What have birds ever done for us?

For some of us, they are a backdrop in nature — songs in the countryside among the trees, in foliage and dotted in the landscape. For urban dwellers, their sight and song in our parks and on our streets may be a precious pleasure, or for some a nuisance. 

And for a few of us, they are inspiration for writing and art. They have instilled in many of us a longing to fly, to imitate their soaring passages through the sky. These tiny creatures, living humbly on our planet since the beginning of time, have transformed the course of human history in a big way, inspiring us to flight. Their swooping and darting through the air have excited the imagination of remarkable men and women through time, prompting human attempts to soar in the same way.

In the following pages we explore some of the bold ideas and experiments involving flight that have brought us to what we can do today. What is the pioneering background of flight, that has brought us to long-distance aeroplane and space travel, and to explore the moon, Mars and beyond?

Let’s look at the ideas and adventures of those remarkable men and women, those pioneers who risked everything in their attempts to soar through the air with little more than courage, imagination, the science of the time, and their longing to fly…like a bird.