Wright brothers
Overview
 
The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two Americans
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. In the two years afterward, the brothers developed their flying machine
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft
Wright Flyer III
The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright made the first flight with it on June 23, 1905. The Flyer III had an airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903, rather than the less effective 1-in-25 used in 1904...

. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

The brothers' fundamental breakthrough was their invention of three-axis control, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium.
This method became standard and remains standard on fixed-wing aircraft of all kinds.
Encyclopedia
The Wright brothers, Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912), were two Americans
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 credited with inventing and building the world's first successful airplane
Fixed-wing aircraft
A fixed-wing aircraft is an aircraft capable of flight using wings that generate lift due to the vehicle's forward airspeed. Fixed-wing aircraft are distinct from rotary-wing aircraft in which wings rotate about a fixed mast and ornithopters in which lift is generated by flapping wings.A powered...

 and making the first controlled, powered and sustained heavier-than-air human flight, on December 17, 1903. In the two years afterward, the brothers developed their flying machine
Aircraft
An aircraft is a vehicle that is able to fly by gaining support from the air, or, in general, the atmosphere of a planet. An aircraft counters the force of gravity by using either static lift or by using the dynamic lift of an airfoil, or in a few cases the downward thrust from jet engines.Although...

 into the first practical fixed-wing aircraft
Wright Flyer III
The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright made the first flight with it on June 23, 1905. The Flyer III had an airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903, rather than the less effective 1-in-25 used in 1904...

. Although not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, the Wright brothers were the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

The brothers' fundamental breakthrough was their invention of three-axis control, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium.
This method became standard and remains standard on fixed-wing aircraft of all kinds. From the beginning of their aeronautical work, the Wright brothers focused on developing a reliable method of pilot control as the key to solving "the flying problem". This approach differed significantly from other experimenters of the time who put more emphasis on developing powerful engines. Using a small homebuilt wind tunnel
Wind tunnel
A wind tunnel is a research tool used in aerodynamic research to study the effects of air moving past solid objects.-Theory of operation:Wind tunnels were first proposed as a means of studying vehicles in free flight...

, the Wrights also collected more accurate data than any before, enabling them to design and build wings and propellers that were more efficient than any before. Their first U.S. patent, 821,393, did not claim invention of a flying machine, but rather, the invention of a system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine's surfaces.

They gained the mechanical skills essential for their success by working for years in their shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery. Their work with bicycles in particular influenced their belief that an unstable vehicle like a flying machine could be controlled and balanced with practice. From 1900 until their first powered flights in late 1903, they conducted extensive glider tests that also developed their skills as pilots. Their bicycle shop employee Charlie Taylor
Charlie Taylor
Charles Edward Taylor built the first aircraft engine used by the Wright brothers and was a vital contributor of mechanical skills in the building and maintaining of early Wright engines and airplanes.-Biography:...

 became an important part of the team, building their first aircraft engine in close collaboration with the brothers.

The Wright brothers' status as inventors of the airplane has been subject to counter-claims by various parties. Much controversy persists over the many competing claims of early aviators
First flying machine
There are conflicting views as to what was the first flying machine.Much of the debate surrounding records of early flying machines depends on the exact definition of what constitutes a "flying machine", "flight", and even "first"....

.

Childhood

The Wright brothers were two of seven children born to Milton Wright
Milton Wright (Bishop)
Milton Wright was the father of aviation pioneers Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, and a Bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.- Family :* Father: Dan Wright* Mother: Catherine Wright née Reeder...

 (1828–1917) of English
English American
English Americans are citizens or residents of the United States whose ancestry originates wholly or partly in England....

 and Dutch
Dutch people
The Dutch people are an ethnic group native to the Netherlands. They share a common culture and speak the Dutch language. Dutch people and their descendants are found in migrant communities worldwide, notably in Suriname, Chile, Brazil, Canada, Australia, South Africa, New Zealand, and the United...

 descent and Susan Catherine Koerner (1831–1889) of German-Swiss descent. Wilbur was born near Millville, Indiana
Millville, Indiana
Millville is an unincorporated town in Liberty Township, Henry County, Indiana.-Geography:Millville is located at , just north of State Road 38 and east of New Castle on Wilbur Wright Road. It is home to the Wilbur Wright Birthplace and Museum....

