In The Beginning

The Wright Brothers first flight, 1903

Title: The Wright Brothers first flight, 1903
Description: Public domain by-nc

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.


Aeroplane development
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

Ferdinand Von Zeppelin

Title: Ferdinand Von Zeppelin
Description: Staatsbibliothek zu Berlin - Preußischer Kulturbesitz by-nc

Zeppelin development
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!