Ten feet in altitude, 120 feet traveled, 12 seconds long. That was the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine achieved by Orville and Wilbur Wright of Dayton, Ohio, at Kittyhawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903.
Few witnesses observed the flight. Though the brothers Wright fully understood the potential of the machine they had created, even they waited before revealing to their supporters, and then the world, what they had accomplished.
Critics complain others achieved flight in a heavier-than-air machine before the Wrights. There are stories of flights in Texas, Connecticut, and France. If anyone achieved flight before the Wrights, the Wrights did a much better job of recording their achievement, and promoting it afterward. In the end, the Wrights left a legacy of flight research conducted in classic science, with careful records, a lot of experiments and observations, and publication of results.
We honor the Wrights.
On the morning of December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took turns piloting and monitoring their flying machine in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina. Orville piloted the first flight that lasted just twelve seconds. On the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur traveled 852 feet, remaining airborne for 57 seconds. That morning the brothers became the first people to demonstrate sustained flight of a heavier-than-air machine under the complete control of the pilot.
No lost luggage, no coffee, no tea, no meal in a basket, either. No ATC (Air Traffic Control) delays. Neither brother endured a TSA screening.
Resources on the Wright Brothers’ first flight:
- Today in History, December 17, Library of Congress (good images)
- American Treasures of the Library of Congress
- Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum Online Exhibition: Invention of the Aerial Age
- Scientists and Thinkers, the Time 100: The Wright Brothers
- The Wright Brothers National Memorial (U.S. Park Service)
- NOVA on PBS: “The Wright Brothers’ Flying Machine”
- On This Day In 1903, First Airplane Flies (rememberinghistory.wordpress.com)
- Looking Back at Kitty Hawk (blogsouthwest.com)
- Remembering the Wright Brothers To see more photos of the… (instagram.com)
- NASA supports Wright Brothers monument near Dayton (cantonrep.com)
- North Carolina: Those magnificent men and their flying machines (standard.co.uk)
(I almost always forget the big dates until the end of the day. This is mostly an encore post.)