Wilbur and Orville Wright were born in 1867 and 1871, respectively. The brothers’ interest in powered heavier-than-air flight began at an early age. 1899 saw their first attempts to design the first aircraft. The deaths of several prominent gliders convinced them that the key to successful flight was the ability to control their craft. Fortunately, their experience with bicycles helped them to develop an effective method of piloting.
Although the brothers lived in Dayton, OH, they traveled over 600 miles to Kitty Hawk, NC for tests. They spent much of their time from 1900 to 1903 in North Carolina. By the autumn of 1902, the Wright Brothers believed they were ready to develop a powered flying machine. A year later, they attempted the first powered flight in human history.
Their first attempt was on December 14, 1903, but the Flyer stalled just after takeoff. After repairing the plane, the brothers were ready to try again. On December 17 th, Orville Wright enjoyed a successful, if brief, 12-second flight. The brothers made three more flights that day, proving that the first flight was not a fluke.
Although the Wright Brothers were successful, they still had a lot of work to do. They had proved that flight was possible, but not if it was practical. In addition, the Flyer was badly damaged, forcing them to build a new plane. This turned out to be a blessing, however. The Flyer II was a much better craft.
In 1904, the brothers decided to fly at Huffman Prairie eight miles outside of Dayton. This reduced their travel costs, and additional test flights afforded significant improvements to their design. Two flights on November 9 and December 1, 1904, saw successful five-minute flights that covered over three miles.
The brothers built the Flyer III in 1905. It’s improvement over its predecessors was marginal at first. Following a nearly fatal crash, the brothers enlarged the elevator and rear rudder and developed separate flight controls for each of the three axes. This was the breakthrough the Flyer needed. Their success culminated in an impressive 38 minute flight. The brother’s work was far from over, but they were finally triumphant.
See how far technology has come since the Wright brothers took their first flight, at the Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport!