Nostalgic Anniversaries: The Wright Brothers

One-hundred-and-ten years ago today the brothers Wilbur and Orvill Wright broke the silence settling over the banks of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina with the sound of a small internal combustion engine making big history in the United States. That day, December 17 1903, marked the first successful manned air flight within our still young nations borders. But the brothers actually conducted the majority of their research in Dayton, Ohio. Primarily working in their bicycle shop, the brothers spent their spare time working toward their dream of creating a flying machine that humans could use as a form of transportation.

The two were just the first of a long line of Ohio natives that have an undying need to up and fly away from their home state. Neil Armstrong as well as 23 other U.S. astronauts hail from Ohio as well, the most of any state in the country.

The Wright brothers frequently made trips to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, as the environment was the perfect catalyst for success: open space, cushioning sand, continuous wind, and not the Midwest.

There were a handful of rescuers on scene from the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station the day, as well as two locals, W.C. Brinkley and a boy named Johnny Moore. An invitation had been extended to the public, though no one else came. Not one. The two brothers, Wilbur and Orville, huddled around their contraption as the cool sea air whipped across their backs in the early morning breeze.

On this particular day in December, there was a unique abundance of wind, which prompted the brothers to wait to test their machine, as they needed perfect conditions. Their plane was an open-framed flying machine, which was a mixed bag of their efforts into one compilation.

Made of wood, wire, metal fittings, and unbleached muslin fabric, the Wright 1903 was their pride and joy, and the model they believed would be the most successful in the air. It was heavier than an air flying machine, it was an aeroplane, and was the answer to their failed attempts to build a plane in the past. This contraption was heavier, and the brothers believed that this machine contained the essential materials for human flight.

Wilbur had first attempted to fly the machine a few days prior to the 17th of December, however, the winds were moving at too high of a rate and he had pitched the plane’s nose too high and the craft had stalled and fallen into the sand. After the necessary repairs had been made, it was Orville’s turn to step into the machine.

He shook his brothers hand before climbing into the lower wing. The exterior battery was switched on, to get the motor started. On Wilbur’s command, the propellers were yanked, and the Flyer started up with a clank. Orville moved the lever that released a restraining cable, and Wilbur began running alongside the craft to steady its wings. The craft flew a full 120 feet (37 meters), twelve seconds, before landing safely on the ground again.

History had been made.

Megan Kennedy

Megan Kennedy

A University of Dayton alumni, reporter, nature enthusiast, animal whisperer, avid hiker, mystery novel lover, and whiskey connoisseur.
Megan Kennedy
Megan Kennedy

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