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Low Speed Flight, 0-100 MPH

The early development of human flight includes air vehicles in this speed range. The first air vehicles included kites, balloons, and gliders. These unpowered aircraft were very slow. The development of relatively lightweight engines paved the way for early airships and winged aircraft, but the materials, knowledge and technology available limited these aircraft to low speeds.

These vehicles had to be very lightweight because of the limited power of the available engines. To build lightweight structures, designers used external bracing. That, and the open fuselage designs of the day, resulted in vehicles with high drag. So the limited thrust available was overcome by the drag produced even at speeds as low as 50 mph. The most famous example is the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Modern vehicles in this category include kites, balloons, hang gliders, ultra-light hobby aircraft, and airships. As in the early days, these aircraft are limited by the power available from small, light engines and by lightweight structures. These aircraft are generally faster than their predecessors because of stronger, light-weight materials (nylon and aluminum), improved knowledge of aircraft design, and improved engines (with a higher ratio of power to weight).

a pcture of a blimp and a hang glider

Read Related Journals

Low Speed Tests, by Gavin Botha

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