On 17 December 1903, the world witnessed the greatest event in the history of aviation, an event that would lay the foundations of flight as we know it today. The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur made the first controlled and sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft named “Wright Flyer”.
The Wright Flyer Design
The design of the plane was based on the experience of the two brothers with gliders, who made multiple prototypes over two years, the latter being the basis for the future aircraft. At that time, aviation accidents were common because the pilot could not control the aircraft, so the main innovation brought by the Wright brothers was the control surfaces. The elevator was positioned at the front, the rudder at the rear, and instead of today’s ailerons, to produce the roll motion the wing was designed to curve. The position in which the pilot sat during the flight was on his stomach. The elevator was operated by a handle in front and for the movement of the wings and the rudder the pilot moved his hips, a single movement acting both control surfaces. Another innovation that led to the success of the two brothers was the modification of the engine. Failing to find a suitable engine for their aircraft, they told their mechanic Charlie Taylor to create a lighter engine. The new engine weighed 82 kg (180 lbs) with 12 horsepower. It was connected to the two 2.6 m long propellers by two chains. To avoid the torque effects, the propellers rotated in opposite directions.
The day of the flight
On a field in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina with 5 people as witnesses, The Wright Flyer was positioned on a rail track so that the takeoff would be as smooth as possible. The first flight was made by Oville, reaching a maximum altitude of 37m (120 feet) with a maximum speed of 10.9 km / h. In total there were 4 flights that day made by both brothers. After the flights they sent reports to several newspapers about their accomplishment, but it was not immediately recognized. It took some time for the whole world to know about them, but today their value is recognized throughout the world of aviation.