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An airplane is a vehicle that is designed to carry cargo and passengers through the air. Airplanes use their design, wings, and engines to generate enough lift to fly. Airplanes not only revolutionized how humans travel, but drastically connected and unified the human race by breaking down the barriers of distance.

Flight has been studied and attempted throughout the course of history. Although there were numerous designs and attempts, the first successful airplane was invented by the Wright Brothers in the early twentieth century. In 1903 in Kittyhawk, North Carolina, Wilbur and Orville Wright completed the first ever sustained flight by a powered airplane. Although their maiden voyage lasted for only 59 seconds, over the next 50 years their invention would revolutionize how humans travel.

From just 1903 to 1920, numerous innovators created airplanes that could fly on auto-pilot, deliver mail, fight in World War I, and even cross the Atlantic Ocean! These visionaries of the early 20th century helped to create a world that was more interconnected than they could have possibly conceived. Since man could now travel thousands of miles in a single day, they were able to exchange goods, ideas, and their military might to virtually anywhere they wanted.

The obstacles of space and time no longer limited the interconnectedness between hemispheres thanks to the innovation and trials and errors for the last thousand years. Within seventy years of that first flight in Kittyhawk, North Carolina, mankind had made their way around the world thanks to this amazing invention.

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Types of Airplanes

  • Biplane: an airplane with two pairs of wings, one above the other
  • Single-Engine Piston: an airplane with one piston engine to move a propeller
  • Jet: an airplane powered by a jet engine
  • Turboprops: an airplane that uses a jet engine and propellers
  • Seaplane: an aircraft that is capable of landing and taking off from the water
  • Taildragger: an airplane that lands on a tail wheel with its nose off the ground
  • Tiltrotor: an aircraft that generates lift by the rotating blades found on the ends of a fixed wing
  • Helicopter: an aircraft that is capable of propulsion and both vertical and horizontal movement due to the overhead rotating blades
Learn more about inventions and discoveries that have changed the world in our Picture Encyclopedia of Innovations!
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