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Aviation Appreciation Friday! The Wright Brothers 🛩️

Let's Celebrate the Inventors of the World’s First Successful Aircraft...


Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana, and Orville Wright on August 19, 1871, in Dayton, Ohio. They were two of seven Wright siblings, with their father, Milton, being a bishop and their mother, Susan, having a knack for mechanics and math. This nurturing environment influenced their intellectual curiosity.


From an early age, Wilbur and Orville were fascinated by mechanics and science. Their interest in flight took off when their father brought home a small toy helicopter made of cork, bamboo, and paper, powered by a rubber band. This toy, inspired by French aviation pioneer Alphonse Pénaud, sparked their lifelong passion for aviation.


Early Entrepreneurial Pursuits


The Printing Business


Orville left high school after his junior year to start a printing business in 1889. Wilbur soon joined him, and together they launched the weekly newspaper, West Side News. Orville was the publisher, and Wilbur was the editor. They expanded their business to include commercial printing jobs for local businesses. This experience taught them valuable skills in managing a business and working with machinery.


The Bicycle Shop


In December 1892, the brothers opened the Wright Cycle Exchange (later renamed the Wright Cycle Company) to capitalize on the bicycle craze. They sold and repaired bicycles, quickly earning a reputation for their mechanical skills. By 1896, they began manufacturing their own bicycles, including popular models like the Van Cleve and St. Clair. This venture honed their engineering skills and provided the funds for their aviation experiments.

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Inspiration from Other Aviation Pioneers


Otto Lilienthal


German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal was a major influence on the Wright brothers. Known as the "Glider King," he systematically studied bird flight and built several successful gliders. His work on lift and drag greatly informed the Wright brothers’ experiments. Lilienthal died in 1896 from a glider crash, but his legacy lived on in their work.


Samuel Langley


Samuel Pierpont Langley, an American physicist and aviation pioneer, experimented with powered flying machines called "Aerodromes." Although his manned Aerodromes failed in 1903, his earlier unmanned flights demonstrated the potential of powered flight. The Wright brothers learned from Langley's experiments and were inspired to continue their own work.


Octave Chanute


Octave Chanute, a French-American civil engineer, was a mentor to the Wright brothers. He compiled extensive data on aviation in his book "Progress in Flying Machines" and provided guidance to the brothers. Chanute's advice on aerodynamics and materials was invaluable to their success.


Timeline to the First Successful Flight


1899: The Wright brothers began studying flight seriously, inspired by previous aviation pioneers. They tested wing warping with a biplane kite, controlling it through four lines.


1900: Their first glider tests at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, provided essential data on lift and control.


1901: Seeking to improve lift, they built a larger glider but faced issues with stalling and adverse yaw. They constructed a wind tunnel to test different wing shapes, which led to significant design improvements.


1902: They perfected their glider with a moveable rudder linked to the wing-warping mechanism, achieving reliable control in three axes (pitch, roll, and yaw). Nearly a thousand successful flights confirmed their concepts.


1903: The Wright brothers built a custom engine for their aircraft. On December 17, 1903, they successfully flew the Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk. Orville piloted the first flight, lasting 12 seconds and covering 120 feet. Wilbur's longest flight that day lasted 59 seconds and covered 852 feet.

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Further Developments and Demonstrations


In 1904, they built the Wright Flyer II and conducted test flights near Dayton, Ohio. They achieved their first complete circular flight on September 20, 1904. The Wright Flyer III, introduced in 1905, could fly longer and more stable. On October 5, 1905, Wilbur flew 24.5 miles in 38 minutes, showcasing the practical potential of their aircraft.

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Formation of the Wright Company


In 1909, the Wright brothers established the Wright Company to manufacture and sell aircraft. Their public demonstrations, including flights in New York City, earned them national acclaim.


Later Years and Legacy


Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever on May 30, 1912, at age 45. Orville continued to be involved in aviation, selling the Wright Company in 1915. He served on various aviation boards until his death on January 30, 1948.




Wilbur and Orville Wright’s story is one of curiosity, innovation, and determination. From their early fascination with a toy helicopter to their meticulous experiments and eventual success in powered flight, the Wright brothers revolutionized aviation. Their entrepreneurial spirit and scientific approach set new standards in engineering, making human flight a reality and forever changing history.




 NASA - The Wright Brothers


Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company and Museum of Pioneer Aviation


Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum - The Wright Brothers


Wikipedia - The Wright Brothers

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