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).
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
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
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.
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
“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
There are always skeptics. Here are a few people that didn’t possess The AvGeek Vision…
“… 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
“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?
“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!
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!