In the early years of the airplane the majority of the public saw no practical use for the airplane. For the most part they were quite small and could only hold one or two passengers without any baggage. The airplane was seen as nothing more than a toy. Airshows became a major form of entertainment in the 1920's, thousands of people flocked to watch death-defying stunts of the barnstormers.
From the years of 1910-1915 one of the most famous barnstormers, Lincoln Beachey, entertained crowds as large as 500,000 people. Beachey started his flying career at the age of 23, when aircraft maker, Glenn Curtiss, hired him to tour around the US in his new aircraft. Beachey was known to fly in and out of small baseball parks, dodging powerlines and trees. He wore a pinstripe suit, and backwards golfing cap whenever he flew. Beachey thrilled his crowds in his modified Curtiss Special by racing cars and doing loops in the sky. Beachey died in 1915 when his airplane exceeded it's structural limits when coming out of a stunt.
Barnstorming drew large crowds but Air Racing became the fad of the 1920's. Pilots had the reputation of living fast and dying young. This need for speed drew many crowds. Records were set then quickly broken, and with refinements found by trial and error the airplane evolved into a sleek flying machine. With the invention of the airplane man traveled much faster than ever before. The Gee Bee Racer is a small airplane with stubby wings, small control surfaces, and a large engine. During it's time the Gee Bee set new records and killed many of it's pilots due to it's hard to handle characteristics. By 1930 the world's fastest man was A.H Orlebar from Britain, who flew a seaplane over 350 miles per hour!
The airplane still brings together quite a crowd, air shows are the 3rd most attended public activity next to football and baseball. Performers such as the USAF Thunderbirds and USN Blue Angles fly their supersonic jets in close formation to awe their audiences. Below are a few links with airshow schedules so that you can find one close to home.
The thunderbirds pictured on the left perform in close formation, as do the Blue Angels picture above. Both are common airshow performers.
Years later, not only would flying be popular in real life, but in the virtual world, as well. To "learn more" about this convergance play the games below!
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