The Wright Flyer III, built by the Wright brothers in 1905, is considered to be the first airplane to be used for a practical, rather than merely experimental basis. Less than a decade later the airplane was put to use to kill people, using bombs against targets on the ground and helping to target artillery. In short order pilots and observers were looking for ways to knock down airplanes of the opposing side using pistols, rifles, machine guns, hand grenades, and occasionally chains and grappling hooks. Soon aircraft equipped with pusher props were being armed with forward firing machine guns. French, German, and British companies began working on a method of a pilot firing a machine gun through a tractor propeller.
The French were the first to succeed, using a combination interrupter gear and deflector wedges to fire through a propeller. Roland Garros, for whom the tennis center where the French Open is played is named, succeeded in shooting down three German airplanes before he was forced to land behind German lines and failed to destroy his airplane. The Germans had at the time been working on an interrupter gear to stop the machine gun from firing when the propeller was in the way, and quickly improved the French design. By mid-spring 1915 the Germans were ready to unleash a new form of warfare on the Allies.
Here are the top ten fliers of the First World War, based on the number of confirmed air to air victories they achieved.