Flying machines have been around for centuries. The ancients flew kites, and some of these were large enough to carry a man. Hot air balloons were publicly demonstrated in France in the late 18th century by the mongoflier brothers, and sealed hydrogen balloons were made practical by the chemist Charles shortly thereafter.
The first successful motor-powered manned flight was by Orville Wright on December 17, 1903. The first flight lasted 12 seconds and the airplane flew 120 feet. The whole first flight could have taken place inside the modern-day An-124 cargo plane.
Later that same day, Orville's brother Wilbur Wright flew the same aircraft 852 feet in 49 seconds.
Leonardo da Vinci's drawing of a helicopter-like flying machine is a well known example of early ambitions to build a flying vehicle.