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This article concerns the process of flying. For other meanings see Flight (disambiguation).

Flight is the process of flying: either movement through the air by aerodynamically generating lift or aerostatically using buoyancy, or movement beyond earth's atmosphere by spacecraft.

Animal flight

Animal flight: Herring Gull
Animal flight: Herring Gull

The most successful groups of living things that fly are insects, birds, and bats. Each of these groups' wings evolved separately from different structures.

Pterosaurs were a group of flying vertebrates contemporaneous with the dinosaurs.

Bats are the only mammals capable of true flight. However, there are several gliding mammals which are able to glide from tree to tree using fleshy membranes between their limbs; some can travel hundreds of metres in this way with very little loss of height. Flying tree frogs use greatly enlarged webbed feet for a similar purpose, and there are flying lizards which employ their unusually wide, flattened rib-cages to the same end. Certain snakes also use a flattened rib-cage to fly, with a back and forth motion much the same as they use on the ground.

Flying fish can glide using enlarged wing-like fins, and have been observed soaring for hundreds of metres using the updraft on the leading edges of waves. It is thought that they evolved this ability to help them escape from underwater predators.

Most birds fly (see bird flight), with some exceptions. The largest birds, the ostrich and the emu, are earthbound, as were the now-extinct dodos, while the non-flying penguins have adapted their wings for use under water. Most small flightless birds are native to small islands, and lead a lifestyle where flight would confer little advantage.
The Peregrine Falcon is the fastest animal in the world; its terminal velocity exceeds 320 km/h (199 mph) while diving down on its prey.

Among living animals that fly, the wandering albatross has the greatest wingspan, up to 3.5 metres (11.5 feet), and the trumpeter swan perhaps the greatest weight, at 17 kilograms (38 pounds).

Among the (probably millions) of species of insects, some fly and others do not.


  • Dumbo, the Disney-created elephant, employs his comically oversized ears as wings for flight.
  • Many dragons are depicted with wings capable of flight.
  • Superman is a well known superhero in comic books, cartoons, and films; unaided flight is among the various super powers he is portrayed to obtain from the yellow rays of earth's sun. Most flight-capable fictional comic book superheroes are said to fly by sheer will rather than by telekinetically levitating themselves. Jean Grey of the X-men is an exception who uses telekinesis to levitate slightly above ground.
Mechanical flight: Robinson R22 Beta helicopter
Mechanical flight: Robinson R22 Beta helicopter

Mechanical flight

Flying machines are aircraft, including aeroplanes, helicopters, airships and balloons, and spacecraft.

In the case of an aeroplane flight involves

See aviation history for the history of mechanical flight.

See also

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