"That wasn't flying! That was falling with style!"
The power of Flight
has been a human dream since before speech. Is it any wonder that so many Super Heroes
can fly? Actually, it is.
Pretty much every hero with any power
) can fly, the reason being that they can "improvise" a power that's not quite flight
out of their existing power set or simply use jetpacks
. Assuming they give an explanation, of course. Sometimes the writer would prefer a pseudo-scientific explanation to a non-scientific explanation. (Stan Lee
admitted he is one of these.) Super strong heroes can "Leap higher than a tall building
", those who can phase through matter will usually be able to walk on air/float (a kind of Required Secondary Powers
), and heroes with grappling hooks can do a Building Swing
. Sometimes there is a big winged creature too large to sustain flight that the writers explain as gliding rather than true flight, or a pyrokinetic
being able to make themselves "lighter than air" or make jet-boots by shooting fire from their feet.
The reason for this is twofold; heroes will need transportation, or it's just plain so cool that they've gotta have it as part of a Flying Brick
(or similar) package. This has pretty much devalued heroes whose sole power is flight
into the same category as heart
. The exception is if the team has ready access to a jet or other vehicle, at which point the number of flyers gets substantially smaller.
If you think about it, superheroes who can generate or control a floating platform, and then stand on the platform, are basically doing Baron Munchausen's old trick of lifting himself by his own bootlaces.
For those without any of these means of recourse, well... there's always Roof Hopping
. Sky Surfing
is a subtrope. See also Power Floats
and I Believe I Can Fly
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Anime and Manga
- Bleach has this in all the standard forms: Anyone with enough skill can stand on air by turning spirit particles into a platform outside of the Sereitei, where the material the walls are made of interfere with the control. Lampshaded in a fight between Ikkaku and Shishigawara. When Ikkaku stands on air, Shishigawara is unable to follow and tells him to stop flying away from him and fight head on. Ikkaku insists that what he's doing isn't flying.
- In Mahou Sensei Negima!, Kotaro can't fly, but his shadow hounds can, and being made of darkness, he just forms them into the shape of floating wheels attached to his feet so he can run through the sky.
- Negi himself needs his staff for sustained actual flight.
- Not since he developed Perpetual Lightning Form. Now he can just float.
- Rakan has demonstrated the ability to fly by throwing one of his swords and jumping on it. At Mach 3.2.
- In the third season of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, when we're finally introduced to major characters who are not inherently powerful enough for proper flight, Subaru (and her sister Ginga) turns out to be able to rollerblade on magical tracks/pathways that can extend indefinitely and don't appear to need to anchor to anything. (They anchor in the first episode, but seem to have discarded that limitation in subsequent episodes.)
- Also, Caro can summon (more specifically enlarge) and ride her pet dragon, and Elio's spear has a jet-propelled form. A fancomic has Teana wondering if she's the only new major cast member without a means of flight.
- The eponymous hero of InuYasha makes Roof Hopping look easy. Doesn't matter if there are any buildings handy or not, treetops also work. And his leaps can cover kilometers (Word of God has stated one leap could clear three mountains). He also both rises and falls rather slowly, as if he was gliding.
- Shakugan no Shana: Shana starts out at Roof Hopping and later uses her power over fire to sprout large flaming wings in order to get around. Margery Daw surfs on her Lord (who takes the form of a magical tome). Sydonay shapeshifts into something with wings.
- Kaze no Stigma: Kazuma uses his extraordinarily powerful wind magic to move around.
- The assassin Tao Pai Pai from Dragon Ball doesn't fly; he gets around by uprooting trees/smashing down columns and tossing them with great force towards his destination, then running after them at top speed and jumping on top. He was able to travel a couple thousand kilometers in a single throw, and claimed to be able to go at about 10,000 km/hour.
- Before learning how to fly Goku had a few tricks to simulate it, mostly seen during tournaments. He was strong enough that he could jump hundreds of feet high in a second which allowed him to fight in mid-air. He could also use the Kamehameha wave to propel himself and at one point fired it from his feet, turning himself into an improvised rocket. Other characters occasionally demonstrated these tricks.
