NationalGeographic.com [an error occurred while processing this directive]


 
Zoom In

History of Flight Online Extra



<< Back to Feature Page



<< Back to Online Extra




View historic images from the archive.

History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In Thumbnail 1
Click to ZOOM IN >>

History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In Thumbnail 2
Click to ZOOM IN >>

History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In Thumbnail 3
Click to ZOOM IN >>

History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In Thumbnail 4
Click to ZOOM IN >>

History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In Thumbnail 5
Click to ZOOM IN >>

History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In Thumbnail 6
Click to ZOOM IN >>




History of Flight Online Extra Zoom In 1

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, December 17, 1903: Man's Dream of Flight Comes True
Photograph from Library of Congress

Ice coated the rain pools and a bitter wind whipped the sand dunes of Kill Devil Hill. Two brothers—bicycle makers from Dayton, Ohio—tinkered with a frail contraption of wood, muslin, and wire. Presently they placed their device, a double-winged aircraft with a gasoline engine, on an iron-shod rail. Orville Wright lay down in the machine, grasping a lever.

The motor coughed, then roared; two propellers turned. The Flyer moved slowly into the wind. Wilbur Wright ran alongside, steadying one wing until the craft rose into the air.

For 12 momentous seconds the machine stayed aloft. It was man's first successful powered flight in a craft heavier than air. Before noon on that fateful December day 50 years ago, the contraption flew three times again, once carrying its pilot for 59 seconds and 852 feet. The Wright brothers, after four years of painstaking experiment, had solved the riddle of flight, learning a secret man had coveted since he first watched the birds.

Seldom has such an auspicious event gone by so unheralded. The Wrights seemed unmoved by their epochal achievements. Having flown gliders hundreds of times, they were completely confident of success. Five bystanders hardly understood the drama of the occasion. Most newspapers refused to carry the story; later they picked up an exaggerated and inaccurate account. It was years before the American public realized that a new dimension had been added to travel and gave to the Wrights the credit due them.

Some years before he died, Orville Wright presented this photograph of his history-making flight to Luis Marden of the National Geographic staff. Wilbur runs beside the lifting airplane.





© 2003 National Geographic Society. All rights reserved. Privacy Policy       Advertising Opportunities       Masthead

National Geographic Magazine Home Contact Us Forums Shop Subscribe