The Wright Brothers
Student News Net staff
On December 17, 1903 the Wright
Flyer, made by Orville and Wilbur, took to the skies in the first successful manned flight
in a plane powered by an engine. The 100th anniversary of that flight is being celebrated
throughout 2003. In December many events will take place, including the opening of a new
addition to the National Air and Space Museum in Washington.
ORVILLE AND WILBUR WRIGHT made history by
inventing the "flying machine" or as we know it today, the "airplane."
Can you imagine doing everything with your brother even working with him your entire
life?! Well, Orville and Wilbur were as close as any two brothers could be. They worked
together, lived together and had the same ideas about many things. In fact, neither one
got married or ever started smoking tobacco or drinking alcohol.
Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867 in
Indiana and Orville was born on Aug. 19, 1871 in Dayton, Ohio.
They had two older brothers, Reuchlin and Lorin,
and one younger sister, Katherine. Their father, Milton Wright, was a minister of the
United Brethren Church and their mother, Susan Wright, took care of the home and enjoyed
working with her hands. In fact, the Wright Brothers think they got their interest and
ability in mechanical things from their mother who built them a snow sled and would fix
their toys. Their father was not very good with tools and couldn't fix anything!
Sadly, Susan Wright died of tuberculosis (a lung
infection) in 1889 when Orville was only 16. From that time on until their deaths, Wilbur,
Orville, Milton and Katherine Wright lived together in the family home. Reuchlin and Lorin
married and had children.
1. March 1, 1889: Wilbur and Orville publish
the "West Side News", a neighborhood weekly newspaper.
2. 1892: Wright Cycle Company was founded to
sell, rent, repair, and build bicycles.
3. 1899: Wright Brothers became interested in
flight as reports of Otto Lilienthal's gliders (no engine) from Germany became known. They
wrote to the Smithsonian Institution and asked for information about flight experiments.
4.1900: The unmanned (nobody on the glider)
Wright glider flew around Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
5.1901: Wright Brothers launched a larger glider
but it crashed and Wilbur suffered a bruised nose, cuts on his face, and a black eye.
After the accident, the glider was flown unmanned.
6.1902: Wright Brothers designed a new, much
larger glider with a tail to make turning easier. After crashing the glider a few times,
they figured out that they had to make the tail moveable. Orville thought of this solution
one night when he couldn't go to sleep and Wilbur agreed with him that it was a great
idea. Now they were ready to build a flying machine with a motor on it!
7.10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 1903: Wright Brothers
accomplished the first successful airplane flight with Orville at the controls and Wilbur
running alongside the plane. The plane flew 120 feet in 12 seconds.
8.1904: Eighty short flights flown by the Wright
Brothers in their Flyer.
9.1905: The new Flyer III was built and was the
world's first practical airplane because it could take off and land numerous times.
10. 1906-1908: The Wright Brothers did not fly
again or show their machine to anyone while they filed for United States Patents so that
nobody could copy their invention.
11. May 14, 1908: Wilbur and Orville went back to
North Carolina and flew a new, two passenger plane. After the successful flight, Orville
returned to Dayton and Wilbur went to France to demonstrate their flying machine.
12. Sept. 17, 1908: Orville was flying with Lt.
Thomas Selfridge when the plane went into a nosedive and crashed. Selfridge was killed and
Orville had a fractured thigh, several broken ribs, severe scalp wounds, and back
injuries.Orville recovered from the crash and flew again.
13. Oct. 4, 1909: Wilbur flew up the Hudson River
beyond Grant's Tomb for a total of 20 miles. Almost 1 million people in New York watched
14.1909: Wilbur and Orville established the
Wright Flyers factory in Dayton to make airplanes.
15. May 30, 1912: Wilbur dies of typhoid fever
(bacterial infection spread by bad food or water) at the age of 45.
16. Jan. 30, 1948: Orville dies of a heart attack
at age 76 in Dayton.
17. July 1969: Apollo II lands on the moon with
two men, one of whom (Neil Armstrong) was carrying a piece of fabric from a wing on the
original Wright Flyer flown in 1903.
For more information on the Centennial
celebration, visit www.centennialofflight.org