- The ninja in Naruto make good use of In a Single Bound combined with hopping between giant tree branches to get air travel done. Taijutsu specialists are especially good at high jumps, and launching others. Temari glides very well by riding her giant steel fan. For "by their own bootstraps," there's the occasional ninja whose summon or other type of creation can fly - these are often large enough to ride, as in the case of Deidara's and Sai's bird mounts. Gaara can also levitate sand, and stand on it. Deva path Pain can use his gravity power to launch himself long distances. Jugo can make a rocket with his body and fire chakra out of it to greatly extend the speed and distance of his jumps.
- However, there is the occasional true-flying character. Konan can achieve true flight on paper wings. The Tsuchikage has the ability to give flight or grant others the ability to fly by touching them.
- In One Piece, there are only a handful of Voluntary Shapeshifting-based Devil's Fruit powers that can grant flight. However, Luffy can use elastic tension to launch himself into the air, and suck in/blow out air to propel himself somewhat. Robin can sprout many arms, then woven into wings, to glide, but it's incredibly tiresome for her. Usopp has a belt with a grappling-hook feature used mostly for Building Swing or a variant. Brook (and one of Chopper's forms) can leap tall buildings in a... well, you know. Franky can launch himself using gas. The CP 9 villains have Geppou and its faster advanced form Kamisori, which are essentially extra jumps, or "kicking off the air" a skill Sanji learns over the Time Skip. Buggy the Clown can make any part of his body fly around detached as long as his feet are on a solid surface within an unspecified range◊ of his other parts (the author stated the range to be a sphere "200 Bara Bara" in diamater, but what he didn't say is how far that is). Vander Decken has the power to toss anything and make it go towards a designated target by itself, so he gets around by tossing something big, then hopping onto it and getting off before it crashes. Most impressive are the majority of Logia users. They can manipulate their element, and turn themselves into their element, so they can move in something similar to flight and energy-based Logias can move around in a manner similar to teleporting.
- Black Star of Soul Eater eventually learns to stretch and control his Scarf of Asskicking so much that he can plant it in the ground and lift himself up to great heights. Lampshaded when he asks Tsubaki if this is flying. When she says it really isn't, he says he doesn't really care.
- Eventually he just starts levitating without the scarf doing anything, which isn't explained or commented on.
- In A Certain Magical Index and A Certain Scientific Railgun, characters like Kuroko can teleport several times to get airborne.
- In Hunter × Hunter, Neferpitou is the only Chimera Ant Royal Guard who can't fly. Instead, he can leap incredible distances thanks to his insane leg strength. The Chimera Ant King can also do this since he initially can't fly.
- In Zettai Karen Children, those with teleporting ability (like e,g. Aoi) can use this ability to teleport themselves repeatedly over and over while airborne until they reach the destination. Of course, since this implies that after each teleportation the person immediately starts to fall down, it's actually a rather bumpy way of travelling.
- In Kekkaishi, the eponymous magical barrier (kekkai) users can use airborn magical barriers as stepping stones or standing platforms.
- The Mighty Thor swings his hammer around his head and then releases it with it still attached to his wrist. The momentum then carries him half way across the world. Sure, that would work... no, really, it would work. It would take some epic deltoids though or maybe a magic hammer. Thor has both. Though his inability to fly depends entirely on who happens to be writing him at the moment. It's possible that they might still stick with the "I throw my hammer!" bit but the way it's portrayed there's no way it could be anything BUT true flight. In some other media he's shown to be able to achieve true flight, though normally by summoning wind or the power of Mjolnir to levitate him.
- Batman (usually, depending on the incarnation) can not only swing on his grappling hook but use his cape as a glider.
- Susan Storm can jump around on invisible platforms into the sky.
- Wonder Woman was originally unable to fly directly in the manner of Superman but (as with original Superman) they simplified all the handwaves to just give her flight.
