Ask an Explainer


Hot air balloons existed before airplanes did! Why do you keep saying that airplanes were the first things to fly?


We define 'flight' as sustained, powered, and controlled. When you ride in a hot air balloon, it is very difficult to control - you can't turn with ease, and even rising and falling is tough.


The first airplane, built by the Wright brothers and flown on December 17th 1903, was sustained by lift, powered by an engine, and controlled by an elevator, a rudder, and wing warping. It could move any way it wanted to and fly for extended periods of time. This is why we call it the first flying machine, rather than the hot air balloon.

Categories: Flight Dynamics