High in the sky: history of aviation
A In the vast tapestry of human achievement, the development of aviation and controlled flight holds a special place. It is a story of innovation and the relentless pursuit of the impossible. From the earliest attempts at flight to the cutting-edge technology of modern aircraft, the story of aviation is one of humanity’s greatest achievements. The path from soaring balloons to supersonic jets was rocky, but exciting, to say the least. Fasten your seat belts and expect some turbulence on the way!
B Leaving aside the ancient Greek myth of Icarus and his wings made of feathers and wax, the first documented flights were made as early as 1783. On November 21, 1783, the Montgolfier brothers launched the first untethered hot air balloon, taking it to a height of 6,000 feet and travelling over 5 miles. This marked the beginning of of lighter-than-air aviation, when people gingerly began to master the newly emerging art. While such aircrafts were mostly at the mercy of the wind and couldn’t be steered with precision, they were the pioneers of manned flights. Throughout the 19th century, further advancements were made in ballooning, and the first transatlantic balloon flight taking place in 1873.
C However, it was not until the Wright brothers’ historic flight in 1903 that the era of powered flight truly began. Orville and Wilbur Wright were two brothers from Ohio who had been fascinated with flight since childhood. They began experimenting with gliders in the late 1890s, and finally on the chilly day of December 17, 1903 they achieved their dream of powered flight using their Wright Flyer. The plane flew for 12 seconds and covered a distance of 120 feet, but it was a monumental achievement that changed the course of history.
D Over the following years, aviation technology advanced rapidly, as aeroplanes were becoming faster, more reliable and efficient. World War I played a significant role in the progress in the domain of aviation, with planes used for reconnaissance and later for combat. By the end of the war, planes had become more manoeuverable, and air superiority established itself as an integral strategic component of any large-scale military conflict. World War II was no exception, further spurring advancements in the field, as countries on both sides of the Atlantic funnelled funds into the research and development of aviation. The most iconic aircraft of the war was the infamous B-17 Flying Fortress, which played a crucial role in the Allied bombing campaign against Germany. The war effort was also responsible for the first jet-powered aircraft, the German Messerschmitt Me 262, making its maiden flight in 1941.
E The interwar period gave impetus to commercial aviation, when companies like Boeing and Douglas started producing planes designed for passenger travel. In 1927, Charles Lindbergh made the first solo transatlantic flight, flying from New York to Paris in his plane, the Spirit of St Louis. Lindbergh’s achievement captured the world’s imagination and ushered in the era of affordable long-distance air travel. The 1930s brought further advancements in aviation technology such as the introduction of pressurized cabins and the first attempts at jet propulsion for civic purposes. In 1949, the first commercial jet aircraft, the British DH106 Comet, took off for the first time. Overall, the money that governments had invested in the industry during the periods of war was the main reason for the breakthroughs that would have otherwise taken decades to make.
F After the war, aviation technology continued to advance rapidly, with the introduction of new technologies like radar, electronic navigation, and jet engines. In 1947, Chuck Yeager became the first person to break the sound barrier, flying the Bell X-1 at a speed of Mach 1.06. This marked a new epoch in aviation, making planes faster and more capable than ever before. The 1950s saw the introduction of the first commercial jet airliners like the British de Havilland Comet and the American Boeing 707. These planes revolutionized air travel, offering an unprecedented combination of comfort and affordability. The era of mass air travel had begun. The 1970s and 1980s saw the development of new technologies like fly-by-wire controls, GPS navigation, and composite materials. In 1988, the first fully electronic airliner, the Airbus A320, entered service.
G Fast forward to today and the two most prominent civic airliners: the Airbus A320 and Boeing 737. Let have a closer look at both. The Boeing 737 has a more traditional design: engines on the wings and a T-shaped tail. The Airbus A320, on the other hand, has a more modern approach, placing engines under the wings and a swept-back tail. This design difference has important implications for the planes’ performance, mostly benefitting the A320 with a more even aerodynamic profile, which translated into better fuel efficiency. Another difference between the two models is their cockpit layout. The Boeing has retained a more reserved cockpit setup rich in analog gauges and dials, while the Airbus has more modern controls with electronic displays and a fly-by-wire interface. These differences reflect the two philosophies of the manufacturers. Boeing has traditionally favoured a more hands-on approach to flying, while Airbus has emphasized automation and computer-controlled systems.
H When it comes to performance, there are some notable differences between the two planes. The 737 has a slightly longer range than the A320 – 3,500 and 3,300 nautical miles respectively. This might stem from the slightly higher top speed of the latter with 540 knots as opposed to 530 knots for the 737. Another performance difference worth noting is their fuel efficiency. The Airbus A320 boasts 15% lower jet fuel consumption, which could be due to its more modern design and use of advanced materials.
I So, what does the future hold for modern aviation? New alloys are discovered yearly, the progress in electronics development is at its peak, planes grow increasingly automated. Rumours of new hybrid engines and advanced fuels promise increased range and lower environmental impact. Others wager that we might see AI-piloted aircraft in our lifetime. The fact that takes little guessing is that planes have carved a large niche for themselves and are here to stay.
Reading Passage 2 has eight paragraphs labelled A-I.
Choose the most suitable headings for paragraphs B-I from the list of headings below.
Write the appropriate numbers (I-XIII) in boxes 1-8 on your answer sheet.
One of the headings has been done for you as an example.
Note: There are more headings than paragraphs, so you will not use all of them.
Example: Paragraph A — Answer VII
List of Headings
I Shift from analog to digital
II The Flying Greek
III Forged in fire
IV Computers take over
V Brothers in arms
VI Numbers matter
VII A long road
VIII What’s on the horizon?
IX Taking off
X Head to head
XI David and Goliath
XII A date to remember
XIII Not for fighting alone
14 Paragraph B
15 Paragraph C
16 Paragraph D
17 Paragraph E
18 Paragraph F
19 Paragraph G
20 Paragraph H
21 Paragraph I
In boxes 22-27 on your answer sheet, write
TRUE if the statement agrees with the information
FALSE if the statement contradicts the information
NOT GIVEN if it is impossible to say what the writer thinks about this
22 No attempts at flying were made before 18th century
23 Wright brothers are credited with having made the first flight
24 World conflicts facilitated further development in the domain of aviation
25 Second half of the twentieth century saw planes getting more electronic equipment
26 Airbus A320 requires less human input from pilots as opposed to Boeing 737
27 We are likely to see unmanned passenger planes in the future