After the death in a crash of Otto Lilienthal in 1896, Orville and Wilbur Wright became increasingly infatuated with aviation. They first built in August 1899 a biplane kite of 5-foot span. During the next three years, they developed, designed and tested, with varying degrees of success, three gliders. After the eventual success of the third glider, constructed during August and September 1902, the two brothers turned to the design of a powered aircraft for which they built their own 12 hp engine and propeller. After an unsuccessful attempt at Kitty hawk on 14 December 1903. Orville Wright took of at 10:35 a.m. on 17 December logging a flight of 12 seconds covering 120 feet. This was acclaimed as the world's first manned, powered, controlled and sustained flight in a heavier-than-air machine. During the fourth and final flight that day, Wilber flew for 59 seconds covering 852 feet.
The Wright brothers' quest for powered flight spanned many years and took them many thousands of miles from their home in Dayton, Ohio. The Wright story did not end on December 17, 1903 with Wilbur's flight of 120 feet from the beach of Kitty Hawk, but grew as they took their invention to Europe. Their demonstrations of the 'Wright Flying Machine' brought their accomplishment to the World scene in a way that truly marked the beginning of a new era.
At the dawn of the centennial year of powered flight on 17 December 2003, aviation technology has traversed a long distance, interspersed with phenomenal strides, over the past one hundred years. This is true of all kinds of aviation-commercial, general , military and space-focused. In just 100 years man has progressed from those first hesitant hops to conquering the globe and beyond it into space. Distances have amazingly shrunk, and man has already stepped on the moon. Every place on earth is now only hours away-rather than weeks or months before the aeroplane. The story of the preceding century is one of unceasing innovation, vision and outstanding courage in unlocking the secrets of flight and extending the boundaries of performance.
Equipped with hi-tech combat planes with vastly enhanced capabilities of speed, reach, mass, surprise, flexibility, accuracy, manoeuvrability and lethality, air power has become a decisive arbiter in modern warfare. The spectacular performance of air power in recent conflicts in the Gulf, Afghanistan and Iraq and the favourable outcomes deriving from its effective application, both in peace and theatres of crises, points to its undisputed potency as an element of force projection. Air power, it appears, has acquired for itself the mantle of authority to fulfil the prophesies of its ardent advocates like Glulo Douhet, and perhaps exceeds his vision of the potential of air bombardment. Winston Churchill, minced no words in acknowledging the role of air power when he stated:
For good or ill, air mastery is today the supreme expression of military power. And fleets and armies, however necessary and important must accept subordinate rank. This is a memorable milestone in the march of man.
Growing from a small band of dedicated airmen with a meagre stock of aircraft and equipment, Pakistan Air Force did not take long to attain the stature of a force "second to none", befitting the fond aspiration of Father of the Nation, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah. It has triumphantly withstood many a challenge and tribulation since its inception, fifty-six years ago. It continues to strike awe into the heart of the enemy despite his vast numerical superiority. Inexorably destined to fight outnumbered. PAF has always counted on the quality and character of its personnel and leaders who consider it a sacred trust and commitment to jealously guard its repute as a potent force to reckon with.
PAF has had the distinction of acquitting itself most admirably in situations threatening the survival and security of Pakistan right from the Kashmir War in 1948. In every trial and crisis, the servicemen of this gallant force have measured up to the trust of the nation in the tradition of their illustrious predecessors. The superb performance of Pak Fizaia and the air supremacy that it commanded during the fateful war of 1965 was hugely acclaimed both at home and abroad. With similar courage, zeal and prowess, PAF participated in the 1971 War generating much higher rate of war missions and raids on the enemy targets than that of 1965 War. It is a pity that its outstanding performance remains eclipsed due to the unsavoury outcome of the war. So were daringly challenged and met frequent Afghan air incursions into Pakistan territory during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan, resulting in loss of several intruding planes at the hands of brave and accomplished PAF pilots. During the 10- month long bitter eyeball-to-eyeball standoff with India, in 2001, PAF emerged highly alert, vigilant and ready to strike through rapid deployments of its combat elements along the possible spectrum of conflict. It is thus rightly adored as the 'pride of the nation'.
On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of powered flight, all ranks of Pakistan Air Force profoundly share the sense of jubilation surrounding the centennial celebration of powered flight on 17 December 2003. They pay their profound tributes to Wright Brothers, the brilliant legends of their times, whose indomitable passion to fly in a powered plane paved the way for an incredible revolution in human existence. Pakistan Air Force holds them and their successive generations of pilots, aeronautical designers and engineers in high esteem. On this centennial event, the fighting elements of PAF renew and reaffirm their resolve and commitment to hone their skill and capability to use the potent strength of air power in the best service of the nation.
Commemorative postage stamps issued on the eve of 100 years of powered flight reflect PAF's deep sense of belonging to this historic moment. The select aviation paintings by SMA Hussaini, PAF's official aviation artist, and Mr Shujaat, a UAE-based Pakistani artist chronicle the tale of this gallant service's courage and commitment which will evoke spontaneous admiration of the viewers at large. The nation's air arm considers it a pleasant obligation, on this singular occasion, to communicate to society the importance of aviation and to inspire the new generation to take up the challenge in combat aviation, in the supreme service of the nation. Pakistan Air Force owes to Pakistan Post Office profound gratitude for their keen interest in issuing these memorial Stamps and thus honouring not only PAF but also millions of aviation enthusiasts the world over.
Date of Issue (December 17, 2003)