Yesterday (December 17th) was Wright Brothers Day in the United States. On December 17th in 1903 the Wright Brothers made the first successful flight by airplane in the history of man. Since then the lore of the Wright Brothers has grown. Both Ohio (where they were born) and North Carolina (where the flew) claim them as their own. But little is known about these innovators of flight. Here are a few facts about the Wright Brothers you may have not realized are true:
1. They come from a large family. The Wright Brothers were two of seven children. Wilbur was the oldest, born in 1867. Wilbur was born in 1871.
2. Neither of the brothers finished high school. Wilbur did finish all four years of high school in Virginia. But the family moved to Ohio before he could receive his diploma. Orville had a curious mind, but it didn’t translate to a love of school. He dropped out to launch his own business before his senior year.
3. They loved flight from an early age. The Wright Brothers were outdoor enthusiasts, and as children, started to play with kites. They would even design their own kites. When they were given a helicopter-like toy the interest in flying was instant.
4. They credited a German engineer as a major influence. Otto Lilenthal, better know as the “Glider King,” developed flying gliders and his world-wide attention provided early influence on the Wright Brothers. Lilenthal’s death from falling from one of his gliders make the Wright’s aware of the dangers, but did not deter them.
5. They tossed a coin to see who got to fly first. Technically Orville was the first man to take flight in an airplane. Although Wilbur won the first coin toss on December 14th, his flight was unsuccessful. Three days later Orville took the controls and flew the first successful mission.
6. They only flew together one time. The Wright Brothers made a deal with their father, they would never fly together. Orville and Wilbur’s father was afraid of losing both sons in an airplane crash. Dad made one exception, however. In May 1910 the brothers were allowed to share a six-minute flight near their Dayton home. Orville was the pilot and Wilbur the passenger, with dad yelling “higher” from the ground in delight.
7. Dad was right to worry. Orville was involved in the first fatal flight. During a flight demonstration in Virginia in September 1908 Orville took flight and a few minutes later the propeller failed, sending the plane out of control and smashing into the ground at full speed. Army Signal Corps Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge was a passenger on the flight, and died hours after the crash. Orville had a six-week hospital stay after suffering a broken leg, broken ribs and back injuries.
8. Another Buckeye honored the Wright Brothers on the moon. When Neil Armstrong landed on the moon in 1969, he took part of the 1903 Wright Flyer, the first plane flown, with him. It was a small wooden piece that Armstrong kept in his pocket.