Ever think about how cool flying is? Here are some of the people who made it possible.

In just over a century, air travel has made HUGE advances. It's pretty amazing, if you think about it.

The first successful airplane flight took place on Dec. 17, 1903. That wasn't that long ago! Flying is now such a normal activity that it's more shocking when someone hasn't been on a plane.

But think about it: Flying is incredible. And the fact that so many of us take for granted our ability to lift off into the sky in a large metal contraption and get across the world in a matter of hours is even more incredible.


Image via Alan Wilson/Flickr.

To get to where we are today, many people risked and lost their lives for the sake of pioneering air travel.

These people were total renegades, and their actions went down in the history books. They're the ones who made it possible for us to view flying with such nonchalance today. They laughed in the face of the naysayers and accomplished the impossible.

Here’s a look at five of these pioneers, why what they did matters — and why they’re so darn awesome.

1. Charles Lindbergh

Image by John M. Noble/U.S. Library of Congress.

Charles Lindbergh was the first person to fly across the Atlantic. Without stopping. Alone. Now, this was a huge deal. People had died trying to complete this task; the technology was too new and too unreliable. But he was convinced that if he had the right plane, he'd be the one to make it. He was right.

"A pilot was surrounded by beauty of earth and sky. He brushed treetops with the birds, leapt valleys and rivers, explored the cloud canyons he had gazed at as a child. Adventure lay in each puff of wind." — Charles Lindbergh


2. Wiley Post

Image via Frank Griggs/Smithsonian Institution.

In 1931, Wiley Post and a navigator flew around the world, the first to do so. Two years later, he did it solo and faster. In addition to his record-breaking flights, he also developed the first pressure suit and helped develop the technology that created autopilot, a convenience that so many pilots today take for granted.

Flying, for him, wasn’t without its challenges. He readily hopped into these still-developing and rapidly evolving aircraft in spite of the fact that an oil field accident had cost him his left eye. In fact, he used the settlement money to purchase his very first aircraft.


3. Amelia Earhart

Image via U.S. Library of Congress.

Amelia Earhart is a legend for so much more than flying. She was the first woman to fly across the Atlantic — the same task Charles Lindbergh completed five years earlier — and only the second person to do so. She took on this challenge not only as a pilot and adventurer, but as a woman, a detail that only added to the resistance she faced and the voices telling her it was impossible — women weren’t supposed to be daredevils. She blazed a lightning trail for the women who followed, showing it’s OK to want to do the impossible with no apologies.

"I want to do it because I want to do it." — Amelia Earhart


4. Diana Barnato Walker

Image via U.K. Ministry of Supply/Wikimedia Commons.

Before making aviation history, Diana Barnato Walker had already established herself as a formidable female pilot. A South African heiress, Diana left what could have been a life of leisure behind to become a member of the Atagirls, a group of women who were part of the Air Transport Auxiliary during World War II. Years later, she became the first woman to fly faster than the speed of sound. A fellow Atagirl broke her record in 1964 — one pioneering woman pilot raises the bar for the other — so she hopped back into a plane and raised the record to 1,429 miles per hour. She was fearless, and for her, flying was simply fun.


5. Barrington Irving

Barrington Irving (right). Image via Kendrick Meek/Flickr.

As recently as 2007, there was still one pretty major "first" to be conquered in air travel. Barrington Irving became the first black pilot — and youngest — to fly solo around the world. We know that representation matters, so this accomplishment by a totally regular working-class young man who loves aviation sent waves of inspiration throughout his community in Miami and beyond. Upon landing he said:

"Everyone told me what I couldn't do. They said I was too young, that I didn't have enough money, experience, strength, or knowledge. They told me it would take forever and I'd never come home. Well ... guess what?"

Guess what, indeed.

It takes a pretty bold person to say "I'll be the first." Especially when lives are on the line. But that spirit is what pushes humanity forward.

These are just a few of the people who stepped up to the plate, and their actions helped to shape a revolutionary industry. They weren’t daunted by the very real challenges that they faced, from oppressive sexism to physical disabilities. They wanted to fly, and nothing could get in their way. And their passion? Well, it helped to change the world.

Image via Lenny DiFranza/Flickr.

The next time you're sitting in a crowded airport, impatiently trying to get from point A to point B, take a second to think about these trailblazers and how their legendary actions made the impossible possible.

Most Shared
True
United Technologies
Facebook / Mikhail Galin

Putting your pet in cargo during a flight isn't always safe. In 2016, the Department of Transportation reported a total of 26 pet deaths and 22 injuries on flights. Because conditions in cargo can be uncomfortable for animals, the Humane Society recommends taking your pet aboard when you fly, or just leaving it at home.

It's not surprising that one Russian man didn't want to put his overweight cat in cargo during an eight-hour flight from Moscow to Vladivostok. What is surprising is the great lengths he took to fly with his four-legged friend.

Russian airline Aeroflot allows pets to fly inside the plane's cabin, as long as the cat weighs under 17.6 pounds and stays in its carrier during the flight. When Mikhail Galin went to check in, he was told he couldn't fly with his four-year old cat, Viktor. Viktor weighed in at 22 pounds and would have to be relegated to cargo.

But Viktor was sick from their earlier flight from Riga, Latvia to Moscow. And besides, Viktor had been allowed to fly inside the cabin during that flight. The airline staff didn't even bother to make Viktor sit on the scales. Galin was unable to persuade staff to bring his fur baby on board.

"To all attempts to explain that the cat won't survive there on an 8-hour flight with the baggage and would haunt her in her nightmares for the rest of her life, she (the Aeroflot staff member) replied that there are rules," Galin wrote in a Facebook post translated from Russian.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
Photo by Kelvin Octa from Pexels

Newborn babies don't seem to do much beyond eating and pooping and, of course, hiccupping. A lot. Parenting advice on how to cure a baby's hiccups runs the whole gamut. It's recommended parents try everything from nursing to stop feeding the baby so much, from giving the baby gripe water to letting the hiccups play their course. But when your baby hiccups too much, you shouldn't freak out. There's a good reason why.

A new study published in Clinical Neurophysiology found that hiccups play an important role in a baby's development. Researchers from the University College London found 217 babies for their study, but only looked at 13 newborns with persistent hiccups. Ten of those babies hiccupped when they were awake, and three hiccupped during their "wriggly" sleep. We have no idea how the scientists got any work done with all that cuteness lying around.

Keep Reading Show less
popular
via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon / YouTube

Actress Kristen Bell and "The Tonight Show" host Jimmy Fallon showed off their vocal and comedic chops on Tuesday night when the performed a medley of 17 Disney songs, spanning nine decades, in just five minutes.

The duo started with 1940's "When You Wish Upon a Star" and ended with 2013's "Let it Go" from "Frozen."

Bell will reprise her role as Anna in Disney's upcoming "Frozen 2."

Keep Reading Show less
popular

Ask almost any woman about a time a man said or did something sexually inappropriate to them, and she'll have a story or four to tell. According to a survey NPR published last year, 81% of women report having experienced sexual harassment, with verbal harassment being the most common. (By contrast, 43% of men report being sexually harassed. Naturally harassment toward anyone of any sex or gender is not okay, but women have been putting up with this ish unchecked for centuries.)

One form of verbal sexual harassment is the all too common sexist or sexual "joke." Ha ha ha, I'm going to say something explicit or demeaning about you and then we can all laugh about how hilarious it is. And I'll probably get away with it because you'll be too embarrassed to say anything, and if you do you'll be accused of being overly sensitive. Ha! Won't that be a hoot?

Keep Reading Show less
popular