, in 1867; Orville in Dayton, Ohio
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

, in 1871. The brothers never married. The other Wright siblings were named Reuchlin (1861–1920), Lorin (1862–1939), Katharine
Katharine Wright
Katharine Wright Haskell was the only sister of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. She was a high school teacher and later became an international celebrity when she accompanied her famous brothers in Europe....

 (1874–1929), and twins Otis and Ida (born 1870, died in infancy).
In elementary school, Orville was given to mischief and was once expelled. In 1878 their father, who traveled often as a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ
Church of the United Brethren in Christ
The Church of the United Brethren in Christ is an evangelical Christian denomination based in Huntington, Indiana. It is a Protestant denomination of episcopal structure, Arminian theology, with roots in the Mennonite and German Reformed communities of 18th century Pennsylvania, as well as close...

, brought home a toy "helicopter" for his two younger sons. The device was based on an invention of French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud
Alphonse Pénaud
Alphonse Pénaud , was a 19th-century French pioneer of aviation, inventor of the rubber powered model airplane Planophore and founder of the aviation industry.-Biography:...

. Made of paper, bamboo and cork with a rubber band to twirl its rotor, it was about a foot long. Wilbur and Orville played with it until it broke, and then built their own. In later years, they pointed to their experience with the toy as the initial spark of their interest in flying.

Early career and research

Both brothers attended high school, but did not receive diplomas. The family's abrupt move in 1884 from Richmond
Richmond, Indiana
Richmond is a city largely within Wayne Township, Wayne County, in east central Indiana, United States, which borders Ohio. The city also includes the Richmond Municipal Airport, which is in Boston Township and separated from the rest of the city...

, Indiana to Dayton (where the family had lived during the 1870s) prevented Wilbur from receiving his diploma after finishing four years of high school.

In the winter of 1885–86 Wilbur was accidentally struck in the face by a hockey stick while playing an ice-skating game with friends, resulting in the loss of his front teeth. He had been vigorous and athletic until then, and although his injuries did not appear especially severe, he became withdrawn, and did not attend Yale as planned. Instead, he spent the next few years largely housebound, caring for his mother who was terminally ill with tuberculosis and reading extensively in his father's library. He ably assisted his father during times of controversy within the Brethren Church, but also expressed unease over his own lack of ambition.

Orville dropped out of high school after his junior year to start a printing business in 1889, having designed and built his own printing press with Wilbur's help. Wilbur shook off the lingering depression caused by his accident and joined the print shop, serving as editor while Orville was publisher of the weekly newspaper the West Side News, followed for only a few months by the daily Evening Item. One of their clients for printing jobs was Orville's friend and classmate in high school, Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar
Paul Laurence Dunbar was a seminal African American poet of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Dunbar gained national recognition for his 1896 "Ode to Ethiopia", one poem in the collection Lyrics of Lowly Life....

, who rose to international acclaim as a ground-breaking African-American poet and writer. The Wrights printed the Dayton Tattler, a weekly newspaper that Dunbar edited for a brief period.
Capitalizing on the national bicycle craze (spurred by the invention of the safety bicycle
Safety bicycle
A safety bicycle is a type of bicycle that became very popular beginning in the late 1880s as an alternative to the penny-farthing or ordinary and is now the most common type of bicycle. Early bicycles of this style were known as safety bicycles because they were noted for, and marketed as, being...

 and its substantial advantages over the penny farthing design), the brothers opened a repair and sales shop in 1892 (the Wright Cycle Exchange, later the Wright Cycle Company
Wright Cycle Company
The bicycle business of the Wright brothers, the Wright Cycle Company occupied five different locations in Dayton, Ohio. Orville and Wilbur Wright began their bicycle repair business in 1892, and soon added rentals and sales. In 1896 they began manufacturing and selling bicycles of their own...

) and began manufacturing their own brand in 1896. They used this endeavor to fund their growing interest in flight. In the early or mid-1890s they saw newspaper or magazine articles and probably photographs of the dramatic glides by Otto Lilienthal
Otto Lilienthal
Otto Lilienthal was a German pioneer of human aviation who became known as the Glider King. He was the first person to make well-documented, repeated, successful gliding flights. He followed an experimental approach established earlier by Sir George Cayley...

 in Germany. The year 1896 brought three important aeronautical events. In May, Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley successfully flew an unmanned steam-powered model aircraft. In the summer, Chicago engineer and aviation authority Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute was a French-born American railway engineer and aviation pioneer. He provided the Wright brothers with help and advice, and helped to publicize their flying experiments. At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine...

 brought together several men who tested various types of gliders over the sand dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. In August, Lilienthal was killed in the plunge of his glider. These events lodged in the consciousness of the brothers. In May 1899 Wilbur wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution requesting information and publications about aeronautics. Drawing on the work of Sir George Cayley, Chanute
Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute was a French-born American railway engineer and aviation pioneer. He provided the Wright brothers with help and advice, and helped to publicize their flying experiments. At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine...