- In The Silver Age of Comic Books, and possibly The Golden Age of Comic Books, Wonder Woman used to "glide on air currents" — which somehow always seemed to be going in the right direction unless it became a plot point (like one story in which the villain encased a city in ice, which apparently meant that there were only downdrafts). This was retconned into full flight in the 1986 revamp, and has remained so ever since.
- Both Banshee and his daughter Siryn can fly by screaming really loud — no clue given as to how this is supposed to work, as they're clearly not shouting at the ground when they does this. Or, you know, moving backwards. It's explained as them projecting soundwaves off of the ground, except, you know, sound waves don't work that way. Sometimes they seem to be able to speak while doing this because Talking Is a Free Action. Presumably it's just because banshees are supposed to fly as well as scream.
- Storm can fly by using her powers to shoot a strong gust of wind up her backside.
- Magneto can pick himself up with metal objects that he levitates with his powers. He is sometimes stated as outright flying (or "levitating") by using the Earth's magnetic field.
- Iceman can do that thing where he makes a trail of ice in the air which he surfs on. The thing is that his "Ice Slides" as he calls him still need to be anchored to the ground somewhere. Some more realistic depictions show this as a strictly short range transportation option.
- Kitty Pryde has been known to walk on air using her phasing power. Somehow.
- Nate Grey uses telekinesis to pick himself up and "fly". Most telekinetic characters can do this, actually, but Nate's better at it than most.
- Jean Grey/Marvel Girl/Phoenix possesses telekinesis whereby she manipulates atoms with her mind, enabling her to effectively fly by moving around her own atoms.
- The electromagnetic hero Static can't fly himself, but he uses his powers to lift a disk (originally a manhole cover or trashcan lid), which he can then ride like a skateboard. The trash can lid was Lampshaded in a commercial where it was compared to the other heroes' much cooler transportation vehicles, with Static telling the viewers "Hey, ya gotta start somewhere."
- Plastic Man, just like Mr Fantastic or Rubberduck and other people with shapeshifting or Rubber Man powers, will sometimes shift into a glider or parachute to at least glide.
- The Flash has a rarely used and totally inexplicable ability to walk on air (and in one instance Barry ran through the vacuum of space).
- The older Flash, Jay Garrick specifically, would rapidly move his legs, building up air pressure under him to float when he was dropped by one of his fellow heroes.
- Before losing his powers, Marvel's Quicksilver could "fly" for short distances by flapping his arms or "vibrating" his legs.
- In BIONICLE comics, the Mask of Levitation only allows you to stay still in the air. Lewa uses his Air element to create winds that propel him instead.
- Later, the entire Toa team got jetpacks so that they could fly through the "Universe Core" without touching the dangerous swamp waters.
- Also, there's a Mask of Flight.
- The Toa Hordika discovered a way to achieve flight by launching their Rhotuka energy-wheels into the air, then quickly grabbing onto them, and not worrying about the absurdity of the method.
- Arcanna of the Squadron Supreme had to use her "nature magic" to levitate a nearby tree branch or other wood to ride on; later, she just learned to use air for the same purpose, effectively making her a flyer.
- Captain America is a rare main-character aversion. Iron Man is more than happy to give him a lift though, and it is adorable.
- Superman himself originally could not fly, but rather used his super strength to "leap an eighth of a mile" or, as the radio serial put it, "leap tall buildings in a single bound."
- In Alan Moore's run on Supreme, there's a funny twist on the phrase "Up, Up and Away!". Originally (like, back when he was still in newspapers) Superman couldn't fly, just jump really, really high. ("Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings In a Single Bound!" Sound familiar?) At one point, we see the earliest version of Supreme, who's a Superman pastiche, and he can't fly, either. His catchphrase? "Up! Up! And over!"
- The Flash villain the Trickster was able to run in mid-air courtesy of special shoes that pumped out compressed air jets. The original Trickster developed the shoes to help him overcome a fear of falling from the high-wire he walked on in his circus act.
- The Atom can change his molecular density at will with his suit's equipment. On a low setting, he can glide on air currents when shrunken.
