Wright Brothers Day | Almanac.com

Wright Brothers Day

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Near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright made the first recorded flight in history of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft. Orville piloted the biplane, which flew for 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio, while his business partner and older brother, Wilbur Wright, was born on a farm near Millville, Indiana. As young men, they opened up a bicycle sales and repair shop in 1892, and started building their own bicycles. With their mechanical ingenuity, they soon moved on to building airplanes. Their first design was a glider that they tested unsuccessfully in 1900, and then tested again with a new design in 1901.

The Wrights chose to test at Kitty Hawk, a small village on North Carolina’s Outer Banks, due to its many sand dunes—ideal for providing soft landings. Building on success, they built a wind tunnel, where they tested nearly 200 wing and airframe designs!

In 1902, they flew hundreds of successful flights in their 1902 glider. Their biplane glider featured a steering system, based on a movable rudder, that solved the problem of controlled flight. But they still needed to conquer powered, self-propelled flight. In 1903, they tested an aircraft with a 12-horsepower internal combustion engine. On December 14, 1903, Orville made the first attempt at powered flight, but the engine stalled during take-off and they crashed the plane. On December 17, 1903, Orville got the plane aloft for 12 seconds, flying 120 feet. Wilbur successfully flew the plane that day, too, covering 852 feet in 59 seconds. The modern aviation age was born.