By the 1950s the development of civil jets grew. At the same time turbojet propulsion began to appear for smaller commuter planes, making it possible to serve small-volume routes on a much wider range of weather conditions.

Since 1960s composite airframes and quieter more efficient engines have become available but the most important innovations have taken place in instrumentation and control. The arrival of solid-state electronics, the Global Positioning System, satellite communications, and increasingly small and powerful computers led displays have dramatically changed the cockpits of airliners and increasingly of smaller aircraft as well. Pilots can navigate much more accurately and view terrain, obstructions and other nearby aircraft on a map or through synthetic vision even at night or at low visibility.

Topical vocabulary

projectiles – летящие предметы

spotting – установление местонахождения

spear – копье, дротик

cargo – груз

buoyant – способный держаться на поверхности

rigid – жесткий

credible – правдоподобный

blimp – малый дирижабль мягкой системы

claim – заявление

profitable – полезный, благоприятный

air balloon – воздушный шар

jet – реактивный

downwind – по ветру

liquid-fueled – жидкотопливный

steerable – управляемый

expand – расширять

dirigible – дирижабль

turbojet – турбореактивный двигатель

elongated – продолговатый

propulsion – ракетный двигатель

sustained – продолжительный

airframe – корпус летательного аппарата

internal combustion engine – двигатель внутреннего сгорания

cockpit – кабина экипажа

widespread – широко распространенный

navigate – управлять самолетом

aileron – элерон

obstruction – затруднение движения

reconnaissance – разведка

visibility – видимость