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Alexander Graham Bell, Telephone Inventor
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Bell-designed plane in flight

Bell-designed plane in flight

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Bell’s tetrahedral kite taking off
Bell’s tetrahedral kite taking off

Bell-designed plane waiting to take off
Bell-designed plane waiting to take off

Experiments with Flight

Long before Orville and Wilbur Wright made aviation history in 1903, Bell and many other inventors studied how birds fly in order to achieve the dream of human flight.

Since childhood Bell had been fascinated by birds, watching them maneuver in the air and studying their anatomy. As an adult he turned his observations into sketched ideas for a wide range of flying machines, including airplanes using gunpowder rockets for propulsion or with propellers for vertical takeoff and landing.

Like the Wrights and other aviation pioneers, Bell chose to test light, wind-supported kite and glider designs before attempting risky human-powered flight trials. By 1902 Bell decided to focus mainly on building and testing tetrahedral kite designs with the help of family, friends, and employees at his home Beinn Bhreagh in Nova Scotia, Canada.

Bell’s vision for a tetrahedral airplane was overshadowed by the Wright brothers’ successful biplane design. But Bell continued to work on other aircraft ideas and earned a patent in 1911 with his Aerial Experiment Association associates for their June Bug “flying machine.”

Next: How Bell Borrowed from Nature›

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