The Wright Brothers may get all the credit especially this week, the hundredth anniversary of their legendary flight. But it was an eccentric English baronet, Sir George Cayley, who made the age-old dream of flying machines real, say historians of aviation. And he did it fifty years before Orville Wright took off from Kitty Hawk.Decades before the brothers were born, Cayley had sketched out the basics of the modern airplane. Studying birds, he identified the forces that make flight possible. And on a breezy day in 1853, Cayley forced his coachman into a makeshift glider, rolled him down a hill, and turned him into the first man to fly in a heavier-than-air craft, ever."Nothing really mattered before Cayley," said Peter Jakab, the chairman of the National Air and Space Museum's aeronautics division. "Cayley's the watershed figure in terms of real progress towards the airplane."My Wired News article details some of Cayley's achievements. There are diagrams of his aircraft, too.THERE'S MORE: At Kitty Hawk, aviation geeks will try to fly a just-about exact replica of the Wright Brothers' 1903 plane at 10:35 am tomorrow -- precisely 100 years after Orville's first journey.
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