Man has dreamed of flight from the earliest days. However, the first successful flight occurred in 1783 when the Montgolfier brothers of France invented the first practical balloon.
By the mid 1800's people began to perfect air travel by the use of gliders, which were of limited success. Powered flight came into its own in the early 1900's, due to advances in both wing structure and engine technology. For the first time one could imagine travel to distant places. Air travel had the unique ability to connect the globe like never before.
Once air travel became practical, senior officers began finding ways to use aircraft in military campaigns. At first, airplanes were mostly used for reconnaissance. During World War I airplanes evolved into a combat role, bombing enemy targets as well as fighting with their aircraft.
During the years between the two world wars major advancements such as a monoplane design, retractable landing gear and experiments with jet engines. By 1944, Germany employed the first operational jet plane, the Me-262. A number of designs quickly followed with jet aircraft flying at the speed of sound within ten years of the Me-262 entering service. In both the military and civil realm, aviation has shaped the world we live in today.