Hands on History: The Brothers Who Taught us to Fly
By Shani Asokan Ceylon Today Features
We live in a world where air travel isn’t as stressful as it once was. Today, you can take a flight to just about anywhere in the world, be it just over the border of your country or two oceans away.
While this mode of travel is largely uncomplicated, the aeroplanes we know and board today, weren’t developed overnight. In fact, the world’s first successful piloted engine-powered airplane dates back to 1903.
That was well over 125 years ago! Since then, the airplane has been through many developments, improvements and remodels, but none of it would be possible without its humble beginnings – which we will learn about today.
The first successful flight of 1903 took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where Wilbur Wright stood on the beach, watching his brother Orville, soaring overhead in their latest innovation. The Wright brothers were aviation pioneers and are remembered today as great innovators and engineers.
The Wright brothers became interested in flying from a young age. Growing up in Dayton, Ohio, their favourite toy was a small, helicopterlike toy that could be launched into the air with a rub-band mechanism.
The young boys were fascinated with the way the toy worked, and it inspired them to learn about its mechanics. So much so that they dreamed of building a flying machine that was large enough to hold both of them one day.
The brothers went into business together as young men, first operating a printing press and then a bicycle repair shop. Some time later, they began selling their own custom made bicycles. However, the brothers never lost their love of flying. At the time, some kinds of airplanes did exist, but these were mostly gliders or aircrafts that did not have engines.
The Wright brothers dreamed of an aircraft with more power, one that could be controlled better by the pilot. So in 1899, the brother began working on their dream and experimenting with building their own aircrafts.
The first flight
In 1900, the brothers travelled from Ohio to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to begin testing their aircrafts. The ocean-side sand banks at Kitty Hawk were optimal for this, with regular breezes, and soft, sandy landing surfaces. The brothers began their testing with kites, before moving on to gliders (the planes without engines). Both Orville and Wilbur separately piloted the gliders during the tests. In 1903, the brothers built their first aircraft with a gasoline engine and wooden propellers.
They called it the Wright Flyer I. They didn’t have much success with this model at first and had weeks of unsuccessful attempts at getting the craft off the ground. However, modifications were made, and finally, on 17 December 1903, the plane took flight for 12 seconds, travelling 120 feet before landing. Success! They had flown the world’s first piloted, engine-powered airplane.
From strength to strength
Following their success in Kitty Hawk, Wilbur and Orville travelled around the world, perfecting their aircraft and modifying their designs to attempt longer flights and more successful crafts.
With their 12 second flight, the brothers became pioneers of a new era in aviation. In the decades that followed, the aviation industry saw rapid development. Soon, the first solo flight across the Atlantic Ocean was recorded, and even the first ever passenger flight.
And of course, eventually some people even flew a little higher; 65 years after the Wright brothers’ famous flight, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin embarked on their successful flight to the moon.
Thus, the Wright brother did not just successfully on the first enginepowered airplane, they opened up a whole new avenue for flying and aviation and inspired other likeminded individuals to create and explore new ways for us to explore the world.