- In Runaways, only Karolina can truly fly; the group relies on a giant robot frog to get around which couldn't fly either, just make massive leaps. Until it was destroyed and rebuilt with real flight capabilities. In later arcs, Victor and Nico have been seen levitating, Nico also occasionally flying by conjuring wings or a griffin to ride. Xavin has two methods of flight, thanks to possessing the powers of the Fantastic Four: he can move himself and others around in his Invisible Woman forcefields, and rocket-propel himself with his Human Torch powers.
- In Iron Man Noir, the Iron Man and War Machine suits aren't truly capable of flight given their size and weight. Instead, the jet turbines on their backs have jets that slow their descent after jumping out of an airship, allowing them to land safely. Basically, rather than actually flying, they fall with style.
- Originally, Darkhawk got around by launching himself in the air with his Grappling-Hook Gun and gliding on his wings. He eventually learned how to fly.
- Spider-Man sometimes uses his webbing to create glider-wings, parachutes, bungee chords, and other means to send himself through the air when he doesn't feel like swinging.
- Originally Morbius the Living Vampire could glide because of his "hollow, bird-like bones". Not that such bones make any sense considering what gave him his other powers (bat bones, though narrow and light, are filled with marrow as average mammal bones) and none of the logical drawbacks of hollow having bones was ever explored in the comics. A later explanation says that part of his brain has mutated, giving him psionic powers that enable him to defy gravity.
- The Incredible Hulk can use his powerful leg muscles to leap miles and miles at a time.
- The Naruto fanfic The Sealed Kunai gives Naruto this, as a generalization of canon's water-walking. Helps that here he's been Level Grinding his wind element.
- Two examples in With Strings Attached:
- Paul at first thinks he can fly; he can't, he can just jump real far. At his highest level of strength he can jump half a mile horizontally and thousands of feet straight up. At his lower level of strength he can jump some 50 feet with little effort. He rarely has use for this ability, though, especially given the damage he causes on both launch and land.
- Ringo once levitated himself with his TK, but he was basically flying blind for seven seconds before he had a concentration failure, and he hasn't tried it again.
- In Game Theory, Mei creates magical barriers in the air to use as stepping stones. While fourteen stories up. She was just lucky someone was there to catch her when she fell.
- Sorcerors in the Second Apocalypse series can create solid projections of force and stand on them, essentially allowing them to walk through the air.
- Allomancers in Mistborn can telekinetically push and pull against metals to travel long distances without touching a surface.
- In the Green-Sky Trilogy (set on a low-gravity planet), the Kindar, a tree-dwelling culture, have a garment that effectively functions as patagia. This also factors into the video game based on the series where a shuba is needed to get most anywhere, and having it ripped is a major hassle.
- In Diane Duane's Young Wizards series, wizards can walk on air by suggesting to the air that it be as solid as stone for a while.
- In the Discworld series, Death rides a pale horse named Binky who can choose his own ground level to stand on, even in places where there is no ground.
- Journey to the West: Son Wukong learns a slow and impractical cloud-climbing technique to get around. Then he figures out how to basically circle the globe with one backflip.
- The novel Starcraft: Ghost: Nova reveals that very powerful telepaths are able to use their telekinesis to lift their own bodies, although it takes great concentration. In-game, Protoss High Templars are shown constantly levitating, presumably using this method.
- In the Babylon 5 Expanded Universe trilogy The Passing of the Techno-Mages, the titular Magic from Technology order levitates by creating invisible platforms and, essentially, surfing on them. Given their flair for dramatic, they often combine it with holograms to give the appearance of something cool (e.g. flying carpet, dragon). The platforms can also be shaped in any way one wishes, such as a chair. Naturally, this means that a technomage on a platform must constantly maintain focus on the spell, lest the platform disappear right under his or her feet.
- In Warlock of Gramarye series by Christopher Stasheff male wizards can levitate, but witches can only telekinetically move objects other than themselves. Thus witches always need something to fly on, like a broomstick.
