First flight, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903. Digital History ID 4039|
Media type: photograph
Annotation: Copy print of the photograph recording the first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air human flight.
The Wright's 1903 machine contained not only a 200-pound aluminum, 4-cylinder, water-cooled gasoline engine that the Wrights had designed and built, but also two propellers, all mounted on a controllable airframe. The Wrights designed the propellers from scratch, having deduced that each could be seen as a rotating wing the lift of which is translated into thrust to move the craft forward. On December 14, a confident Wilbur wrote to his father and sister, "There is now no question of final success."
Because both brothers would be busy trying to get their machine off the ground, Orville set the camera on a tripod, focused on the spot where the machine would take off and showed John Daniels how to snap the shutter. Because of a coin toss, Orville is the one at the controls. Wilbur is to the side having steadied the machine as it went down the runway track and just released the upright strut. This first flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Each of the next three flights was longer than the last.
-from the Library of Congress
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