One hundred and twelve years ago, on December 17, 1903, from windy Kill Devil Hill near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, one man, from Dayton, Ohio, with his brother running beside him, piloted a delicate machine into the air for a flight lasting 120 feet.
And aviation was born.
December 17 is Wright Brothers Day, designated by Congressional resolution and Presidential proclamation. Every year, the United States honors the Wrights for their invention, for their inspirational vision and methods, and for their achievement—on that day.
The photograph of that first flight is famous. Orville at the controls, laying down on the lower wing of the first Wright Flyer. His older brother Wilbur, is running along on the starboard side of the plane.
It was a tenuous start; the Wrights only flew four times that December 17. It started with Orville’s first 12 second flight, and ended with Wilbur’s final flight that traveled 825 feet, and lasted about a minute.
Their invention, the 1903 Wright Flyer, the first successful heavier-than-air craft, never flew again. After that fourth flight, while the brothers discussed the success of their experiments, a fierce gust of wind picked up the plane, and sent it tumbling end-over-end. The gear-chain-drive system and control support structures were damaged.
The brothers packed up their plane, returned to Dayton, and set themselves towards the development of more advanced and more successful aeroplanes.
On average, over eight million people around the world fly every day, never thinking of the dangers the brothers faced and overcame, and the engineering and experimentation that made flight sustainable and successful.
“And on December 17, 1903, two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, would write their own chapter in America’s long history of discovery and achievement.”