When the Wright Brothers’ frail biplane left the earth under its own power, the world was forever changed. Those first yards of flight set a tune in place whose beat frantically increased over the next century and ultimately the sand dunes stirred by the Wright Brothers would translate into moon dust and the asteroid belts beyond.
The rapid advance of flight is one of the 20th century’s greatest achievements and one that still astounds us. Every time a massive airliner rises into the sky, it seems to defy every law of physics and common sense. And yet it will span oceans at a speed not far removed from the sound barrier. Light aircraft allow the general population to criss-cross their country with ease and fighter jets carry arsenals beneath their wings with afterburners lit and their pilots straining under multiple forces of gravity. Hang gliders drift silently from the cliff tops above while the helicopters rotors thump the air into submission.
What would the pioneers of flight have thought of all of this? When they dared to suggest that aircraft would one day fly at night and even circle the globe there were those that snickered at their fantasy. Still, with all of their optimism and vision I would suggest that even the pioneers would be impressed by the mammoth scale that their dreams had achieved. Perhaps also a little confused that their flying machines could now both level cities and yet provide aid to people in need in distant nations.
The act of flight is a miracle of invisible forces, executed by marvels of engineering. Even in this age of hand-held computers and digital fascination, flight possesses a special mystique and romance that can stir the soul. The sight of a silver dot etching a crisp white contrail across the sky’s blue canvas can still draw the most cynical eyes to the heavens and a small yellow aeroplane at rest beyond the fence-line will tempt the child in all of us to take a closer look.
May that wonder never leave us...