Sunday, December 17, 2006

Right on, my Wright brothers.

[[From today’s Writer’s Almanac]]

On this day in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright took off on the world's first airplane flight near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This day in 1903 began with gray skies and sharp wind. Orville said years later that he should have realized it was much too dangerous to fly in that weather. But they had already waited several days for the right flying conditions, and they wanted to get home before Christmas.

Orville went first and he got about 10 feet off the ground, and landed almost immediately. The brothers made two more attempts, and still they barely got anywhere. Then Wilbur tried again, and suddenly, he took off into the air. He flew straight into the wind for nearly a full minute, covering 852 feet. When he landed, the rudder frame was cracked, which would take months to repair, but they had made their first successful flight.

No journalists attended the event. The Wright Brothers hired an amateur photographer to take a single photograph that day, which he did while the plane was only 10 feet off the ground. When it leaked to the press, most major newspapers refused to run the story, assuming that it was a hoax. It wasn't until Wilbur flew a plane over Manhattan six years later that most people finally accepted the fact that the Wright Brothers really had invented the first airplane.