, Lilienthal, Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci was an Italian Renaissance polymath: painter, sculptor, architect, musician, scientist, mathematician, engineer, inventor, anatomist, geologist, cartographer, botanist and writer whose genius, perhaps more than that of any other figure, epitomized the Renaissance...

, and Langley, they began their mechanical aeronautical experimentation that year.

The Wright brothers always presented a unified image to the public, sharing equally in the credit for their invention. Biographers note, however, that Wilbur took the initiative in 1899–1900, writing of "my" machine and "my" plans before Orville became deeply involved when the first person singular became the plural "we" and "our". Author James Tobin asserts, "it is impossible to imagine Orville, bright as he was, supplying the driving force that started their work and kept it going from the back room of a store in Ohio to conferences with capitalists, presidents, and kings. Will did that. He was the leader, from the beginning to the end."

Ideas about control

Despite Lilienthal's fate, the brothers favored his strategy: to practice gliding in order to master the art of control before attempting motor-driven flight. The death of British aeronaut Percy Pilcher
Percy Pilcher
Percy Sinclair Pilcher was a British inventor and pioneer aviator who was his country's foremost experimenter in unpowered flight at the end of the 19th Century...

 in another hang gliding crash in 1899 only reinforced their opinion that a reliable method of pilot control was the key to successful—and safe—flight. At the outset of their experiments they regarded control as the unsolved third part of "the flying problem". They believed sufficiently promising knowledge of the other two issues—wings and engines—already existed. The Wright brothers thus differed sharply from more experienced practitioners of the day, notably Ader
Clément Ader
Clément Ader was a French inventor and engineer born in Muret, Haute Garonne, and is remembered primarily for his pioneering work in aviation.- The inventor :...

, Maxim and Langley who built powerful engines, attached them to airframes equipped with unproven control devices, and expected to take to the air with no previous flying experience. Although agreeing with Lilienthal's idea of practice, the Wrights saw that his method of balance and control—shifting his body weight—was fatally inadequate. They were determined to find something better.

On the basis of observation, Wilbur concluded that birds changed the angle of the ends of their wings to make their bodies roll right or left. The brothers decided this would also be a good way for a flying machine to turn—to "bank" or "lean" into the turn just like a bird—and just like a person riding a bicycle, an experience with which they were thoroughly familiar. Equally important, they hoped this method would enable recovery when the wind tilted the machine to one side (lateral balance). They puzzled over how to achieve the same effect with man-made wings and eventually discovered wing-warping when Wilbur idly twisted a long inner-tube box at the bicycle shop.

Other aeronautical investigators regarded flight as if it were not so different from surface locomotion, except the surface would be elevated. They thought in terms of a ship's rudder for steering, while the flying machine remained essentially level in the air, as did a train or an automobile or a ship at the surface. The idea of deliberately leaning, or rolling, to one side seemed either undesirable or did not enter their thinking. Some of these other investigators, including Langley and Chanute, sought the elusive ideal of "inherent stability", believing the pilot of a flying machine would not be able to react quickly enough to wind disturbances to use mechanical controls effectively. The Wright brothers, on the other hand, wanted the pilot to have absolute control. For that reason, their early designs made no concessions toward built-in stability (such as dihedral wings). They deliberately designed their 1903 first powered flyer with anhedral
Anhedral
* Anhedral angle, the downward angle from horizontal of the wings or tailplane of a fixed-wing aircraft* Anhedral , a rock texture without crystal faces or cross-section shape in thin section...

 (drooping) wings, which are inherently unstable, but less susceptible to upset by gusty sidewinds.

Toward flight

In July 1899 Wilbur put wing warping
Wing warping
Wing warping was an early system for lateral control of a fixed-wing aircraft. The technique, used and patented by the Wright brothers, consisted of a system of pulleys and cables to twist the trailing edges of the wings in opposite directions...

 to the test by building and flying a five-foot box kite in the approximate shape of a biplane. When the wings were warped, or twisted, one end would receive more lift and rise, starting a turn in the direction of the lower end. Warping was controlled by four lines attached to the kite. The lines led to two sticks held by the kite flyer, which tilted them in opposite directions to twist the wings and make the kite bank left or right.

