The wars with France and North America led to a surge in technological advances, especially in building balloons. It is hard to imagine how they thought air travel would take over completely from land:
“I chiefly amused myself with ideas of the change that would be made in the world by the substitution of balloons to ships. I supposed our seaports to become deserted villages; and Salisbury Plain, Newmarket Heath (another canvass for alteration of ideas), and all downs (but the downs) arising into dock-yards for aerial vessels. Such a field would be ample in furnishing new speculations. But to come to my ship-news: the good balloon Daedalus, Captain Wing-gate, will fly in a few days for China: he will stop at the top of the Monument to take in passengers.
Arrived at Brand-sands, the Vulture, Captain Nabob; the Tortoise, Snow, from Lapland; the Pet-en-l’air, from Versailles, the Dreadnought, from Mount Etna, Sir W. Hamilton, commander; the Tympany, Montgolfier, and the Mine-A-in-a-bandbox, from the Cape of Good Hope. Foundered in a hurricane, the Bird of Paradise, from Mount Ararat. the Bubble, Sheldon, took fire, and was burnt to her gallery; and the Phoenix is to be cut down to a second-rate.
In those days Old Sarum will again be a town and have houses in it. There will be fights in the air with wind-guns and bows and arrows; and there will be a prodigious increase of land for tillage, especially in France, by breaking up al public roads as useless. But enough of my fooleries; for which I am sorry you must pay double postage.”
This is from a letter by Horace Walpole to the Hon. H.S. Conway.