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.

Santos-Dumont Demoiselle

Alberto Santos Dumont's delicate Demoiselle ("damselfly") monoplane was…

Lilienthal No. II Hang-Glider

In the early 1890s German engineer Otto Lilienthal was the only…

Maxim Multiplane

In the 1890s English-domiciled American millionaire Hiram Maxim…

Sikorsky Bolshoi ("Grand")

In 1912 Igor Sikorsky, chief engineer at the Russo-Baltic Wagon…

Deperdussin Seaplane Racer

Founded in 1910, French businessman Armand Deperdussin's company…

Radley-England Water Plane

Designed and built in Britain by James Rladley and Eric Gordon…

Voisin Biplane

French brothers Gabriel and Charles Voisin were Europe's flrst…

Royal Aircraft Factory B.E.2

A military two-seater, the B.E.2 had the misfortune to become…

Curtiss Reims Racer

In August 1909 most of the adventurous pioneers then flying aeroplanes…