The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two Americans brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who are credited with inventing the world's first successful airplane and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight on December 17, 1903.
The Wrights supportive homelife provided Wilbur and Orville with a strong belief in themselves. This self-confidence enabled them to reject the theories of well-known and more experienced aeronautical experimenter when the brothers felt their own ideas were correct. Often it was the emotional anchor provided by their strong family ties that helped Wilbur and Orville persevere when they encountered difficulties in their research.
The Wright brothers proceeded to fly double-winged kites and gliders in order to gain experience and to test the data they had. After consulting the U.S. Weather Bureau, they chose an area of sand dunes near the small town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, as the site of their experiments. In September 1900 they set up camp there.
The Wrights's first device failed to fly as a kite because it was unable to develop sufficient lift (upward force). Instead, they flew it as a free glider. They kept careful records of their failures as well as of their successes.
In 1902 they came to the beach with their glider and made more than 700 successful flights.
Having perfected glided flight, the next step was to move to powered flight. No automobile manufacturer could supply an engine both light enough and powerful enough for their needs. So they designed and built their own.
For example, the Wright brothers built a wind tunnel to compare wing shape ideas By attaching an old shop fan to a 6-foot-long wooden box, they could blow "wind" on hundreds of different miniature wings and measure with a scale exactly how much lift each wing produced.
A glider is like a plane except that it has no motor and depends on the wind to propel it. Based on their results, they added a movable tail, dual propellers, wing-warping wires (for steering), and a gasoline-powered motor to their design.
Finally on December 17th, 1903, Orville and Wilbur assembled their most ambitious plane, nicknamed the "Flyer I," on the sand on Kitty Hawk.
But their greatest value lies in dispelling all doubt as to the ability of the Wright machine to fly and to make good its designers' claims. All those who witnessed the flight agree that the performance of the machine was marvelous, and that the speed attained with the small motor of 30 horse-power was remarkable.
The first aeroplane purchased by the American Government was a Wright Biplane, "Miss Columbia", sold by the Wright Brothers on July 30, 1909. The price was $25,000, but a bonus of $5,000 was awarded because the specified maximum speed of 40mph was exceeded. The aircraft was constructed in Dayton, Ohio.
The first aeroplane armed with a machine gun was a Wright Biplane flown by Lt. Thomas de Witte at College Park, Maryland on May 7, 1912.
Despite the financial burdens of all their research, testing and many aircraft built, the Wright Brothers were never financed by outsiders. The bicycle was a hot item at that time, and their bicycle shop financed everything. Their father gave them one thousand dollars each in the beginning, but they invested it wisely, and had they ever needed funding, it was there, but it was never touched.
“Oh, that would be all right,” put in Orville eagerly. “We’d just coast down.”
Whoop! I almost grabbed my hat. COAST down – on NOTHING.
“Why, that’s the way we always come down when we want to land,” added Orville.
And I decided then a there that the old rocking chair was sport enough for me.
In 1889, with Wilbur's help, Orville designed and built a printing press, and the brothers began publishing a weekly and then a daily paper. In 1892 they opened a bicycle shop, and in 1896 started manufacturing their own brand. Orville invented a self-oiling wheel hub.
In 1878, when Orville and Wilbur were ages 7 and 11, their father brought them a toy "helicopter." It was based on an invention by French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Penaud. Made of cork, bamboo, and paper, with a rubber band to twirl its twin blades, it was a little bigger than an adult's hand. They later said this sparked their interest in flight.
Wilbur was born on April 16, 1867, in Millville, Indiana. Orville was born on August 19, 1871, in Dayton, Ohio. Until the death of Wilbur in 1912, the two were inseparable. Their personalities were perfectly complementary (each provided what the other lacked). Orville was full of ideas and enthusiasms. Wilbur was more steady in his habits, more mature in his judgments, and more likely to see a project through.
Their "Wright Flyer" was a fabric-covered biplane with a wooden frame. The power to the two propellers was supplied by a 12-horsepower water-cooled engine.
On December 17, 1903, the "Flyer" flew for 12 seconds and for a distance of 120 feet (37 m). The flight took place at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, USA.
Wilbur astonished the world with his first public flights from the racecourse at Hunaudieres, France, in the high summer of 1908, while Orville demonstrated the airplane at the Army trials at Ft. Myer, Virginia in 1908 and 1909. Wilbur taught the first three U.S. Army airmen to fly in 1909 at College Park, Maryland.