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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


    History of Flight from Around the World


    Russia's huge territory, devoid of the usual transportation systems, inspired its scientists and engineers to dream about new transportation systems, especially air systems, in the 18th and 19th centuries.

    The Russian Academy of Science, established in 1725 in St. Petersburg by Peter the Great, began by studying aero- and hydrodynamics. Russian and foreign scientists participated.

    L. Euler, member of Russian Academy from 1726, published his famous equations, the base for calculation parameters of arbitrary flow, in 1755. In 1738 D. Bernoulli, honored member of Russian Academy, issued a paper (in Strasbourg, France, with the well known equation of Bernoulli.

    The achievements of 18th-century scientists served as a basis for the 19th century flying machines, but also for calculations of characteristics (lift, drag, strength).

    In 1880 naval officer Alexander Mozhayski began to design an aircraft and in 1883 he constructed it. His design had good flying characteristics, but three steam engines with 30 horsepower did not permit it to achieve take off velocity. Mozhayski didn't get beyond ground testing. He tried to get more powerful engines, but was unsuccessful as piston engines were not available.

    Around that time many other Russians were involved in studying flight. N.E. Zhukovsky (1847-1921), called "the father of Russian aviation," wrote about stability of motion, hydraulic shock in water pipe, the flight of birds, and optimal angel of attack of airplanes. In a 1905-1906 report about attached vortexes, he established a concrete function between circulation of flow and lift and later added boundary condition. Between 1900 and 1910, as a professor at Moscow University, his research laboratory installed wind tunnels and he lectured on aerodynamics, mechanics of flight, and others topics.

    Russia also had the first aviation research center in the world, the Kouchinsky Institute. Other leaders in the Russian aviation industry were: C.A. Chaplygin, who developed the theory of lift for wing of limited span; V.P. Vetchinkin, the author of the theory of stability in flight; and B.C. Stechkin, the author of the theory of the jet-engine. Another Russian, Sikorsky, developed the helicopter in 1909. The first flight on the Sikorsky biplane occurred one year later.

    Originally provided to AIAA for its Evolution of Flight Campaign, 2003.

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