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Wilbur Wright
Born: April 16, 1867, near Millville, Ind., U.S.
Died: May 30, 1912, Dayton, Ohio


Orville Wright
Born: Aug. 19, 1871, Dayton
Died: Jan. 30, 1948, Dayton

Wilbur and Orville Wright were American brothers, inventors, and aviation pioneers who achieved the first powered, sustained, and controlled airplane flight (1903) and built and flew the first fully practical airplane (1905).

Early glider experiments

The brothers realized that a successful airplane would require wings to generate lift, a propulsion system to move it through the air, and a system to control the craft in flight. Their first experiments with "wing warping," as the system would be called, were made with a small biplane kite flown in Dayton in the summer of 1899. Discovering that they could cause the kite to climb, dive, and bank to the right or left at will, the brothers began to design their first full-scale glider. Tested in October 1900, the first Wright glider was a biplane featuring 165 square feet (15 square m) of wing area and a forward elevator for pitch control. The glider developed less lift than expected, however, and very few free flights were made with a pilot on board.

First Flight Orville Wright begins the first successful controlled flight in history, at the Kitty Hawk, N.C., Dec. 17, 1903.


Powered, sustained flight


With the major aerodynamic and control problems behind them, the brothers pressed forward with the design and construction of their first powered machine. They designed and built a four-cylinder internal combustion engine.

In September 1903, the brothers returned to their camp near the Kitty Hawk.  At about 10:35 on the morning of Dec. 17, 1903, Orville made the first successful flight, covering 120 feet through the air in 12 seconds. Wilbur flew 175 feet in 12 seconds on his first attempt, followed by Orville's second effort of 200 feet in 15 seconds. During the fourth and final flight of the day, Wilbur flew 852 feet over the sand in 59 seconds. For the first time in history, a heavier-than-air machine had demonstrated powered and sustained flight under the complete control of the pilot.


Determined to move from the marginal success of 1903 to a practical airplane, the Wrights in 1904 and 1905 built and flew two more aircraft from Huffman Prairie, a pasture near Dayton. They continued to improve the design of their machine during these years, gaining skill and confidence in the air. By October 1905 the brothers could remain aloft for up to 39 minutes at a time, performing circles and other manoeuvres.