But these are only legends - who invented flight, and how, and why?
The first recorded use of a kite was in 200 BC, when the Chinese general Han Hsin flew a kite over the walls of the city he was attacking, and used it to measure how far his men would have to tunnel to reach passed the defences.
Marco Polo wrote of kites so large they could carry men - in essence, the first gliders. Technically, a kite has a string going down to the earth, whilst a glider is free from the earth. It was the Italiens who first brought kites to Europe.
From gliders to... helicopters?
The next great flight invention is known as the first helicopter, although it was never built. The ornithopter is Leonardo Da Vinci's most famous invention, even though it was never built. In actual fact, Da Vinci wasn't the first to consider mechanical means of flight.
Here we see an ornithopter design:
How long ago do you think the first manned flight was? The Wright brothers in 1903? Langley in 1891? George Cayley, in the early 1800s? 1783, when the Montgolfier beothers built their balloon? The first manned flight was... one thousand one hundred and thirty eight years ago. Yes, 1138.
Abbas Ibn Firnas covered himself in feathers, strapped on his mechanical wings and, by the accounts of all the witnesses he flew for a long time before returning to land from where he had taken off. But at that point there was a fault in his design; he hadn't realised the importance of a birds tail. Abbas Ibn Firnas fell from the sky, and hurt his back. He was 66 years old when he flew.
In 1870 Gustav Trouve built and flew and landed an ornithopter. The wings were flapped by gunpowder charges activated in a bourdon tube.
All a Lot of Hot Air
In the 1780s the Montgolfier brothers built the first hot air balloons. The first passengers were a sheep, a rooster, and a duck. It almost sounds like a joke...
The Montgolfier brothers maybe the most well known of the airship or balloon pioneers, but they were not the only ones. Liutenant Jean Baptiste Marie Meusnier in 1783 proposed a design of an airship 260 feet in length, with internal ballonnets that were to be used to control the lift. The envelope would be attached to a long carriage that could double as a boat if the airship was forced to land in the water. It could even be propelled and steered.