December 17, 1903
Wilbur and Orville Wright's
"For some years, I have been afflicted with the
belief that flight is possible to man. My disease
has increased in severity and I feel that it will
soon cost me an increased amount of money if not
my life." Three years after Wilbur Wright wrote
those words, he and his brother Orville put their
belief in flight to the test in Kill Devil Hills,
Did their attempt to fly an airplane they had
built in sections in the back room of their
Dayton, Ohio bicycle shop cost Wilbur his life?
Orville piloted the first flight, which lasted
just 12 seconds. On the fourth and final flight of
the day, Wilbur flew for 59 seconds. Both
brothers survived that morning, December 17, 1903.
That day they became the first people to
demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air
machine under the complete control of the pilot.
What did the brothers do after their exciting
Orville and Wilbur Wright walked four miles to
Kitty Hawk and sent a telegram to their father:
"Success four flights Thursday morning all against
twenty one mile wind started from level with
engine power alone average speed through air
thirty one miles longest 57 seconds inform Press
The world was about to change forever.
The announcement of the Wright brothers'
successful flight ignited the world's passion for
flying. Engineers designed their own flying
machines, people of all ages wanted to see the
flights, and others wanted to sit behind the
controls and fly. The brothers continued to
make longer and faster flights.
The U.S. Army, seeing potential in the new
technology, signed a contract with the Wright
brothers in 1908 for the purchase of a machine
that could travel with a passenger at a speed of
40 miles per hour. Today's commercial jet
airplanes routinely travel at 600 miles per hour.