In 1900 the brothers journeyed to Kitty Hawk
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
Kitty Hawk is a town in Dare County, North Carolina, United States. The population was 3,000 at the 2000 census. It was established in the early 18th century as Chickahawk....

, North Carolina to begin their manned gliding experiments. Wilbur chose the location on the basis of a reply to his first letter to Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute was a French-born American railway engineer and aviation pioneer. He provided the Wright brothers with help and advice, and helped to publicize their flying experiments. At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine...

, whose suggestions included the Atlantic coast for regular breezes and a soft sandy landing surface. Wilbur also requested and scrutinized U.S. Weather Bureau
National Weather Service
The National Weather Service , once known as the Weather Bureau, is one of the six scientific agencies that make up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States government...

 data, and selected Kitty Hawk after writing to the government meteorologist stationed there. The location, although remote, was closer to Dayton than other places Chanute had suggested, including California and Florida. The spot also gave them privacy from reporters, who had turned the 1896 Chanute experiments at Lake Michigan into something of a circus. Chanute visited them in camp each season from 1901 to 1903 and saw gliding experiments, but not the powered flights.

Gliders

The Wrights based the design of their first full-size glider (as well as the 1899 kite) on the work of their recent predecessors, chiefly the Chanute-Herring biplane hang glider ("double-decker", as the Wrights called it), which flew well in the 1896 experiments near Chicago; and aeronautical data on lift
Lift (force)
A fluid flowing past the surface of a body exerts a surface force on it. Lift is the component of this force that is perpendicular to the oncoming flow direction. It contrasts with the drag force, which is the component of the surface force parallel to the flow direction...

 that Lilienthal had published. The Wrights designed the wings with camber
Camber (aerodynamics)
Camber, in aeronautics and aeronautical engineering, is the asymmetry between the top and the bottom surfaces of an aerofoil. An aerofoil that is not cambered is called a symmetric aerofoil...

, a curvature of the top surface. The brothers did not discover this principle, but took advantage of it. The better lift of a cambered surface compared to a flat one was first discussed scientifically by Sir George Cayley
George Cayley
Sir George Cayley, 6th Baronet was a prolific English engineer and one of the most important people in the history of aeronautics. Many consider him the first true scientific aerial investigator and the first person to understand the underlying principles and forces of flight...

. Lilienthal, whose work the Wrights carefully studied, used cambered wings in his gliders, proving in flight the advantage over flat surfaces.
The wooden uprights between the wings of the Wright glider were braced by wires in their own adaptation of Chanute's modified "Pratt truss", a bridge-building design he used in his 1896 glider. The Wrights mounted the horizontal elevator
Elevator (aircraft)
Elevators are flight control surfaces, usually at the rear of an aircraft, which control the aircraft's orientation by changing the pitch of the aircraft, and so also the angle of attack of the wing. In simplified terms, they make the aircraft nose-up or nose-down...

 in front of the wings rather than behind, apparently believing this feature would help avoid a nosedive and crash like the one that killed Lilienthal. (Later, when the Brazilian aviation pioneer, Santos-Dumont, flew his 14-bis in Paris in 1906, French newspapers dubbed the tail-first arrangement a "canard
Canard (aeronautics)
In aeronautics, canard is an airframe configuration of fixed-wing aircraft in which the forward surface is smaller than the rearward, the former being known as the "canard", while the latter is the main wing...

", because of the supposed resemblance to a duck in flight.) Wilbur incorrectly believed a tail was not necessary, and their first two gliders did not have one. According to some Wright biographers, Wilbur probably did all the gliding until 1902, perhaps to exercise his authority as older brother and to protect Orville from harm.
Glider Vital Statistics
WingspanWing area Chord Camber Aspect ratioLength Weight
1900 17 in 6 in (5.33 m) 165 sq ft (15 m²) 5 ft (2 m) 1/20 3.5:1
11 in 6 in (3.51 m) 52 lb (23.6 kg)
1901 22 ft (7 m) 290 sq ft (27 m²) 7 ft (2.1 m) 1/12,*1/19 3:1 14 ft (4.3 m) 98 lb (44.5 kg)
1902 32 in 1 in (9.78 m) 305 sq ft (28 m²) 5 ft (1.5 m) 1/20–1/24 6.5:1 17 ft (5.2 m) 112 lb (50.8 kg)

* (This airfoil caused severe stability problems; the Wrights modified the camber on-site.)

