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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 first glimpses of what that world would become are reflected in the pioneer aircraft of the first decade after 1903 and the airplanes of World War I, when human flight began to come of age. In less than two decades, the airplane was transformed from an exciting new invention to a machine of practical utility, primed to become the defining technology of the 20th century.