Rapid developments in early flight at the beginning of the twentieth century quickly led European governments to recognise the importance of flight as a weapon of war.
French pilots followed the Americans as pioneers of early flight. After the first successful flight across the English Channel in 1909 by Frenchman Louis Bleriot, the sea no longer provided a safety barrier for Britain. The first airshow in Britain was held at Doncaster in 1909.
Others followed at Barnsley and Sheffield in the years leading up to the First World War, where local airmen demonstrated their skills. Aeroplanes began flying faster, further and higher and air travel took off.
Governments took notice and in 1910, France and Germany formed air forces. The British Government formed the Royal Flying Corps (RFC), Britain’s first air force, two years later.
Zeppelins were developed in Germany in the late 19th century as a new means of commercial passenger travel. German authorities quickly recognised their potential for use in war. A Zeppelin is a steerable, rigid airship using hydrogen gas to make it lighter than air.
1903: The American Wright Brothers were the first to fly successfully with their fabric, wood and wire aeroplane
1909: French pilot Louis Bleriot flies across the English Channel from Calais to Dover in 30 minutes
1909: French pilots fly at Britain’s first airshow in Doncaster
1910: France and Germany form air forces and aircraft industries
1912: Britain’s first airforce, The Royal Flying Corps (RFC), is formed with only five aircraft, one of which was privately owned
1913-14: Local airmen Harold Blackburn of Doncaster and Marcus Manton of Sheffield appear at flying shows in Barnsley and Sheffield
1895: Count Ferdinand Von Zeppelin patents his design in Germany for the airship which he hopes to use for postal air services and air travel
1900: Von Zeppelin’s first airship, LZ1, makes its first flight
1909: Von Zeppelin forms the world’s first airline, German Airship Travel Corporation, operating pleasure flights carrying 20 passengers at a time
1912: The Imperial German Navy orders and starts operating Zeppelins. To begin with they are used for reconnaissance – gathering information about an enemy – in front of the German High Seas Fleet
1914: Zeppelins have carried more than 10,000 fare-paying passengers!