This book makes no pretence of going minutely into the technical and scientific sides of human flight: rather does it deal mainly with the real achievements of pioneers who have helped to make aviation what it is to-day.
My chief object has been to arouse among my readers an intelligent interest in the art of flight, and, profiting by friendly criticism of several of my former works, I imagine that this is best obtained by setting forth the romance of triumph in the realms of an element which has defied man for untold centuries, rather than to give a mass of scientific principles which appeal to no one but the expert.
So rapid is the present development of aviation that it is difficult to keep abreast with the times. What is new to-day becomes old to-morrow. The Great War has given a tremendous impetus to the strife between the warring nations for the mastery of the air, and one can but give a rough and general impression of the achievements of naval and military airmen on the various fronts.
Finally, I have tried to bring home the fact that the fascinating progress of aviation should not be confined entirely to the airman and constructor of air-craft; in short, this progress is not a retord of events in which the mass of the nation have little personal concern, but of a movement in which each one of us may take an active and intelligent part.
I have to thank various aviation firms, airmen, and others who have kindly come to my assistance, either with the help of valuable information or by the loan of photographs. In particular, my thanks are due to the Royal Flying Corps and Royal Naval Air Service for permission to reproduce illustrations from their two publications on the work and training of their respective corps; to the Aeronautical Society of Great Britain; to Messrs. C. G. Spencer Sons, Highbury; The Sopwith Aviation Company, Ltd.; Messrs. A. V. Roe Co., Ltd.; The Gnome Engine Company; The Green Engine Company; Mr. A. G. Gross (Geographia, Ltd.); and M. Bleriot; for an exposition of the internal-combustion engine I have drawn on Mr. Horne's The Age of Machinery.