- In The Zombie Knight, many servants can do this. For instance, Karkash can magnetically levitate iron armor worn under his clothes, Stoker can use Explosion Propulsion, Asad creates hurtling masses with handles for him to grab, and Parson can turn part of his body into animate oxygen and propel himself with winds and vortices.
Live Action TV
- In Mutant X, Brennan's electricity-throwing power turns into an ion engine coming out of his hands after the Mid-Season Upgrade.
- Mystery Science Theater 3000 brings us Puma Man, who has the ability to rear-project major cities— er, fly like a moron— er, "leap" great distances (yet somehow change direction while in midair).
- The Most Extreme had the episode "Freaky Fliers", which showcased 10 animals that fly without the use of "proper" wings. (The bat got in, because its "wings" technically aren't.)
- On No Ordinary Family the father learns he can leap long distances in a single bound. However, once he jumps he has next to no control over where he's going, and tends to make craters wherever he lands.
- Ninjor, the guy who gives the Mighty Morphin' Power Rangers the Ninja Megazords, uses a flying rock which he rides into battle.
- In Buck Rogers, the Anti-Gravity substance "inertron" was used to make "jumping belts." A belt was simply a chunk of inertron strapped to the wearer's back, lowering his effective weight to the point where he could jump huge distances like a grasshopper. Later in the strip, low-powered jet-packs combined with an inertron belt did come to allow actual flight.
- In GURPS people who can't afford Flight can get: Super Jump, Walk on Air, Glide, Super Bounce, Lighter than Air. The pulling yourself up by your bootstraps can be done with TK or Control. Absurdly high Jumping skill or just the Flying Leap skill also allow for travel that's similar to flight.
- Dungeons & Dragons has a number of alternatives to true flight. Magic items which mimic the effect are common. The Immovable Rod can easily support a character's weight when activated, but is an ordinary metal rod when deactivated; two of them can be used for a set of mobile monkey bars. Spells like Reverse Gravity and Telekinesis can be used for flight-like effects. Like everything else, this is cranked Up to Eleven with the Epic handbook; a ridiculously high Balance skill allows one to balance on clouds.
- For quite a long time, Solar Exalted don't get to fly so much as they get to jump very long distances. Over mountains.
- Technically inverted by pre-sixth-edition fliers in Warhammer 40k, which were classified as "skimmers" (vehicles that could leave the ground in short hops, or floated just above the surface) with a lot of special rules attached. In a similar vein, flying creatures (such as many flavors of Tyranid) were classified as "jump infantry". Finally, fed up with the number of special rules they had to add to make fliers act like actual dogfighters and bombers, GW decided to simply make a "flier" class in Sixth Edition, with its own standardized rule set.
- In BIONICLE, Lewa originally didn't fly; he could levitate one thing at a time (he could be that one thing, which was super convenient) and swung from tree to tree. He used his elemental powers (Air) to help along the way, but didn't do anything resembling flying. Once he was a Toa Nuva, he combined his improved mask of levitation , greater control over his element, and a pair of BFSes that helped him glide and sort of power him to more or less fly. This was great until the Bohrok-Kal showed up. Turns out that the flying wasn't so easy when you can't manipulate the air to do your bidding.
- Out of all the Makuta in Karda Nui, Krika is the only one to not have wings. However, he uses his Mask, the Kanohi Crast, Mask of Repulsion, to repel himself from the groundnote , thus achieving this.
- A lot of the "flying" characters in the ''Global Guardians PBEM Universe are actually doing this sort of thing rather than true flight. Several geokinetics ride on telekinetically controlled boulders to fly. Forcefield users ride disks of force. Magnetic heroes and villains manipulate earth's magnetic field. Gravity manipulators make pockets of "free fall", allowing them to jump impossible distances. And the super-strong merely use their leg muscles to leap entire city blocks at once.
- Phase in the Whateley Universe can do this by reducing his mass and so increasing his velocity after jumping; he can also drift slowly while super-light. But it's tricky. Most other flyers, whether the Flying Brick package (PK supermen, PDPs with the superman ability, gravitic superman powers, etc.) or unique, just know what to do.
