From Bicycle Makers to Airplane Engineers

Orville and Wilbur Wright were brothers famous for the first heavier than air, self propelled aircraft flight.  They never went to college and started out as owners of a bicycle repair shop in Ohio.  They built bicycles, ran the shop, and dreamed of building aircrafts.  This dream led to exhaustive research on aircraft developments.  Based on German engineers’ designs, they looked for a perfect site to test out their new ideas.  On the recommendation from the U.S. Weather Bureau, they chose Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. as the perfect site to test their ideas out.  They even built their own wind tunnel to test wings and airframes.  By early 1903 Orville and Wilbur perfected their designs.  They just needed an engine.  Their single combustible engine was built by machinist Charles Taylor.  With all of the different components ready, they transported them separately to Kitty Hawk, before assembling.  The first test was on December 14th, 1903.  The airplane did not pass the take-off phase as the engine stalled.  The brothers worked exhaustively on the repairs before it was finally ready for a second test 110 years ago today, December 17th, 1903.  This time the airplane lifted off the ground, flew 120 feet in 12 seconds, before landing safely.  They were able to fly it three more times that day, with Wilbur flying the last test at 852 feet in 59 seconds.  The brothers went on to form the Wright Company in 1909.  Their first plane is on display at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.


For more information on the Wright Brothers, take a look at the Rebecca Crown Library’s collection. 

References: First airplane flies. (2013). The History Channel website. Retrieved 11:21, December 17, 2013, from

Image from Wikimedia commons, and is in the public domain.  Retrieved from:


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