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American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics


    History of Flight from Around the World


    The first airplane flight in Japan was likely on 29 April 1891, when a propeller-driven unmanned plane took off and flew about 10 meters at a height of one meter and 36 meters at a height of six meters the following day. The plane's inventor was Tyuuhaci Ninomiya, known as a genius of kite-making in his neighborhood. The airplane was called "Crow Type Flying Machine" and was a monoplane with a tail similar to that of a crow, 61 centimeters long and 59 centimeters wide with a three-wheel landing gear and a four-blade propeller driven by twisted rubber strings. After the success of this model airplane, Ninomiya tried to develop a manned airplane and wrote a letter to the Japanese Army for support, but his request was denied. When he learned of the success of the Wright Brothers, he was discouraged and never returned to the aviation field, even though he received a letter of apology from the Japanese Army.

    The first human flight in Japan was made on 5 December 1909 in a glider. The machine was invented by Yves Paul Gaston Le Prieur, an attaché of the French Embassy in Tokyo, and Lt. Shirou Aibara of the Japanese Navy. A boy flew onboard their biplane with a box-type tail. The plane was 6.8 meters long and 7.2 meters wide and had 4-wheel landing gear. It flew 15 meters at a height of four meters on 5 December 1909 after a ground run by the power of several people. Five days later, Le Prieur took off with a ground run pulled by an automobile and flew about 100 meters.

    The first flight of a Japanese-made powered airplane was made on 5 May 1911. The plane was designed and built by Sanji Nagahara, a Japanese Navy engineer and was 10 meters long, 9.2 meters wide, and equipped with a 50-horsepower Gnome engine. It flew approximately 60 meters on 5 May 1911. Because its flying quality was so stable, it flew to many cities throughout Japan for demonstrations.

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

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