They didn’t fly very fast, or go very high or far, but there was more adventure packed into the first airplanes than could fit in a jumbo jet today. To be a part of the new business of flying at the beginning of the last century must have seemed as romantic as running off to join the circus. For a young man named Charlie Wiggin, one look was all it took. In 1911, he saw a French airplane exhibited in Atlanta. “I left home with two clean shirts and five dollars, and found the Wrights at Simms Station near Dayton, Ohio,” he wrote many years later. “I had pleaded to join their exhibition team, and when the answer was no, took a job nearby.” As it turned out, Wiggin ended up accompanying Cal Rodgers that year on the first airplane flight across the country.
As exhibition teams spread the word of the airplane, other young people joined in. In “The Resistance,” a story that takes place in Oregon, author Ken Scott tells us, “Throughout the early 1900s, small communities of young airplane enthusiasts coalesced around nuclei of designers and personalities.”
In this special section on the Invention of Flight, you’ll find the stories of the designers and personalities, of wildly talented inventors, daring trailblazers, charlatans, dreamers, and businessmen, all doing their parts to create the history of the airplane.
It’s not the first time someone has claimed that Gustave Whitehead flew before the Wright brothers. But solid evidence is still lacking.
Five years after Kitty Hawk, the Wrights finally showed the world their invention.
The day Claude Grahame-White thrilled the crowd at the Boston-Harvard meet.
Has Hammondsport, New York, done right by its most famous citizen?
In 1910, showmen flew death-defying stunts in Wright airplanes. Sometimes, death won.
After the Wright brothers flew, a handful of inventors were determined to join them.
Find out why the world's first controllable airplane was a bear to control.
Three historic mailplanes commemorated the anniversary of U.S. airmail by tracing the original coast-to-coast route.
A 100th anniversary remembrance of Cal Rodgers and the Vin Fiz.
From five witnesses came a family tradition to honor the moment the airplane was born.
Emory Malick, the first African-American pilot, wasn't known to historians until recently.
In 1916, eight Curtiss biplanes from the U.S. Army’s 1st Aero Squadron—the country’s entire air force—flew into Mexico for their first military action.
A hub of creativity for early airplane builders: North Carolina? Ohio? Nope—Oregon. And these Oregonians had an independent streak.
The celebrated aeronaut found Earth-bound life difficult to navigate.
In February 1912, Capt. Albert Berry made the first parachute jump from an airplane.
A look back at Claude Grahame-White's 1910 landing next to the White House.
Charles Broadwick invented a new way of falling.
It didn't all happen at Kitty Hawk.
It took a cartoonist to paint the first serious depiction of aircraft flight.
How the 1903 Flyer got where it is today.