- Generator figured out how to fake flying by casting a PK copy of herself into her clothes and lifting herself into the air. Chaka figured out how to use her Ki to make wire-fu leaps through the air and run across the tops of trees.
- Skitter from Worm is aerially mobile thanks to her giant beetle Atlas, which she controls with her mind and rides. After Atlas dies, she gets antigravity technology built into her costume and a flight pack that lets her maneuver.
- Shadow Stalker can jump very high, very far and land very softly when she's in her (mostly-)intangible 'shadow form.'
- The Chinese Yŕngbǎn use a combination of powers (including electromagnetic repulsion) to fly a few feet above the ground.
- The "being in a team" thing is common; look no further than Teen Titans. When they're not in a vehicle, Cyborg is always being carried around by one of the fliers. Robin usually just uses Building Swing, but for longer distances he might hitch a ride.
- There was that time with the bird flyer suit, but it never showed up again.
- Terra can also ride on rocks she's levitating.
- In Gargoyles, the Gargoyles glide on air currents, and need to jump off high places or find rising hot air to leave the ground. Nominally, at least. They swoop and swerve very high upwards whenever the plot requires that they do so. Still, they can't manage a vertical or running takeoff, or hover.
- Logically they shouldn't be able to hover, but yet they still do from time to time.
- Word of God is that they can't hover. Unfortunately, some of the animators never got the memo.
- Samurai Jack learns to: "Not fly. Jump good." So good, in fact, that he's jumping around not just nimbly-bimbly from tree to tree by the end of the episode, but between individual leaves on trees in the canopy of a forest. However, future episodes severely restrict his jumping skill.
- In "I Am Legion" of Justice League Unlimited, Fire is carrying Flash after bailing out of their Javelin while battling robot condors. Flash tells Fire to drop him so that she can go help Hawkgirl, who is struggling in her battle with one of the condors, and Fire reluctantly does so after Flash gives her a smile and tells her to trust him. When Fire mentions this to Shayera, she says, "You know he can't fly, right?" He manages to improvise a quick way to "fly" on the way down:
Flash: Hey guys, look! I'm just like a helicopter-*WHAM*...Well, sort of like a helicopter.
- Seanbaby points out instances where this made Hawkman of Superfriends so useless. He also noted events where Off Model animation allowed Flash and Batman to fly under their own power.
- In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Azula has used her fire for a rocket-jump on several occasions. Pretty much any firebender with enough skill can fly during Sozin's comet, as well. And Aang has that whole glider/Airbender thing.
- In addition, Katara did an Iceman-style ice-slide in the finale, and Earthbenders often raise themselves with columns. In fact, Toph seems to be able to launch herself with one of these columns if she moves it fast enough. Airbenders can fly around on pockets of air. Essentially, benders of any element can do Not Quite Flight in some way.
- Airbenders (with their gliders and obvious air powers) and firebenders (with Recoil Boost) are obviously the best at this; as shown in The Legend of Korra, waterspouts (and presumably, earth columns) can only go so high due to Elemental Baggage constraints. Also, as Iroh II demonstrates, skilled firebenders don't need comet enhancement to fly, but probably can't maintain it very long or go very high without it. Airbenders after harmonic convergence creates more of them start to use wing-suits which take them pretty close to flight.
- Multi Man of The Impossibles can "fly" by duplicating himself, disappearing, duplicating himself, disappearing, and so on.
- In Batman: The Brave and the Bold, Batman's cape becomes a rocket-powered glider at the touch of a button.
- Starlight, Rainbow Brite's horse, can gallop on rainbows as if on solid ground. This is always referred to in-universe as flying, although since Rainbow can create rainbows and the standard course of a rainbow is through the air, it's a distinction without a difference.
- In Xiaolin Showdown, putting the Eye of Dashi onto the hilt of the Sword of Storms gave the sword the power to fly around, and the user with if by holding on. The same goes for the Serpent's Tail, which also made you intangible.
