Airplanes provide fast, reliable, long-range transportation while taking up a relatively small amount of space. Compared to other forms of air travel, such as balloons, airships and helicopters, airplanes are an efficient means for shipping cargo as well as transporting passengers.
Unlike balloons and airships, the sleek design and powered engines of a plane allow it to fly at very high speeds. Airplanes have a much higher range than any other form of air transportation besides the slow airship. Compared to other air and even land vehicles, airplanes also have a very low accident rate per miles traveled. While airplanes have some disadvantages, such as the necessity for a sizable landing strip, overall they are unmatched for fast, long-distance travel.
The first airplane to fly and land without crashing was the Wright Flyer, a rudimentary, one-seat biplane that bicycle mechanics Wilbur and Orville Wright designed. Using their understanding of air lift, aerodynamics and propellers, they built a gasoline engine light enough and powerful enough to sustain a flight of 852 feet in just under a minute.
The Wright's success led to an explosion of innovations in flight, which applied their discoveries and inventions to planes from crop dusters to experimental combat airplanes. In only 100 years, the development of massive jumbo jets can fly hundreds of passengers and a hold of cargo around the world in just hours.