National Geographic : 1983 Aug
To fly like a bird, to cast off the bonds of gravity and soar free, wheeling through the sky with the wind rustling past our out stretched wings-who has not done so in his dreams? Flying is the oldest dream of man, a heri tage perhaps of the days when our cave dwelling forebears looked longingly upward at the arrowing of birds overhead as they slogged through the underbrush in pursuit of the mammoth. Although two-thirds of all living crea tures can fly, man was chained to the earth. Down the centuries, daring pioneers tried to break out of the gravitational prison with ar tificial wings. Drawn back to earth as inexo rably as Newton's apple, many fell to their death like Icarus of legend. Though some of the most brilliant minds of history attacked the problem, the imme morial dream was not realized until one cold December morning in 1903 when two Amer ican brothers rose from the sands of North Carolina to bring wings to man. With the first flights of Orville and Wil bur Wright the flying age had arrived at last, but the outbreak of a world war soon turned the airplane into a killing machine. A gener ation later a second holocaust completed the transformation; the airplane had grown too fast, complicated, and expensive for any but the rich or subsidized. After both wars, designers heralded fly ing machines for everyman, but somehow the Model T of the skies never materialized. Ironically, wings for the common man had to await the dawn of the space age to revert to the simplicity of their beginnings.