- The wings of Tanabi supposedly give you flight, but actually fly on their own and you have to hold onto it. The Jet Bootsu can count as well.
- Static from Static Shock, like the comics example above, has a disk that he flies around on by magnetically levitating it, originally trash can lids. His demonstration of the power was doing this with a car. One time later in the series, however, has him floating above a falling billboard and slowing it down with his powers. Either this means he can also float relative to an object or may develop full flight powers in the future, similarly to how Magneto does it considering he uses purely magnetic powers at one point in the series finale.
- Scootaloo from My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, despite being a pegasus, has wings that are too small to support her weight. She compensates by using her wings to propel herself when riding her scooter. She can use this to catch some major air when jumping and can hover a few inches above ground.
- Levitating platforms are often provided for heroes who can't fly by either Zatara or Green Lantern in Young Justice. Artemis (along with the other archers) and Robin sometimes use grappling hooks of some kind to get around, as well.
- The Incredible Hulk cannot fly. But in the 1966 Marvel Superheroes animated TV series, The Hulk is known to undertake lengthy "mountain leaps" that look remarkably similar to flight.
- NASA's Space Shuttle generates 37 million horsepower at lift-off, and achieves a ground speed of 17,000 MPH to reach orbit, but has to come back to Earth unpowered, as a glider. The main engines are useless without the giant External (fuel) Tank. The shuttle gets one chance, and one chance only, at landing.
- Why were the Wright Brothers considered the first to actually pull off manned flight, even though powered heavier-than-air aircraft were around for at least ten to fifteen years before the Flyer? The reason for this was because even though other aircraft managed to get airborne, they couldn't manage anything more than a short, uncontrollable hop. At the time, it was thought that this was due to insufficient engine power, but the real cause of the problem was that many of these aircraft had no means of elevation control. So while other inventors went on to build more powerful and lighter engines, the Wright Brothers primarily focused on developing more efficient aerodynamics for their aircraft and the three-axis control scheme that is still basically in use today. It did take them a while to put the tail BEHIND the plane, though; their original designs were extremely difficult for anyone else to fly.
- One should remember, however, that the Wright Brothers are not acknowledged as the first to actually pull off manned flight everywhere. France and Brazil both disconsider their efforts, having Santos Dummont as the inventor of the airplane. However, this is largely due to nationalistic reasons - it is uncontested that the Wright Brothers flew the first fixed-wing aircraft, the French and Brazilians merely claim that it didn't count because the Wright Brothers' planes used rails and skids instead of wheels.
- Interestingly, both hot air balloons and dirigibles were invented considerably prior to the first fixed-wing aircraft - in the case of hot air balloons, more than a century prior. The first manned "flight" in one was by the Montgolfier brothers in 1783, over a century before the Wright brothers; however, because the craft were lighter than air, it was not really the same thing, as rather than relying on lift they used buoyancy - rather than flying like a bird, they floated like a boat.
- Gliding as a form of locomotion turns up in a wide range of vertebrates, from mammals (flying squirrels, sugar gliders, colugos) to reptiles (draco lizards, flying geckos, Chrysopelea tree snakes) to amphibians (flying frogs) to fishes (flying fish, halfbeaks). Still more powered-flight species will glide as a means of conserving energy, and several climbing species (cats, sifaka) possess a limited ability to "parachute" to slow their descent in the event of an accidental fall. Then, there's the flying squid, which propels itself out of the water by using watjer jets.
- Ground-effect craft have long been the underdogs of the plane world. Because wings have much more lifting power when close to the ground, a small subset of not-quite-planes and not-quite-boats has arisen: crossbreeds with flying-boat hulls and stubby wings that need much less horsepower and wingspan to fly right above bodies of water. The compromises make them much cheaper than planes, much faster than boats, and safe enough that you don't need a pilot license to use (get it wrong and you plow in the water rather than, say, a hospital). Sadly they haven't gained much relevance yet, because the ground effect happens at too low a height to make them safe over the ground, and when on water any bad weather becomes a serious problem.