The Story of the Wright Brothers

Getting to know the fathers of aviation

 

Wright brothers

Of all history’s innovators, the Wright brothers brought a tremendous contribution to the world, particularly in achieving what seemed impossible in their time. Revered as the fathers of modern aviation, the Wright brothers Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright’s dream soared as they developed a vehicle that defied the laws of physics—the airplane.

The world owes a lot to these brothers. Risking their lives in the air, for them, failure would bring them closer to death and closer to discovery. They altered the minds of every person witnessing their first flight on December 17, 1903. Before that fateful day, they came a long and winding way, with a perseverance required to do the impossible.

Born four years apart, the Wright brothers shared a passion for aeronautics. Wilbur, the older Wright, was born on April 16, 1867, near Millville, Indiana. Four years later, Susan Catherine Koerner gave birth to Orville on August 19, 1871. Their father, Milton Wright, served as the bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.

Growing up, the brothers became fascinated with all things aero ever since their father gave them a helicopter toy—based on French aeronautic pioneer Alphonse Pénaud’s model—from work.

Wilbur loved school and excelled at it. He had so many plans, which included attending Yale University. But it all changed after an accident had left him scarred in the next few years.

On the other hand, Orville loved to be always outside of school, flying his kites. As a result, he dropped out from high school and started a printing business. Wilbur joined him after he recovered from his depression. They published the West Side News, with Orville as publisher and Wilbur as editor.

Following the death of their mother from tuberculosis, the Wright brothers opened a bicycle shop. Together, they ran the store while their sister, Katharine, assumed the responsibility of their late mother in their household.

It was around this time that Wilbur and Orville became dedicated to learning more about flying planes. With the news of consecutive deaths due to flight failures by other enthusiasts, the siblings were convinced that they could build better planes and fly them too. This idea fueled their desire to build their first successful planes.

They turned their bicycle shop into a workshop to construct the never-before-seen planes that would take them to the heights of their dream. They took their models in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where the windy weather and the vast, dry land provided the perfect setting for their test flight.

Wright brothers

For their design and structure, the Wright brothers took inspiration from the birds’ flight. As they closely observed, birds angle themselves in a way that will keep them balanced. Countless flights, crashes, improvisations, flights again, and crashes took place. On December 17, 1903, their labor bore fruit at last. On that day, the first motor-driven airplane owned the skies. When Wilbur flew 852 feet in 59 seconds, the close-knit brothers knew the world would never look at the skies the same way again.

Ironically, their achievement brought more criticism than applause. Competitors and fellow aviators commended their miraculous flight; still, others would not believe them. The government was out of the question; they had funded so many failed experiments—so much so, they lost faith in such endeavors. It was at this time when they decided to try their luck in Europe. And luck they did find.

Soon, their names were the headlines on all newspapers local and abroad. With Europe, particularly France, chasing their invention, the federal government finally made their move and offered the brothers an opportunity to further improve their work and make progress in transportation.

It was success after success, flight after flight after flight. They became a worldwide phenomenon in the next few years. Their passion pushed them further and made them heroes of their generation.

However, the happy times were cut short when an unfortune event befell the family. Wilbur died in 1912 from typhoid fever. With one of the Wright brothers gone, there was a major change of leadership in their firm, the Wright Company.

Orville carried on the business until he sold it in 1915, having no interest in the business side of flying. In the next thirty years of his life, he worked and served in aeronautics committees. He received awards in behalf of his brother and lived the life of a role model for other dreamers. On the January 30, 1948, Orville Wright died of heart attack.

Heroes or otherwise, the Wright brothers undoubtedly left a permanent mark. Their contribution to modern aeronautics remains at the top of history’s greatest success stories.

 

References:

Biography. n.d. “The Wright Brothers.” Accessed October 4, 2018. https://www.biography.com/people/groups/the-wright-brothers

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