1903: Orville Wright successfully makes a flight in a heavier-than-air machine that takes off from level ground under its own power and is controlled during flight. He flies the first airplane.
If it seems there are a few caveats to the Wright brothers’ achievement 106 years ago, it’s because there had been several people before them who had already managed to get aloft in some sort of device, including the brothers themselves. What the Wrights did was put it all together in a way that made the airplane workable.
A lighter-than-air flight was first made in a balloon in 1783. The first time a person ever flew in a heavier-than-air device is largely accepted to be 1849.
An unknown 10-year-old boy is thought to have sat as a passenger on board a glider designed and built by Sir George Cayley, who had been thinking about the challenge of flight for 50 years. The Englishman’s glider, however, had no controls and no engine, so the boy was indeed just a passenger during the single short hop that Cayley’s glider made that year.