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Thursday, December 17, 1903 a great day in the history of aviation, dawned cold and windy at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It was perfect weather to attempt the first powered airplane flight in history, and the Wright brothers raised a special flag signaling their intention to launch their aircraft that day.
The brothers took their 605-pound plane out of its hangar and placed it on a small wheeled cart. The cart ran along a wooden track to give plane a quick start. A camera was painstakingly adjusted to record the precise moment of takeoff. The engine was started, and at 10:35 a.m. Orville climbed aboard and took the controls. When the retaining rope was released, the plane gathered speed so quickly that, even before it reached the end of track, it was airborne. As onlookers, attracted to the site by the signal flag, enthusiastically waved the aircraft on, Orville piloted the fragile craft over the windswept dunes, and Wilburwho had steadied the plane during takeoffwatched the flight closely.
Lying flat on the lower wing, Orville guided the plane to an abrupt landing after a flight of about 120 feet. Brief though it was, this flight marked a turning point in aviation history. That December morning on the windswept dunes of Kitty Hawk, the Wright brothers succeeded where so many had failed. In their flimsy wood and fabric plane with its small gasoline engine, they achieved man's first sustained, powered, controlled flight. The flight was the culmination of many years of exhaustive research and experimentation. Successful bicycle manufacturers in Dayton, Ohio, the Wright brothers had been interested in flying most of their lives. The Wrights realized that other pioneers of flight had lacked an effective means of controlling direction in the air. With this in mind,the brothers successfully tested a method of wing warping to turn their aircraft in flight. In a wind tunnel, they discovered the most efficient wing shape. They built and flew several gliders, traveling to Kitty Hawk to take advantage of favorable wind conditions.
Today their plane is displayed in the Smithsonian Institution, a proud tribute to the Wright brothers, whose vision and genius led to the conquest of the skies.
The preceding information was extracted from the pamphlet,
"The Great Airplanes Sterling Silver Miniature Collection", published by The Franklin Mint, 1979.
Permission was granted to ALLSTAR by The Franklin Mint to use the preceding materials.
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Updated: March 12, 2004