1900 Glider

The brothers flew the glider only a few days in the early autumn of 1900 at Kitty Hawk. In the first tests, probably October 3, Wilbur was aboard while the glider flew as a kite not far above the ground with men below holding tether ropes. Most of the kite tests were unpiloted with sandbags or chains (and even a local boy) as onboard ballast.
They tested wing-warping using control ropes from the ground. The glider was also tested unmanned while suspended from a small homemade tower. Wilbur (but not Orville) made about a dozen free glides on only a single day. For those tests, the brothers trekked four miles (6 km) south to the Kill Devil Hills, a group of sand dunes up to 100 feet (30.5 m) high (where they made camp in each of the next three years). Although the glider's lift was less than expected (causing most tests to be unmanned), the brothers were encouraged because the craft's front elevator worked well and they had no accidents. However, the small number of free glides meant they were not able to give wing-warping a true test.

The pilot lay flat on the lower wing, as planned, to reduce aerodynamic drag. As a glide ended, the pilot was supposed to lower himself to a vertical position through an opening in the wing and land on his feet with his arms wrapped over the framework. Within a few glides, however, they discovered the pilot could remain prone on the wing, headfirst, without undue danger when landing. They made all their flights in that position for the next five years.

1901 Glider

Hoping to improve lift, they built the 1901 glider with a much larger wing area and made 50 to 100 flights in July and August for distances of 20 to 400 ft (6 to 122 m). The glider stalled a few times, but the parachute effect of the forward elevator allowed Wilbur to make a safe flat or "pancake" landing, instead of a nose-dive. These incidents wedded the Wrights even more strongly to the canard
Canard (aeronautics)
In aeronautics, canard is an airframe configuration of fixed-wing aircraft in which the forward surface is smaller than the rearward, the former being known as the "canard", while the latter is the main wing...

design, which they did not give up until 1910. The glider, however, delivered two major disappointments. It produced only about one-third the lift calculated and sometimes failed to respond properly to wing-warping, turning opposite the direction intended—a problem later known as adverse yaw
Adverse yaw
Adverse yaw is a yaw moment on an aircraft which results from an aileron deflection and a roll rate, such as when entering or exiting a turn. It is called "adverse" because it acts opposite to the yaw moment needed to execute the desired turn. Adverse yaw has three mechanisms, listed below in...

. On the trip home after their second season, Wilbur, stung with disappointment, remarked to Orville that man would fly, but not in their lifetimes.

The poor lift of the gliders led the Wrights to question the accuracy of Lilienthal's data, as well as the "Smeaton
John Smeaton
John Smeaton, FRS, was an English civil engineer responsible for the design of bridges, canals, harbours and lighthouses. He was also a capable mechanical engineer and an eminent physicist...

 coefficient" of air pressure, which had been in existence for over 100 years and was part of the accepted equation for lift.
The Lift Equation

L = lift in pounds

k = coefficient of air pressure (Smeaton coefficient)

S = total area of lifting surface in square feet

V = velocity (headwind plus ground speed) in miles per hour

CL = coefficient of lift (varies with wing shape)

The Wrights—and Lilienthal—used the equation to calculate the amount of lift that wings of various sizes would produce. On the basis of measurements of lift and wind during the 1901 glider's kite and free flights, Wilbur believed (correctly, as tests later showed) that the Smeaton number was very close to 0.0033, not the traditionally used 60 percent larger 0.0054, which would exaggerate predicted lift.

Back home, furiously pedaling a strange-looking bicycle on neighborhood streets, they conducted makeshift open-air tests with a miniature Lilienthal airfoil and a counter-acting flat plate, which were both attached to a freely rotating third bicycle wheel mounted horizontally in front of the handlebars. Because the third wheel rotated against the airfoil instead of remaining motionless as the calculations predicted, the Wrights confirmed their suspicion that published data on lift were unreliable, and they decided to expand their investigation. They also realized that trial-and-error with different wings on full-size gliders was too costly and time-consuming. Putting aside the three-wheel bicycle, they built a six-foot wind tunnel
Wind tunnel
A wind tunnel is a research tool used in aerodynamic research to study the effects of air moving past solid objects.-Theory of operation:Wind tunnels were first proposed as a means of studying vehicles in free flight...

