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Main Site : The Legacy : Wright Brothers' Story

Wilbur Wright was born in Millville, Indiana on April 16, 1867 to Milton and Susan Wright. Orville was born August 19, 1871, on Hawthorn Street in Dayton, Ohio. Their first interest in flying was sparked by a toy helicopter their father brought home as a gift from one of his travels. Orville wrote, commenting on his childhood, "We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interests; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity."

The two brothers started a printing business when Wilbur was 22. It was the first time they referred to themselves as the "Wright brothers". They did odd printing jobs while printing their own newspaper. They then opened a bicycle shop that funded their aeroplane construction. They would conduct experiments in their shop after spending long hours reading everything written on aeronautics.

A favorite pastime for the brothers was kite flying; here they tested their knowledge of aeronautics. Wilbur discovered that the key to flying were the wings, which provided lift, a power source for propulsion, and a system of control. And the three ways to control a flying machine were pitch, roll and yaw.

They began to construct a 'heavier-than-air' craft. They found an isolate beach on the Outer Banks of North Carolina called Kitty Hawk. There the brothers camped while building an experimental glider. At the end of their stay at Kitty Hawk, Wilbur concluded:

"Although the hours and hours of practice we had hoped to obtain finally dwindled down to about two minutes, we were very much pleased with the general results of the trip, for setting out as we did, with almost revolutionary theories on many points, and an entirely untried form of machine, we considered it quite a point to be able to return without having our pet theories knocked in the head by the hard logic of experience, and our own brains dashed out in the bargain."

On December 14, 1903, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, when both the Wright flyer and the wind were ready, the brothers decided that Wilbur would take the first turn as pilot after a brief coin toss. They and 5 lifeguards from the beach lugged the plane, weighing six hundred pounds, 1/4 mile to a big hill. They laid out the 60-foot monorail. The flyer accelerated so rapidly, Orville couldn't keep up to steady the wing. Wilbur turned the sensitive rudder up sharply; the flying machine nosed up and came down into the sand hillside breaking several parts. The crash did not discourage the brothers but instead excited them that flight was actually possible.

The brothers decided to try again three days later after repairs had been made on the flyer. They realized it would be better to lay the track on flat ground. Orville took his place as pilot. They started it up and headed down the monorail until it lifted into the air. The flight was only120 feet in 12 seconds, but it was the first controlled, sustained flight in a heavier-than-air craft. The greatest 12 seconds of the century.


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