AeroSavvy’s Curated Aviation Quotes

Curated Quotes

During the relatively short history of aviation, humans have uttered some thought provoking and inspiring quotes about the experience of flight. Of course, the skeptics have made their opinions known as well. Here are a few of my favorite aviation quotes (and misquotes).

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Aviation quotes that inspire!

“Because I Fly, I envy no man on earth.”
– Last lines of the poem “Because I Fly” by Grover C. Norwood, USAF (Retired)


“I fly because it releases my mind from the tyranny of petty things.”
“The aeroplane has unveiled for us the true face of the earth.”
– Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

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French author Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, best known for writing the children’s classic “Le Petit Prince,” was an avid pilot who flew many aircraft including the F-5 Lightning (a reconnaissance variant of the P-38 Lightning).


“The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together.”
– Bill Gates, 12 July 2014  – from the TIME book “The 100 Most Influential People of All Time”


“The most beautiful dream that has haunted the heart of man since Icarus is today reality.”
– Louis Blériot, French inventor and engineer, upon hearing of Orville and Wilbur Wright’s successful first flight.


“The air up there in the clouds is very pure and fine, bracing and delicious. And why shouldn’t it be? —it is the same the angels breathe.”
— Mark Twain, Roughing It, Chapter XXII, 1886

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Twain: Loved the air at Lake Tahoe

This quote was taken from Mark Twain’s “Roughing It,” a semi-autobiographical book about his travels through the American West between 1861–1867. You’ll find this inspirational line in dozens of aviation quote webpages.

Interestingly, the quote has nothing to do with aviation. Twain wasn’t even referencing the sky. He was talking about the cool, foggy air at his campsite at Lake Tahoe, on the border of California and Nevada. If you’ve ever been to Tahoe, you know the quote is right on the money.

Mark Twain is one of my favorite authors. I still love this quote, even though it’s not about aviation.


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“A mile of highway will take you a mile. A mile of runway will take you anywhere!” – Author unknown
(Two miles of runway is even better – as any pilot or dispatcher will attest!)

Visionaries – Ahead of their time.

Throughout history, there have been visionaries who could see past current ideas and technology. Sometimes they missed the mark, and sometimes they predicted future technology with uncanny accuracy.

“I am well convinced that Aerial Navigation will form a most prominent feature in the progress of civilization.”
Sir George Cayley, 1804


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Verne: TOTALLY an AvGeek!

“In spite of the opinions of certain narrow-minded people, who would shut up the human race upon this globe, as within some magic circle which it must never outstep, we shall one day travel to the moon, the planets, and the stars, with the same facility, rapidity, and certainty as we now make the voyage from Liverpool to New York!”
– Jules Verne, From the Earth to the Moon, 1865

From atomic submarines to space travel, Jules Verne was, without a doubt, way ahead of his time.


“For once you have tasted flight you will walk the earth with your eyes turned skywards, for there you have been and there you will long to return.”
– Probably NOT Leonardo da Vinci

There’s no doubt that Leonardo da Vinci had the aviation bug. Unfortunately, this quote, often attributed to da Vinci, was most likely written by someone else, perhaps as late as the 1970s.


“…long before the year A.D. 2000, and very probably before 1950, a successful aeroplane will have soared and come home safe and sound.”
– H.G. Wells, 1901

Aviation Pessimists

There are always skeptics. Here are a few people that didn’t possess The AvGeek Vision

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“… all attempts at artificial aviation on the basis he describes are not only dangerous to human life, but foredoomed to failure from the engineering standpoint.”
– London Times Engineering Editor’s response to a letter describing powered flight over London, 24 January 1906


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Who is Sir Stanley Mosley?

“It is complete nonsense to believe flying machines will ever work.”
– Sir Stanley Mosley, 1905

This is an oft Tweeted and repeated quote, but I can’t find it in any reliable source (old GeoCities quote pages aren’t reliable sources). I also can’t figure out who “Sir Stanley Mosley” was. Readers, help me out! Was this guy for real, or an urban legend?


Kelvin
Lord Kelvin: NOT an AvGeek!

“Heavier-than-air flying machines are impossible”
– Lord Kelvin, 1895

“I have not the smallest molecule of faith in aerial navigation other than ballooning… I would not care to be a member of the Aeronautical Society.”
– Lord Kelvin, 1896

Lord William Thomson, Baron Kelvin knew a thing or two about thermodynamics, but he lacked the vision to foresee heavier-than-air flight. Come on, Lord Kelvin, DREAM a little!


Your Turn!

Those are my favorites. I enjoy researching the backgrounds of the quotes, but your job is much easier!  Post your favorite aviation (or astronautics) quotes in the comments – no research necessary!


 

6 Comments

  1. Lord Kelvin’s skepticism has pretty much overshadowed everything else he ever did in the realm of scientific thought. Funny how that happens. I have a feeling Bill Gates will best be remembered for saying that nobody would ever need more than 640k… 🙂

    • Poor Lord Kelvin. It takes a genius to figure out something as complicated as thermodynamics. Yet, he struggled to envision an engine with the power-to-weight ratio to make powered flight possible. Now we have the saying: “With enough power ANYTHING can fly!”

      Bill was bitten by the same bug when he made the 640k statement. What reasonable person, in 1985, would have thought a 2 Terabyte hard drive would be possible, much less necessary. Now that we have Moore’s Law, it’s easy to envision a drive working at the atomic level offering virtually unlimited storage.

      • I thin Gates should have known better. He’d seen how far computing power had already come. Besides, Moore’s Law was first uttered in 1965, as I recall, so Bill was undoubtedly aware of it by the mid 80s.

        As Shakespeare said in Julius Caesar, the wrong that men do lives after them while the good is oft interred with their bones…

        • That sounds reasonable. Forecasting future tech has always been a challenge. I’m still waiting for my affordable, year 2000, flying car and sentient robotic Jetsons maid!

  2. I have no idea who originally said this but I’ve used it a few times in my career, and it sure works to describe many aviation comments written by non-pilots…

    Nothing is impossible when you dont know what you are talking about.

    (Yes, that also specifically describes CNN’s aviation coverage)

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