Up to the present time men have taken up flying partly from scientific interest, partly from sport, and partly from business reasons, but a time is rapidly approaching when the art will have reached a state of development such that men can practice it without the necessity of maintaining a private laboratory or a manufacturing plant.
Considered as a sport, flying possesses attractions which will appeal to many persons with a force beyond that exercised by any of the similar sports, such as boating, cycling, or automobiling. There is a sense of exhilaration in flying through the free air, an intensity of enjoyment, which possibly may be due to the satisfaction of an inborn longing transmitted to us from the days when our early ancestors gazed wonderingly at the free flight of birds and contrasted it with their own slow and toilsome progress through the unbroken wilderness. Though methods of travel have been greatly improved in the many centuries preceding our own, men have never ceased to envy the birds and long for the day when they too might rise above the dust or mud of the highways and fly through the clean air of the heavens. Once above the treetops, the narrow roads no longer arbitrarily fix the course. The earth is spread out before the eye with a richness of color and beauty of pattern never imagined by those who have gazed at the landscape edgewise only. The view of the ordinary traveler is as inadequate as that of an ant crawling over a magnificent rug. The rich brown of freshly-turned earth, the lighter shades of dry ground, the still lighter browns and yellows of ripening crops, the almost innumerable shades of green produced by grasses and forests, together present a sight whose beauty has been confined to balloonists alone in the past. With the coming of the flyer, the pleasures of ballooning are joined with those of automobiling to form a supreme combination.
The sport will not be without some element of danger, but with a good machine this danger need not be excessive. It will be safer than automobile racing, and not much more dangerous than football. The motor flyers will always be somewhat expensive, as the best of materials and workmanship will be required in their construction; but there is a possibility that men will eventually learn to fly without motors, after the manner of the soaring birds, which sail for hours on motionless wings. In such case the flyer would be so small and simple that the original cost would be very moderate, and the fuel expense done away with entirely. Then flying will become an every-day sport for thousands. We may not live to see that day, but with thousands of buzzards, eagles, hawks and sea birds giving demonstration of the possibility of soaring flight every day of the year, no good reason exists for asserting that human flight without motors is entirely visionary. Meanwhile the motor-driven flyers will become sufficiently numerous to afford great sport, not only to the amateur aviators, but also indirectly to the general public, for the flying-machine races of the future will surpass anything the world has yet seen as spectacular performances.
In ballooning, a few glorious hours in the air are usually followed by a tiresome walk to some village, an uncomfortable night at a poor hotel, and a return home by slow local trains. With a flyer, which returns the sportsman to his starting point, thus eliminating the uncomfortable features of the balloon trip, aerial sport will appeal to a wider class than has heretofore been the case.