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Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Wright Brothers Learn to Fly

On the morning of December 17, 1903, on the windy dunes at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina. Orville Wright made the first manned and powered flight.

Orville and his brother Wilbur operated a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They had been dreaming about flying since the 1890s. They were not trained scientists or engineers, but they made a scientific study of the problems of flight. They built and tested gliders to understand the principles of flying. They created a wind tunnel in the bicycle shop to test wing designs, and they studied propeller designs, and control mechanisms. Their machinist built a 12-horsepower gasoline engine for them. By 1903, the brothers had built a twin-winged airplane, the Flyer, and they felt confident it would fly.

At Kitty Hawk, they constructed a wooden track down a hill to provide a smooth surface for takeoff. With Orville at the controls, Wilbur guilded the plane down the track, and it bounded into the air. After covering 40 yards in 12 seconds, it landed gently in the sand. Before the day was out, the brothers had made three more flights, one of which lasted almost a minute. Man, at last, had learned to fly.

The Wright Flyer had twin pusher propellers drive by two bicycle chains from the brother’s shop.

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