The conquesl of the air was, without doubt, man’s greatest achievement. For centuries havier-than-air-flight
had been deemed impossible, yet now problems were confronted and overcome: within a comparatively brief time span the aeroplane became the marvel of the
new 20th century.Private individuals and governments invested fortunes in an assortment of occasionally bizarre “flying machines”, often to discover that their investment had been wasted. But although the quest for powered flight attracted its fair share of charlatans and hare-brained inventors, there were also devoted pioneers, struggling on small incomes, yet sustained by heartfelt convictions and enthusiasm. Once practical aeroplanes began to appear in significant numbers, early flying meetings and competitions generated tremendous excitement, attracting spectators in their thousands. Pilots became heroes overnight, and any aviator making an emergency descent in a remote, apparently deserted field soon found himself surrounded by a swarm of curious, goggle-eyed locals.