 in their shop and conducted systematic tests on miniature wings from October to December 1901. The "balances" they devised and mounted inside the tunnel to hold the wings looked crude, made of bicycle spokes and scrap metal, but were "as critical to the ultimate success of the Wright brothers as were the gliders." The devices allowed the brothers to balance lift against drag and accurately calculate the performance of each wing. They could also see which wings worked well as they looked through the viewing window in the top of the tunnel. Prior to beginning their wind tunnel experiments, Wilbur, at Chanute's invitation, traveled to Chicago
Chicago
Chicago is the largest city in the US state of Illinois. With nearly 2.7 million residents, it is the most populous city in the Midwestern United States and the third most populous in the US, after New York City and Los Angeles...

 to give a speech to the Western Society of Engineers
Western Society of Engineers
The Western Society of Engineers is a professional and educational organization founded in Chicago, U.S. on May 25, 1869 as the Civil Engineers' Club of the Northwest. In 1880 the club was incorporated as the Western Society of Engineers. The organization is devoted to the development of...

 on September 18, 1901. Wilbur's speech consisted of detailed accounts of his and Orville's glider experiments at Kitty Hawk up to the fall of 1901 and was complemented by a lantern slide show
Magic lantern
The magic lantern or Laterna Magica is an early type of image projector developed in the 17th century.-Operation:The magic lantern has a concave mirror in front of a light source that gathers light and projects it through a slide with an image scanned onto it. The light rays cross an aperture , and...

 of photographs. Wilbur's speech was the first public account of the brothers' experiments.

1902 Glider

Lilienthal had made "whirling arm" tests on only a few wing shapes, and the Wrights mistakenly assumed the data would apply to their wings, which had a different shape. The Wrights took a huge step forward and made basic wind tunnel tests on 200 wings of many shapes and airfoil
Airfoil
An airfoil or aerofoil is the shape of a wing or blade or sail as seen in cross-section....

 curves, followed by detailed tests on 38 of them. The tests, according to biographer Howard, "were the most crucial and fruitful aeronautical experiments ever conducted in so short a time with so few materials and at so little expense". An important discovery was the benefit of longer narrower wings: in aeronautical terms, wings with a larger aspect ratio
Aspect ratio
The aspect ratio of a shape is the ratio of its longer dimension to its shorter dimension. It may be applied to two characteristic dimensions of a three-dimensional shape, such as the ratio of the longest and shortest axis, or for symmetrical objects that are described by just two measurements,...

 (wingspan divided by chord
Chord (aircraft)
In aeronautics, chord refers to the imaginary straight line joining the trailing edge and the center of curvature of the leading edge of the cross-section of an airfoil...

—the wing's front-to-back dimension). Such shapes offered much better lift-to-drag ratio
Lift-to-drag ratio
In aerodynamics, the lift-to-drag ratio, or L/D ratio, is the amount of lift generated by a wing or vehicle, divided by the drag it creates by moving through the air...

 than the broader wings the brothers had tried so far.

With this knowledge, and a more accurate Smeaton number, the Wrights designed their 1902 glider. Using another crucial discovery from the wind tunnel, they made the airfoil flatter, reducing the camber
Camber (aerodynamics)
Camber, in aeronautics and aeronautical engineering, is the asymmetry between the top and the bottom surfaces of an aerofoil. An aerofoil that is not cambered is called a symmetric aerofoil...

 (the depth of the wing's curvature divided by its chord). The 1901 wings had significantly greater curvature, a highly inefficient feature the Wrights copied directly from Lilienthal. Fully confident in their new wind tunnel results, the Wrights discarded Lilienthal's data, now basing their designs on their own calculations.
With characteristic caution, the brothers first flew the 1902 glider as an unmanned kite, as they had done with their two previous versions. Rewarding their wind tunnel work, the glider produced the expected lift. It also had a new structural feature: a fixed, rear vertical rudder, which the brothers hoped would eliminate turning problems.

By 1902 they realized that wing-warping created "differential drag" at the wingtips. Greater lift at one end of the wing also increased drag, which slowed that end of the wing, making the aircraft swivel—or "yaw"—so the nose pointed away from the turn. That was how the tailless 1901 glider behaved.

The improved wing design enabled consistently longer glides, and the rear rudder prevented adverse yaw—so effectively that it introduced a new problem. Sometimes when the pilot attempted to level off from a turn, the glider failed to respond to corrective wing-warping and persisted into a tighter turn. The glider would slide toward the lower wing, which hit the ground, spinning the aircraft around. The Wrights called this "well digging".

