Aviation is the practical aspect or art of aeronautics, being the design, development, production, operation, and use of aircraft, especially heavier-than-air aircraft. The word "aviation" was coined by French writer and former naval officer Gabriel La Landelle in 1873, from the verb "avier" (synonymous flying), itself derived from the Latin word "avis" ("bird") and the suffix "-ation".**
Main article: History of aviation
Many cultures have built devices that travel through the air, from the earliest projectiles such as stones and spears, the boomerang in Australia, the hot air Kongming lantern, and kites. There are early legends of human flight such as the story of Icarus, and Jamshid in Persian myth, and later, somewhat more credible claims of short-distance human flights appear, such as the flying automaton of Archytas of Tarentum (428–347 BC), the winged flights of Abbas Ibn Firnas (810–887), Eilmer of Malmesbury (11th century), and the hot-air Passarola of Bartolomeu Lourenço de Gusmão (1685–1724).
Lighter than air
LZ 129 Hindenburg at Lakehurst Naval Air Station, 1936
The modern age of aviation began with the first untethered human lighter-than-air flight on November 21, 1783 of a hot air balloon designed by the Montgolfier brothers. The practicality of balloons was limited because they could only travel downwind. It was immediately recognized that a steerable, or dirigible, balloon was required. Jean-Pierre Blanchard flew the first human-powered dirigible in 1784 and crossed the English Channel in one in 1785.
rigid airships became the first aircraft to transport passengers and cargo over great distances. The best known aircraft of this type were manufactured by the German Zeppelin company.
The most successful Zeppelin was the Graf Zeppelin. It flew over one million miles, including an around-the-world flight in August 1929. However, the dominance of the Zeppelins over the airplanes of that period, which had a range of only a few hundred miles, was diminishing as airplane design advanced. The "Golden Age" of the airships ended on May 6, 1937 when the Hindenburg caught fire, killing 36 people. The cause of the Hindenburg accident was initially blamed on the use of hydrogen instead of helium as the lift gas. An internal investigation by the manufacturer revealed the coating used to protect the covering mate