116 years ago…

Somebody did something…

At a place called Kitty Hawk…

At 10:35am, Orville released the restraining wire. The flyer moved down the rail as Wilbur steadied the wings. Just as Orville left the ground, John Daniels, a member of the lifesaving station, snapped the shutter on a preset camera, capturing the iconic image of the airborne aircraft with Wilbur running alongside. Again the flyer was unruly, pitching up and down as Orville overcompensated with the controls. But he kept it aloft until it hit the sand about 120 feet from the rail. Into the 27-mph wind, the groundspeed had been 6.8 mph, for a total airspeed of 34 mph. The flight lasted only 12 seconds, and the distance covered was less than the total length of a modern passenger airliner. But for the first time, a manned, heavier-than-air machine left the ground by its own power, moved forward under control without losing speed, and landed on a point as high as that from which it started. The brothers took turns flying three more times that day, getting a feel for the controls and increasing their distance with each flight. Wilbur’s second flight – the fourth and last of the day – was an impressive 852 feet in 59 seconds.

Full article, HERE.

Two bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio, both high school dropouts, changed the world that day by making the first powered aircraft flight. I wonder if in their wildest imagination they would have believed where we are today with aviation, space stations, and probes wandering the galaxy.

All because their father brought home a small model helicopter made of cork, bamboo and paper, and powered by a rubber band to twirl its blades, the model was based on a design by the French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud.

Human ingenuity is absolutely amazing…


116 years ago… — 22 Comments

  1. What amazes me is we went from horse and steam powered, candles and oil lamps, local economy to global, hot air balloons to walking on the moon in the space of one person’s lifetime. My father remembered outhouse, kerosene lamps, and pumping water in the kitchen in the family’s summer cottage on the shore. The current owner has installed satellite and solar panels. Inside plumbing and shore power were old hat by that point.

  2. “Wilbur’s second flight – the fourth and last of the day – was an impressive 852 feet in 59 seconds.”
    Funny, that’s the first I was aware of that.

  3. I’ll think about this when I go flying today.

    IT all really came about because the Wrights figured out how to make a lightweight motor.

  4. And the most amazing thing was no luggage was lost that day.

  5. Charlie Taylor, the machinist who built their engines, is immortalized in the FAA’s annual Charlie Taylor award, for the mechanic who goes above and beyond over the course of his or her career to keep planes flying and/or innovate new and better ways to fix aircraft.

  6. Carlton- Yep, my grandparents AND my parents saw that.

    Ed- Yes, they made four. One with BOTH of them onboard. That was the only time they ever flew together.

    B- Agreed!

    Gerry- LOL

    TXRed- True, and I should have mentioned him. Thank you!

  7. The flight of the Wright Brothers was the first step towards the accelerated lifestyle we see today.

    Yes, prior to this there were steam engines and primitive internal combustion engines but by leaving the ground, everything started to go faster exponentially.

  8. And if they didn’t do that we probably would have been Boatswains Mates instead of the Elite of the Fleet Airdales

  9. It was such a combination of technical innovation.

    The engine, designed by the Wrights, was an aluminum engine sleeved with iron.

    The push for light-weight bicycles helped the Wrights in building the components for the plane.

    The knowledge of industrial tools led to them making a wind tunnel to test wing designs.

    The nation’s love of kite flying and kite construction was evident in their tethered kite testing of prototypes, where they perfected their wing-warping control designs and their canard elevator, and discovered the need for vertical tail surfaces to help control yaw. (Not a lot of people know that the US was into a huge kite competition. Some box kites were big enough to pull a man up. Other ‘winged’ kites were also big enough to lift objects.)

    And two Ohio brothers did it Combined kites and kite-making techniques with bicycles and innovative engine designs. And flew.

    What a wonderful time.

  10. They made a lot of their money on Army contracts. There wasn’t much civilian demand for what they were doing. That would change in time, but the Army and then the Post Office kept them going.

  11. They were revolutionaries.
    Everything since has been evolution.
    Their advances in airfoil design due to their use of their wind tunnel invention?
    Thanks for the reminder, Jim.

  12. I have built and flown models of the Wright Flyer ranging from 6-8″ freeflighter’, rubber powered up to 2′ spans, and R/C models, one with a 6′ span built from scratch and incorporating the wing warping; hauled around by a small .52 ci 4stroke engine. Have a 4″ span plastic one sitting on my desk as I type this.

    This plane, and quite a few WWII Fighter planes from NAS Quonset Pt. R.I., flying over my house on a daily basis, is what convinced me to become one of those, Elites of the Fleet Airdales.( Nose Picker variety)! Thanks George for reminding me, kept at it for 20+ years.

  13. Hey Jim, Can I buy the dead tree version of “Sunset” yet? Amazon is only posting for the kindle version?

  14. The “lightweight engine” was the least of it. The Wrights had wanted an engine that would give at least eight horsepower (!) at a weight of no more than two hundred pounds. When they built one that gave twelve HP for thirty pounds less weight, they were pleased with themselves. Later they found out that an engine that size should have given twice the power that theirs did. Their gigantic achievements were the wind tunnel tests of wing designs and the development of a coherent control system.

  15. P.S. Also the willingness to test those discoveries, betting their lives on them

  16. Hey Old NFO;

    I work in the industry that exist because of the Wright Brothers. I see how things have changed, I remember a few years ago flying in a B757 and looking at the sky over the clouds and thought that 50 years earlier the view I was seeing was for the rare few, now it is so commonplace that people take it for granted.

  17. There are a lot of claims that various people flew first. And it’s true, there are some (moderately) documented cases where someone did a slow glide and didn’t crash. But the Wrights flew under power, demonstrating control of their aircraft, with reporters and cameras watching, and they repeated the feat over and over so everyone could see.

  18. If you look at the progression of the technology from their first flight in only 4 years they were the first barnstormers and went to Europe demonstrating their craft’s abilities. They set numerous records of duration, altitude, maneuverability and distance in these formative years.

    While disputes arose over control system patents and other issues, the Wrights were the first to use controlled testing to develop efficient propellers and lifting surfaces. They built a wind tunnel in Ohio to improve their designs and much of what is considered proper theory regarding propeller design rings true to this day.

    In the cradle of aviation there were scientists and tinkerers but the Wrights demonstrated without a doubt the value of sound research and testing and spawned an industry that in comparison to other ventures has grown at a much faster rate in both capacity and technology.