U.S. #649 – The brothers flipped a coin to decide who would fly the plane first.

Wright Brothers’ Famed First Flight

On December 17, 1903, brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first successful heavier-than-air flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Sons of a minister in the United Brethren Church, Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and Orville Wright (1871-1948) grew up to become aviation pioneers. The brothers had always been interested in science and technology, but when their father gave them a flying toy in 1878, they set their sights on developing a heavier-than-air flying machine capable of carrying a man.

U.S. #3783 – On the first day it was flown, the 1903 Wright Flyer was caught in a gust of wind and damaged too badly to fly again.

Beginning in 1899, the Wright brothers initially experimented with gliders. Within four years, they had built their first airplane. With a wingspan of 40 feet and a 152-pound, 12-horsepower engine, this plane was unlike anything seen before.

The first historic powered airplane flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. Orville flew for 12 seconds and traveled 120 feet. Later that day, Wilbur flew for 59 seconds and covered 852 feet. The Wright brothers continued to improve their design.

U.S. #C45 – The brothers only flew together one time. Their father had asked them not to because he feared losing them both in an accident.

Despite the Wright brothers’ successful demonstration of powered flight, their innovation remained largely unknown for five years. During this time, Orville and Wilbur improved their machines and flying techniques. In 1904 they made a total of 104 flights, but spent only about 45 minutes in the air. However, on October 5, 1905, their machine flew 24.2 miles, remaining airborne for 38 minutes and 3 seconds. The flight was only cut short by the airplane running out of fuel. In 1906, they received a patent for the first airplane.

U.S. #C91-92 – Neil Armstrong took a piece of the Wright Flyer to the moon in 1969.

When the Wrights approached the U.S. military about their invention, they were met with skepticism. The brothers were relatively unheard of, and the military had just spent 50,000 dollars attempting to create a flying machine, only to fail. It was not until 1908 that the brothers received a contract from the military. The Wrights then performed a series of tests and demonstrations at Kitty Hawk, which received heavy coverage from newspapers. After those trials, Wilbur went to France and made many successful demonstrations of their invention. Soon, the entire world knew about their wondrous airplane.

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  1. “Neil Armstrong took a piece of the Wright Flyer to the moon.” Wow, I didn’t know that. I wonder why that wasn’t mentioned previously in all the stories and rumors about this and all the other trips to the moon. Thanks for starting another one of my days with illumination and education!

    1. This is the first I heard about a piece of the Wright Brothers’ Flier going to the Moon. Was it left there?, or was it taken along as a possible symbol of technological advances; from first flight to man on the Moon in just 66 years. WOW!!!

    2. I believe that the pieces of the Wright Flyer that were taken to the moon are on display at the Air Force Museum in Dayton, Ohio

  2. The significance of the 1903 Kitty Hawk flight was it proved the power of “lift” for a straight flight. What the Wrights did over the next two years in Dayton was to learn how to TURN. In 1908 they finally received contracts to demonstrate flight from both French and U.S. military, So Wilbur went to Paris and Wilbur went to Fort Meyer, outside Washington, DC, and each simultaneously demonstrated their ability to turn in flight, i.e., controlled flight. This was what they had patented: controlled flight. In 1910, Orville (I think) flew their contracted Military Flyer into College Park Airport, Maryland (a still functioning airport) and started teaching Army Signal Corps “pilots” how to fly.

  3. The Kitty Hawk flight proved the power of LIFT. Over the next two years the learned how to TURN. By 1908, with contracts from French and U.S. military, Wilbur went to Paris and Orville went to Fort Myer, outside Washington DC, and each demonstrated their ability to turn, i.e., controlled flight. This is what they had patented. The rest is history.

  4. Good story. I am 80 now, and used to have a copy of the Wright Bros first contract with the U.S. military. The whole thing, incentives and all covered maybe 2 pages. Try that now, a 2 page contract ?, when the usual is a couple of feet tall. How our bureaucracy is taking care of us taxpayers.

  5. Great! As is every day’s history lesson. Especially interesting is the sidebars with the details of “lift” and “controlled flight” from the readers. Keep. ’em coming.

  6. This historic flight was watched by only five persons and was reported in only two newspapers ! Orville Wright piloted this historic flight while Wilbur Wright ran alongside to steady the wing at take off . Three more flights took place on same day and Wilbur`s flight was longest covering 852 feet in 59 seconds . Compared to the then Wright model, today`s Boeing 747 travels at 567 miles per hour, at a height of 35,000 feet, its wing span is 211 feet and overall length of 232 feet . Aviation is a French word meaning `to operate an aircraft`. It originated from Latin word AVIS which means `bird` . I would like to add that Government of India, Department of Posts issued two separate Postage Stamps (Rupee One ) on December 23, 1978 honoring Wright Orville and Wright Wilbur. Thank you MYSTIC for the article on Wright Brothers whose invention changed the whole world.

  7. I have a few questions about the first here they are. First did they have to go through TSA security? Did the flight take off on time or just rolled back from the gate so the airline could say it took of on time and was sitting on the runway because there was a problem with the computers with the FAA that made them late taking off? If so did the make up the time in the air and arrived on time? The last one and the most important is did the airline lose there luggage?

  8. Did they get approval for the FAA to fly a new aircraft? Did they have to go through TSP and was their luggage ready at the luggage pick-up? All joking a side it is a little known fact that the event was first reported by The Virginia Pilot newspaper in Norfolk base on a telegram from a member of the US. Lighthouse Service (US. Coast Guard).

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