The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, were two American aviators, engineers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who are generally credited with inventing, building, and flying the world’s first successful airplane. They made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier than air aircraft on December 17, 1903, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Take a look below for 30 more inspiring and interesting facts about the Wright Brothers.
1. In 1904, the Wright brothers developed their flying machine into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft.
2. Although they weren’t the first to build an experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.
3. The brothers’ fundamental breakthrough was their invention of three-axis control, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium. This method became and remains standard on all fixed-wing aircraft.
4. From the beginning of their aeronautical work, the Wright brothers focused on developing a reliable method of pilot control as the key to solving “the flying problem.”
5. Using a small homebuilt wind tunnel, the Wright brothers collected more accurate data than anyone before, enabling them to design and build wings and propellers that were more efficient than any before.
6. Their first U.S. patent, 821,393, didn’t claim invention of a flying machine, but rather, the invention of a system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine’s surfaces.
7. They gained the mechanical skills essential for their success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors and other machinery.
8. From 1900 until their first powered flights in late 1903, they conducted extensive glider tests that also developed their skills as pilots.
9. The Wright brothers believed that their fascination with flight began when their father brought home a toy helicopter when they were children.
10. Milton Wright, the brothers’ father, was an itinerant minister.
11. Neither of the Wright brothers had any sort of formal engineering training.
12. Orville won a coin toss with Wilbur, which is why he was the first brother to fly.
13. Their father made them promise to never fly together. He didn’t want to lose both sons in an accident. They only flew together once, on May 25, 1910, after their father made an exception. After successfully landing that flight, Orville took his father up. It was their father’s first and only flight.
14. Their Wright Flyer had a wingspan of 40.3 feet. The engine weighed 82 kilograms. The total weight of the flyer was 605 pounds.
15. Orville was in an airplane accident in 1908, which resulted in the death of Thomas Selfridge, an Army Signal Corps Lieutenant. Orville survived but was badly hurt and suffered a back injury that plagued him for the rest of his life.
16. After many years of refusing to donate the Wright Flyer to the Smithsonian, Orville finally agreed and almost 10 years after he died, it arrived at the Smithsonian.
17. Part of the Wright Flyer has been to the Moon. Neil Armstrong, the first man on the Moon in 1969, took a piece with him on his historic flight.
18. The Wright brothers are responsible for laying down aircraft’s fundamental principles of design that are still relevant today.
19. The Wright Company made a fortune manufacturing airplanes.
20. The brothers studied birds to help them design their first airplane.
21. Orville sold the Wright Company and retired only three years after his brother died from typhoid fever in 1912.
22. Wilbur was the eldest and the dominant brother. He was the intellectual and was serious, quiet, controlled and deliberate.
23. Orville had a more extrovert personality, he had drive, was confident, loved challenges, and experimenting with new ideas and innovations. He was curious, energetic and optimistic.
24. They started their careers in printing, but in the 1890s the bicycling craze hit America and they opened a shop repairing bicycles and became excellent mechanics. The Wright Cycle Company was a financial success but neither brother was particularly interested in money as they saw it as a means to an end.
25. Their interest in bicycles moved on to aviation in the 1890s when they saw German engineer Otto Lilienthal’s glider.
26. The Wright brothers used their money and their bicycle premises to start building gliders. Wilbur realized that gliders lacked suitable controls, which is when they started experimenting.
27. In 1899, Wilbur invented a simple system called “wing-warping” that twisted or warped the wings of a glider, causing it to roll left or right.
28. In 1900, they built a wing-warping glider, but it was unable to produce enough lift to support a man in moderate winds.
29. In 1920, President Woodrow Wilson appointed Orville to the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics.
30. In 1944, the aviator Howard Hughes landed in Dayton, Ohio and gave Orville his last airplane ride.