Author, pilot and Reading native Michael J. Floriani shows how Berks Countians began embracing aviation when balloonist pioneer John Wise held his first balloon ascension in Reading in August 1836. In 1912, Charles Walsh became an instant celebrity when he was the first person to fly among thousands of spectators. After World War I, barnstormers landed surplus military planes on fields that once populated Reading, and Whander Field became the first airport in Pennsylvania to accommodate Reading Airways – the state’s first commercial airline. Visionaries like Eddie Nibur, Alfred M. Bertolet, and J. Harding Breithaupt made significant aviation contributions, building flight training, charter operations, and general aviation empires, while Boyertown’s Gen. Carl Spaatz served as commander of Strategic Air Forces in Europe during World War II. As aviation matured, Reading Airport became the county’s first municipal airport and the site of the nation’s largest air show throughout the 1970s. Today, new industries provide opportunities for Berks County to lead aviation into the 21st century and build upon the rich heritage that already exists.