First Powered Aircraft Flight
On December 17, 1903, the Wright Flyer, designed and built by
Orville and Wilbur Wright, was first flown in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The
Wright brothers had previously designed and tested gliders, by the Wright
Flyer was the first powered aircraft to successfully be flown. Made out of
Sitka spruce wood, a custom engine, and two handmade propellers, the pilot of
the plan would lie on the bottom wing and steer the craft with a cradle attached
to his hips. The plane was launched using a track, called the “Junction
Railroad” by the brothers, made of 2x4s.
On December 14, 1903, the
brothers had attempted to launch the plane with Wilbur piloting, but the plane’s
trajectory was too steep, so it stalled. This attempt caused minor damage to the
Wright Flyer. After repairing the plane, Orville took off for the first
successful flight on December 17th. The flight lasted 12 seconds and
the plane travelled only 120 ft. Over the course of the day, the Wright brothers
flew the plane 4 times, with Wilbur having the longest flight at 59 seconds and
852 feet. This flight broke part of the plane, but the brothers hoped to fix it
so they could make a longer flight. However, a strong gust of wind picked the
plane up, tossed it around, and left it damaged beyond repair.
Wright Flyer was never flown again, its success allowed the brothers to
improve on their plane design. In 1905, the Wright brothers developed the
Wright Flyer III, in which Wilbur sustained a 39 minute 24 mile flight.
Today, the Wright Flyer is featured in “The Wright Brothers and the
Invention of the Aerial Age,” a special exhibit commemorating the
100th anniversary of the plane’s flight, in the Smithsonian’s
National Air and Space Museum.
Items in Our
conquer the air: the Wright Brothers and the great race for flight by James
brothers: heirs to Prometheus by Richard Hallion; Roger E Bilstein; et
Wind and sand:
the story of the Wright brothers at Kitty Hawk by Lyanne Wescott; Paula