How Aviation Revolutionized Travel

Humans have mastered flight in the modern day in a way never seen before. Things that seemed like futuristic technology a hundred years ago are now cheap crop dusters with little technological significance.


Talon Spangler, Reporter

From airplanes to the simple glider, humans have only recently discovered the machinery to fly. The first airplane flight is quite famous as the Wright brothers built and tested the first plane in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

This caused quite the boom in aviation innovations during the 1900s, from the simple biplane used during WW1 to the hypersonic jets we have now. These are the most well known flying machines, but actually much earlier we had hot air balloons and gliders. 

The first hot air balloon was launched in 1793 by Pilatre De Rozier, the balloon’s passengers were a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. The balloon named Aerostat Reveillon was able to stay airborne for fifteen minutes before falling back to Earth. Gliders have more recent history with the first one being built in 1853.

The first big innovation and what many consider to be the first real glider was built in the 1890’s by Otto Lilienthal. He built controllable gliders and made many successful documented flights with it. The Wright brothers would build the first airplane only ten years later.

Autopilot would be invented in 1912, and used gyroscopic heading indicators to operator elevators and rudders. On January 1st 1914 the first commercial airlines flight started taking passengers between St. Petersburg and Tampa, Florida. WW1 was the first time that planes were used in combat and were one of many innovations that came about during the war. 

In the 1930’s Amelia Earhart nearly made it around the world but disappeared on July 2nd, 1937 having departed for her journey on June 1st of the same year. The last innovation of the 1930’s was in 1939 when Igor Sikorsky designed, produced, and flew the first helicopter.  

The 1940’s came with war and with war came innovations to planes. They featured closed cockpits now, high speeds and some even had ejection seats. Germany would invent the jet plane which would be adopted by nearly every Allied power after the war.

Planes and helicopters only improved after that, with jets becoming more refined and commercially and militarily replacing prop planes. The next big innovation was in the 1960’s with the SR-71, capable of sub space flights with a top speed of 2,455 miles per hour, this plane still holds the record for the fastest plane.

During this time helicopters became more mainstream and were used more in the military, especially during Vietnam and as support roles during following wars. All of these years of innovations lead us to today with passenger planes able to haul hundreds of people to destinations around the world and jets capable of supersonic speeds.

One hundred years ago boats were the primary form of transportation across oceans, now what was once a month-long voyage can be done in just a few hours. Transportation is now mainly dominated by the aviation industry, since flying is sometimes cheaper than driving, as well as taking less time and effort.

Planes are a necessity for ever developed nations, and every day we’re getting closer to commercial sub-space or even space flights capable of traveling around the world hundreds of times a day. Technology like this was seen as sci-fi decades ago, but now it’s becoming more and more of a reality.

Further innovations are coming to traditional planes as well, with things like auto-pilot becoming more refined with the AI advancements in recent years.

Travel has always been something humans have done, and we’ve always been refining it with cars and trains and new ways to travel, and in a few centuries maybe even decades planes will be obsolete, but for now they’ve revolutionized travel in a way never seen before, and in a way that will likely be repeated by the next generation of aviation.