The Greek myth of Daedalus and Icarus demonstrates that humans have long dreamed of flying. The ancient Chinese first began flying kites more than 4,000 years ago. When Marco Polo visited China in the thirteenth century, he observed the Chinese using kites to take a man airborne. However, practical applications of such technology would be delayed several centuries until the introduction of gliders in the nineteenth century. In 1783, French balloonists achieved the first documented flights using hot-air balloons. Over the next century, balloons became increasingly popular, but their lack of directional control spurred the development of airships. When the Wright Brothers achieved the first sustained, powered flight in December 1903, they inaugurated a tremendous era of innovation that continues to this day. The power of flight has since been harnessed for commerce, war, science and passenger travel. Its extension to space has revolutionized both communication and our understanding of the planet.
Thus, this new student encyclopedia explores one of the key technological achievements of humankind. From aerodynamics to Wilbur Wright, many of the 135 articles examine basic principles of flying, milestones in aviation history and the influential figures in the development of flight. Relevant scientific concepts and the elements of aircraft technology are explained in entries on avionics, cockpits, gravity and thrust. From biplanes to the space shuttle, the significance of historic aircraft designs are explained. The careers of astronauts, inventors, pilots, scientists and commercial entrepreneurs are highlighted in biographical entries as well as more than 200 side bar features. more than 500 full-color illustrations effectively communicate the history of aviation and many landmark achievements. General and volume-specific glossaries explain terms and multiple topical indexes provide a variety of study approaches. While the text is suitable for readers from middle school to adult, the lack of bibliographic support limits the set’s value for advanced research in high school or college. Nonetheless, this attractive set will serve users in middle school and public libraries very well.