Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright were born in Indiana and Ohio, respectively. Not only are the Wright brothers responsible for making the first “plane” they are also credited with convincing the entire world that flight was within reach. The brothers also provided an example of determination in spite of failure.
1. Parental Influence
Orville and Wilbur’s mother was a key influence and motivator in their lives. As children, Wilbur and Orville also looked to their mother for mechanical expertise and their father for intellectual challenge. The Wright brothers later said their interest in aviation was sparked by a toy helicopter their father brought home.
2. Wilbur’s Severe Injury
Wilbur suffered a severe injury and Orville started a printing business after his schooling so neither of the brothers left to attend college. This was a fortunate occurrence indeed, for had they been separated the plane as we know it may never have been invented.
3. First Glider
In August of 1900, Wilbur built his first glider. In one of Wilbur’s interview he said, “For some years I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible to man.” “It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.”
4. Experimentation and Studying
The Wright brothers were very thorough in the tests that they conducted before they ever took flight. They experimented with model versions of their flying machines before building life-size prototypes. They studied average wind speeds, the effects of different wingspans and shapes, wind tunnel effects, etc. before they built the famous1903 Flyer.
5. 12 Seconds, 120 Feet
On December 17, 1903 at 10:35 a.m., the Wright brothers successfully made the first “heavier-than-air, machine powered flight” in the world. The flight lasted only 12 seconds and covered just 120 feet. Subsequent flight and modifications to the plane would yield longer flight times and distances.
6. Successful in Flight
The United States Army was actually trying to develop an airplane in 1903 (right about the time that the Wright brothers were experimenting with various flying machines), but the plane wouldn’t fly. The New York Times wrote, maybe in “1 million to 10 million years” they might be able to make a plane that would fly. It was only eight days after the U.S. Army failure and the prediction of the New York Times that the Wright brothers were successful in flying the first manned plane.
7. First Plane
The first plane built by the Wright brothers was a glider that measured 16 feet from wing tip to wing tip. It cost them $15 to build it and since the glider did not need any type of fuel, there were no operation costs.
8. Kitty Hawk
The original plane that flew at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903, was placed in a Science Museum in London in 1928. Twenty years later, the museum sent the plane back to the United States. It can now be seen at the National Air Museum in Washington, D.C.
9. Not A Smooth Path To Success
The Wright brothers’ road to making history was not a smooth path. They had many obstacles, both physical and emotional, that they had to overcome. The most significant of these obstacles occurred when Orville had an accident in his plane. He had several broken bones and his passenger died. This tragic event was pivotal for the brothers and they were able to learn from the unfortunate experience.
10. “Wright Flyer”
The plane that took flight on that December day in 1903 was called the “Wright Flyer.” Only five people watched the historic event and very few newspapers even wrote a story about it.