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File:1913 - Berriman - Petrol engine.png
Diagram illustrating petrol engine in Berriman, 1913, Aviation, p. 296

Petroleum fuel enabled efficient (power-to-weight ratio) engines which could propel flying machines.

See Maxim, 1892, Progress in Aerial Navigation which analyzes engine efficiency along these lines.

Berriman, 1913, Aviation, "The Petrol Engine", p. 292:

Petrol is the trade name given to a group of volatile fractions in the paraffin series of hydrocarbons. In America the commodity is known as gasolene; in France it is called essence. In the scale of densities and boiling points, the petrol group stands immediately above the lamp oils, which are misnamed in England by the generic title paraffin, and in France by the word petrole, but in America are called kerosene.
The chief source of petrol is natural petroleum, which is mined in all parts of the world. Great Britain now derives more than half her supply of petrol from Borneo, Sumatra, and Java, via the "Shell" route through Suez; the remainder, "Pratts," come from the American fields. [...]
The petrol engine works on this principle. One of its accessories is a carburettor, which consists of a simple spraying device, the flow of petrol being regulated by a needle valve controlled by a float. [...]

And Hallion, 2003, p. 198:

Early in the Roman Empire, technicians could have cut, framed, and assembled the basic structure of a wood-and-fabric airplane, and had they possessed the Wrights' insight, could have flown and controlled it—but a "prime mover" required the high-temperature materials, fuels, propeller design, and engines of the late Industrial Revolution. In the absence of this, even the most insightful pioneers—people such as Cayley—were reduced to seeking what in retrospect were bizarre or even laughable solutions, such as complex banks of oars, or moving wingtip featherlike paddles. The Wrights would have confronted the same problem, except for one thing: their work coincided with the development of the internal combustion, petroleum-fueled engine.
On August 29, 1859, Edwin L. Drake, a self-styled but commendably obstinate "colonel," struck oil in the small northwestern Pennsylvania community of Titusville, becoming the first oil driller and triggering the petroleum revolution. Out of that discovery came fuels for illumination, cooking, heating, and propulsion, as well as lubricants and waxes. But his discovery, as significant as it was, could not have had anywhere near the impact it ultimately did had it not been for the invention of specialized engines to burn petroleum distillers. That enabled the creation of modern mechanized transportation systems, typified by the automobile and the airplane. It was of particular importance to the invention of powered flight.

Early using petroleum fuel: Santos-Dumont No. 1 ...