Orville and Wilbur Wright were probably not the first people to fly a powered heavier-than-air aircraft. They were, however, the first to successfully fly an aircraft that was controllable in all three axes of movement and to do so repeatedly. The Wright brothers flew it four times on December 17, 1903, about 6 kilometers south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Its top speed was 30 MPH. They took the dream of flight and made it a reality.
At the turn of the 20th Century, there were numerous people working on the problems of powered heavier-than-air flight besides the Wright brothers. The Wrights took the work of other pioneers and combined it with their own extensive experimentation to develop a practical solution to the problem. Their most valuable contributions to flight were the wing-warping technique that allowed controlled turns, a lightweight gasoline engine, and highly efficient propellers. The testing procedures they developed, particularly the use of models in a wind tunnel to examine the behavior of their design, would remain the primary testing methods used in the design of aircraft for the next 90 years.
The replica of the Wright brothers’ first airplane on display is full size and has been constructed of the same materials as the original. It was built by Lester Klean of Sun City, Arizona and was acquired by the museum in 1986.
Wright Brothers, Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903
Pima Air & Space Museum