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The Wright Brothers First Heavier-than-air Flight
On December 17, 1903, at 10:30 am at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, this airplane arose for a few seconds to make the first powered, heavier-than-air controlled flight in history. The first flight lasted 12 seconds and flew a distance of 120 feet. Orville Wright piloted the historic flight while his brother, Wilbur, observed. The brothers took three other flights that day, each flight lasting longer than the other with the final flight going a distance of 852 feet in 59 seconds. This flight was the culmination of a number of years of research on gliders.
Orville and Wilbur Wright's curiosity with flight began in 1878 when their father, Milton, gave them a rubber band powered toy helicopter. Although they were never formally educated, the self-taught engineers constantly experimented with kites and gliders. Bicycle shop owners by occupation, the brothers spent years designing, testing and redesigning their gliders and planes. After the successful flights of December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur continued to perfect their plane. In 1909 the Army Signal Corps purchased a Wright Flyer, creating the first military airplane. Although Wilbur passed away May 30, 1912, from typhoid fever, Orville remained an active promoter of aviation until his death on January 30, 1948.
The Air Age truly began with that historic flight on December 17, 1903. In 1908 the Wright Brothers designed the first military aircraft for the Army Signal Corps. Seven years later, in 1915, the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA) became the nations leading aviation research organization, of which Orville was a member for 28 years. As the airplane became more aerodynamic and technically advanced, its uses expanded into many different directions. Military aircraft played significant roles in both World War I and World War II. The airplane made worldwide travel and exploration possible. Spaceflight would never have been realized without the pioneering achievements of the Wright Brothers
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Wright Flyer Test Flights at Fort Myer, VA
The Wright Flyer demonstrations at Fort Myer, Virginia on September 3, 1908. In January 1907 the Wright Brothers submitted a bid to the U.S. War Department to design a plane for $25, 000. This bid came as a response to a War Department request issued a month earlier for a "Heavier-than-air Flying Machine." While Wilbur Wright went off to Paris to promote the Wright Flyer, Orville Wright stayed in Dayton, Ohio to design a plane for the Army Signal Corps. By August Orville's plane was ready and he headed to Fort Myer, Virginia, where the air trials were to take place. From August 20, 1908, to September 17, 1908, Orville performed test flights for the Army. On September 17th a split propeller caused the plane to crash, injuring Orville and killing his passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge. In spite of the crash the Army believed that the Wright plane would work. In July 1909, when Orville was able to fly again, he completed the test flights and surpassed all of the Army's requirements for a military plane: to carry a passenger for at least 125 miles at a speed of 40 miles per hour and stay aloft for at least one hour, easily transportable, controllable and steerable at all times and in all directions, and land without damage. On August 2, 1909, the Signal Corps accepted the Wright Flyer as the world's first military aircraft, naming it Signal Corps Airplane No. 1