Flying was new and daring in the early years of the 20th century. Traveling by airplane was rare. Airlines, airliners, airports, air routes—none of these existed. But by century's end, you could travel to almost anywhere in America by air in a matter of hours. Commercial aviation is now both a commonplace and an essential aspect of modern life. It has revolutionized the world.
Tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union during the Cold War resulted in a competition to create advanced technologies aimed at gathering intelligence. Aerial reconnaissance played an important role, and the Lockheed SR-71 was a a direct result of this struggle for supremacy.
The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with their historic first flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The influence of their invention is beyond measure. The transport by air of goods and people, quickly and over great distances, and the military applications of flight technology have had vast economic, geopolitical, and cultural impact around the globe. The Wrights helped fashion a radically new world.
The airplane emerged from World War I recognized widely for its potential as a military weapon. In the United States, Army pilots and Navy and Marine aviators worked to realize their different visions of the airplane’s ultimate role in American defense.