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Development and operation of aircraft. In 1783 the balloon became the first aircraft to carry humans. Production of a successful glider in 1891 and refinement of the internal-combustion engine led to the first successful engine-powered airplane flight by Wilbur and Orville Wright in 1903. World War I accelerated the expansion of aviation, and in the 1920s the first small airlines began carrying mail and passengers. World War II was another period of innovation in aircraft size, speed, and range. In the late 1940s the jet engine made possible the subsequent development of commercial airlines throughout the world. See alsoairship; helicopter; seaplane.
This entry comes from Encyclopædia Britannica Concise. For the full entry on aviation, visit Britannica.com.