It all started in a bike shop in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, two brothers had a dream, a dream to fly. And those two brothers that had that dream were Wilbur and Orville Wright, otherwise known as the Wright Brothers.The Wright Brothers made the world's first successful, sustained, and controlled flight of a motor-driven, heavier-than-air aircraft. Their first flight was witnessed by only four men and a boy. The Wright Brothers were born to Milton Wright and Susan Catharine Wright. Wilbur was born on a small farm near Millville, Indiana April 16, 1867, while Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio on August 19, 1871. Milton Wright moved frequently from job to job, so the Wrights shifted houses frequently, though the house in Dayton remained long in the family's possession. The Wright household was a stimulating place for the children. Orville wrote of 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 house had two libraries: Books on theology were kept in Milton's study, while the downstairs library had a large and diverse collection. Although Milton Wright was a firm disciplinarian, both parents were loving and the family was a close one. The family moved from Richmond, Indiana back to Dayton in June of 1884, the month Wilbur was to have graduated from high school. Wilbur left Richmond without receiving his diploma, and returned to Central High School the next year for further studies in Greek and trigonometry.

Probably during the winter of 1885-1886, Wilbur was hit with in the face with a bat while playing an ice-skating game. The injury at first did not seem serious. In the Milton's words, "In his nineteenth year when playing a game on skates at an artificial lake at the Soldier's Home near Dayton, Ohio, a bat accidentally flew out of the hand of a young man... and struck Wilbur, knocking him down, but not injuring him much. A few weeks later, he began to be affected with nervous palpitations of the heart which precluded the realization of the former idea of his parents, of giving him a course in Yale College. Orville.gif (15619 bytes)

For the next four years, Wilbur remained homebound, suffering perhaps as much from depression as from his vaguely-defined heart disorder. During this period, Wilbur cared for his mother Susan, who was dying from tuberculosis.

The Wright Brother's fascination for flight really started when they read about the death of a pioneer glider pilot name Otto Lilienthal in 1896. They began serious reading on the subject in 1899, and soon obtained all the scientific knowledge of aeronautics then available.

By the fall of 1903, they had constructed a powered airplane with wings 40.5 feet (12 meters) long and weighing about 750 pounds (340 kilograms) with the pilot. They designed and built their own lightweight gasoline engine.

On December 17, 1903, near Kitty Hawk, North Carilina, they made the world's first powered heavier-than-air machine. The flight lasted 12 seconds, and flew 120 feet with Orville at te controls. They had made three more flights that day. The longest, by Wilbur, lasted 59 seconds and he flew 852 feet.

They believed that airplanes would eventually be used to transport peaople and mail. When the Wrights first offered their flying machine to the U.S. Government, they were not taken seriously. But by 1908, they had made a contract with the U.S. Department of War for the first military airplanes.

Wilbur died in 1912 of nervous palpitations of the heart, just as the airplane was begining to take off (no pun intended). Orville worked alone on the project, and in 1913, he won the Collier trophy for a device to automatically balance airplanes. In 1915, he sold his interest in the Wright Company, and continued work on the development of aviation in his own shop. In 1929, he received the first Daniel Guggenheim Medal for his and Wilbur's contributions to the advancement of aeronautics. Orville died on January 30, 1948. Orville was elected into the Great Americans Hall of Fame in New York in 1965. The original plane that was flown near Kitty Hawk is now in the National Air and Space Museum in Washington DC.

The same control surfaces and basic principles used on the first airplane are used on today's airplanes. Such as the rudder, which moves the airplane from side to side, this movement is known as yaw. Elevator, which moves the plane up and down, this movement is known as pitch. And the ailerons, which make the airplane roll, this movement is known as roll.

Copyright 1996-8 By John Crean. All Rights Reserved.