Roughly 2.9 million passengers fly in and out of US airports every day.
As successful as modern air travel is, the invention of the airplane didn’t exactly get off to a flying start. Many inventors tried and failed to achieve flight before the Wright brothers finally succeeded.
Read on to discover more interesting facts about the first airplane.
Our airplane history timeline starts with a key moment in the lives of the famous Wright brothers. When they were children, their father gave them a small flying toy based on an invention by Alphonse Pénaud. The brothers later claimed that this toy triggered their obsession with flying machines.
Soon after this, the brothers began making gliders of their own. They experimented with different wing sizes and shapes to see how they could control the flight. It’s estimated that the Wright brothers made over 700 flights in their gliders.
The First Airplane
After years of experiments and research, the Wright brothers were ready to build the first airplane. They named their contraption the Wright Flyer.
It featured a spruce frame draped in muslin cloth. The wooden propellers were hand-carved by the brothers. They also custom-built a lightweight aluminum motor.
The brothers self-financed the Wright Flyer, and it cost them around $1,000 to build. Of course, the remains of the plane are worth infinitely more than this today.
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One of the airplane facts that few people know is that the wings of the Wright Flyer were not symmetrical. The pilot took up all the space in the middle of the plane, so the engine had to be mounted to the right of the pilot.
This threw off the balance of the aircraft. To make up for this, the right wing was four inches longer than the left.
The gliders that the brothers had previously built were all light enough to be launched by hand. The Wright Flyer was much heavier so, to get it airborne, the brothers built a 60-foot launch rail.
The rail was made from a series of two-by-fours laid end to end. The Wright Flyer rode down this track on a wheeled dolly until it generated enough speed to lift into the air.
A Rough Start
On December 14, 1903, after months of work, the Wright brothers were finally ready for their maiden voyage in the Wright Flyer. A coin toss between the brothers determined that Wilbur would pilot the first flight.
Forty feet down the launch track the Wright Flyer lurched into the air. Unfortunately, it was only airborne for 3 ½ seconds before it crashed into the ground, damaging the forward elevator.
The brothers quickly repaired the plane, eager to try again. 3 days later, Orville Wright successfully flew 120 feet, cementing his place in airplane invention history.
Bolstered by this achievement, Wilbur took the pilot seat and flew a distance of 852 ft in 59 seconds.
The Wright Flyer
The Wright Flyer only completed 4 successful flights before a heavy wind caused it to flip over and crash. The accident caused severe damage and the plane was never flown again.
Brush up on your airplane history by visiting the Wright Flyer. It is on display at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C.
These Facts About the First Airplane Will Blow Your Mind
These interesting facts about the first airplane give you an insight into the humble beginnings of the world’s favorite form of air travel. Though it got off to a rocky start, the Wright brothers’ invention eventually succeeded with flying colors.
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