Flight is truly one of the most amazing human feats. When Orville and Wilbur Wright flew for the first time in 1903 they probably didn’t realize the impact their breakthrough would have on the human race. The reason I say this is that their framework of reference was limited to what they knew of at the time. I wonder if they realized that what they did would open the doors for supersonic flight, space flight, landing a man on the moon (65 years later) or landing on Mars.
Flight – Then
Considering what Orville and Wilbur knew at the time, it is astounding to imagine their determination in the face of absolute skepticism and social apathy. On 10 February 1906, the New York Herald (Paris Edition) did an editorial on the Wright brothers that seemed to encompass the mood of Europe at the time:
The Wrights have flown or they have not flown. They possess a machine or they do not possess one. They are in fact either fliers or liars. It is difficult to fly. It’s easy to say, ‘We have flown.’
Their breakthrough wasn’t immediately celebrated as one would have thought. They had to work hard at what they invented and they had to keep on working hard to make it.
Flight – Today
Flight has evolved increasingly throughout the years. We now have air traffic control systems that control thousands of planes in the air at any one time. Just have a look at the video below by NATS that was compiled from real flight data and shows air traffic on a summer day in Europe. I can imagine that the systems put in place to control all those planes are very sophisticated. That is obvious. What is even more incredible is that a bit more than 100 years ago, there were only birds in the sky. If you want to watch real-time flight data, go to flightradar24.