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The Wright Brothers Take to the Skies in the First Powered Flight

#9 Science in History

17th December 1903

On this day in 1903, the Wright brothers make their first successful flight in a powered aircraft at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Their glider was the first heavier-than-air craft to achieve sustained and, importantly, controlled flight with a pilot aboard. Orville and Wilbur Wright had been experimenting with gliders since 1900, but it wasn't until December 17th that they achieved their goal of powered flight.

In total, they made four brief flights that morning, the longest lasting 59 seconds and covering 852 feet (260 metres).

Their aircraft was a biplane glider called ‘The Wright Flyer’. Constructed out of spruce wood, muslin fabric, and bicycle parts and powered by a 12-horsepower gasoline engine, it flew for 12 seconds, covering 120 feet.

This event marked the beginning of the age of aviation.


Suggested Reading

"To Conquer the Air: The Wright Brothers and the Great Race for Flight " by James Tobin: an inspiring and captivating account of the Wright Brothers' journey to flight.

"The Wright Brothers: The Dramatic Story Behind the Legend" by David McCullough: Through extensive research, McCullough paints a vivid picture of these men’s upbringing in Dayton Ohio as well as their tireless efforts to make aviation possible.

On the Web

"The Story of the Wright Brothers" - CBS Sunday Morning (YouTube)

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