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1903 - Wright flight

Wright Brother's Flight - the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered aircraft

On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Three more flights were made that day with Orville’s brother Wilbur piloting the record flight lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet.

The flyer was an unruly machine, pitching up and down as the brothers fought with the controls. But they managed to kept it aloft and prove their theory that humans would have to fly their machines, and the problems of flight could not be solved from the ground. 

In Wilbur’s words, “It is possible to fly without motors, but not without knowledge and skill.” With over a thousand unpowered glides from atop Big Kill Devil Hill, the Wrights made themselves the first true pilots. These flying skills were a crucial component of their invention. Before they ever attempted powered flight, the Wright brothers were masters of the air.


With an engine attached, the flyer transcending the powered hops and glides others had achieved. But although the Wright machine had got airborne it would not fly again; after the last flight it was caught by a gust of wind, rolled over, and damaged beyond easy repair. With their flying season over, the Wrights sent their father a matter-of-fact telegram reporting the modest numbers behind their epochal achievement.


Further Reading


Rare Historical Photos - First Flight with the Wright Brothers (1902-1909)

Eyewitness to History - The Wright Brothers' First Flight

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