Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

Chronicle of Flight


The Wright Brothers' first flight. See more ­flight pictures.
Wright State University Archives

The twentieth century is unquestionably the century of flight; the last 100 years have been shaped by aviation in a way no other time period has ever been affected by any invention. As remarkable as the automobile, the railroad, and even the steam engine were, their effects were more protracted than those of the aircraft and stimulated far fewer additional inventions. And though the complete impact of the computer is still untold, those effects derive indirectly from aviation, which did more to spur the use and growth of the computer than any other industry. Aviation's constant need for faster and more powerful computers laid the groundwork for the journey into space.

Flight Pictures

It was fortuitous that aviation's beginnings in 1903 coincided with an explosion in the growth of both still and motion pictures. Progress in these areas enabled an unprecedented documentation of the birth and growth of aviation. From the very beginning of piloted, powered flight, aviation has been regarded as a great adventure. Even today, as passenger miles are accumulated in the billions, crowds still gather near the runways of airports simply to watch these marvelous vehicles of the sky. For the same reason, air shows are one of the most popular outdoor events in the world, second only to soccer as a draw for the masses.

­In Chronicle of Flight, the history of aviation is illustrated through hundreds of photographs, each one recording a moment in time when the people involved--designers, manufacturers, pilots--were convinced they had done their absolute best with the time and materials available to them. It is safe to say that none of the millions of aircraft built, nor the thousands of spacecraft, have ever been intended as second best. A purity of purpose and a fanatical attention to detail characterize the aerospace industry in its manufacture of both air­­craft and spacecraft; this effort is illustrated in the marvelous pictorial record created over the twentieth century.


More to Explore