Gazing with admiration and envy at birds or bats or winged insects wheeling through the skies, man (and woman) has contemplated the idea of flight for longer than we can know.
To leave the earth and take wing on the air carries tantalizing suggestions of liberty, a freedom from terrestrial limitations in the navigation of the celestial. Mythologies of the ancient world and pre-Enlightenment religions imagined flight as the domain of not only natural flyers from the animal world but also to a more exclusive jet-set of deities and supernatural beings. Both angels and demons could take to the air, but man would not be so fortunate until relatively recently.
The Chinese developed kites hundreds of years before the Common Era, but few could carry a man aloft. Hot air balloons were also pioneered in China before reaching new heights and fashionability in Late 18th Century France. As balloons developed into the lighter-than-air dirigible airships that dominated the passenger aviation fantasies of the early 20th Century, trial and error experiments in so-called heavier-than-air flight eventually culminated in the Wright Brothers’ historic first sustain, controlled, and powered flight outside of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1908.
Aviation and aeronautics would develop with incredible speed in the century following the Wrights’ modest under-a-minute flights. Soon enough, larger and larger metal machines would take to the skies and above them: gliders, airplanes, helicopters, missiles, rockets, drones, and spacecraft. The conquest of the skies has revolutionized the way that people travel, crossing greater distances in fractions of the time and without the geographic obstacles that once slowed down transportation.
Despite its ubiquity in our daily lives and its status as an established technology, however, flight still holds a fascination for many. For flight enthusiasts, navigating the open air will never lose its sense of wonder, its lustre or its romance, whether they are watching an eagle drift on gusts or a jet fighters break the sound barrier. Catch the Film shares this common obsession with the magic of Flight, and has dedicated a special genre page to it.