Aviation is one of the major transforming technologies of the modern world. At the beginning of the twentieth century the Futurist F. T. Marinetti foresaw 'the earth shrunk by speed . . . a new sense of the world' and a 'vast increase of a sense of humanity'. Today we have achieved an era of mass tourism and travel of almost unimagined cheapness that many argue has brought huge benefits to international understanding. Against this can be set new problems such as the increased reach of epidemic diseases or the environmental impact and cultural erosion caused by mass travel. The global reach of terrorism, and of state military power, are also equally reliant on the jet aeroplane.
Here we look at the field of aviation, from its heroic 'age of adventurism' in the interwar period, through to the creation of the jet engine in response to the military needs of those involved in the Second World War. We then consider the creation of a range of new and far more capable types of aircraft in the years after the war, ranging from jet nuclear bombers to supersonic fighters and, arguably the most influential step of all, the development of the wide-body or 'jumbo jet' airliner.