Orville apparently visualized that the fixed rudder resisted the effect of corrective wing-warping when attempting to level off from a turn. He wrote in his diary that on the night of October 2, "I studied out a new vertical rudder". The brothers then decided to make the rear rudder movable to solve the problem. They hinged the rudder and connected it to the pilot's warping "cradle", so a single movement by the pilot simultaneously controlled wing-warping and rudder deflection. Tests while gliding proved that the trailing edge of the rudder should be turned away from whichever end of the wings had more drag (and lift) due to warping. The opposing pressure produced by turning the rudder enabled corrective wing-warping to reliably restore level flight after a turn or a wind disturbance. Furthermore, when the glider banked into a turn, rudder pressure overcame the effect of differential drag and pointed the nose of the aircraft in the direction of the turn, eliminating adverse yaw.

In short, the Wrights discovered the true purpose of the movable vertical rudder. Its role was not to change the direction of flight, but rather, to aim or align the aircraft correctly during banking turns and when leveling off from turns and wind disturbances. The actual turn—the change in direction—was done with roll control using wing-warping. The principles remained the same when ailerons superseded wing-warping.

With their new method the Wrights achieved true control in turns for the first time on October 8, 1902, a major milestone. During September and October they made between 700 and 1,000 glides, the longest lasting 26 seconds and covering 622.5 feet (189.7 m). Hundreds of well-controlled glides after they made the rudder steerable convinced them they were ready to build a powered flying machine.

Thus did three-axis control
Flight dynamics
Flight dynamics is the science of air vehicle orientation and control in three dimensions. The three critical flight dynamics parameters are the angles of rotation in three dimensions about the vehicle's center of mass, known as pitch, roll and yaw .Aerospace engineers develop control systems for...

 evolve: wing-warping for roll (lateral motion), forward elevator for pitch (up and down) and rear rudder for yaw (side to side). On March 23, 1903, the Wrights applied for their famous patent for a "Flying Machine", based on their successful 1902 glider. Some aviation historians believe that applying the system of three-axis flight control on the 1902 glider was equal to, or even more significant, than the addition of power to the 1903 Flyer. Peter Jakab of the Smithsonian asserts that perfection of the 1902 glider essentially represents invention of the airplane.

Adding power

In 1903 the brothers built the powered Wright Flyer
Wright Flyer
The Wright Flyer was the first powered aircraft, designed and built by the Wright brothers. They flew it four times on December 17, 1903 near the Kill Devil Hills, about four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, U.S.The U.S...

 I, using their preferred material for construction, spruce
Spruce
A spruce is a tree of the genus Picea , a genus of about 35 species of coniferous evergreen trees in the Family Pinaceae, found in the northern temperate and boreal regions of the earth. Spruces are large trees, from tall when mature, and can be distinguished by their whorled branches and conical...

, a strong and lightweight wood, and Pride of the West muslin
Muslin
Muslin |sewing patterns]], such as for clothing, curtains, or upholstery. Because air moves easily through muslin, muslin clothing is suitable for hot, dry climates.- Etymology and history :...

 for surface coverings. They also designed and carved their own wooden propellers, and had a purpose-built gasoline engine fabricated in their bicycle shop. They thought propeller design would be a simple matter and intended to adapt data from shipbuilding. However, their library research disclosed no established formulas for either marine or air propellers, and they found themselves with no sure starting point. They discussed and argued the question, sometimes heatedly, until they concluded that an aeronautical propeller is essentially a wing rotating in the vertical plane. On that basis, they used data from more wind tunnel tests to design their propellers. The finished blades were just over eight feet long, made of three laminations of glued spruce. The Wrights decided on twin "pusher
Pusher configuration
In a craft with a pusher configuration the propeller are mounted behind their respective engine. According to Bill Gunston, a "pusher propeller" is one mounted behind engine so that drive shaft is in compression...

" propellers (counter-rotating to cancel torque), which would act on a greater quantity of air than a single relatively slow propeller and not disturb airflow over the leading edge of the wings.

Wilbur made a March 1903 entry in his notebook indicating the prototype propeller was 66% efficient. Modern wind tunnel tests on reproduction 1903 propellers show they were more than 75% efficient under the conditions of the first flights, and actually had a peak efficiency of 82%. This is a remarkable achievement, considering that modern wooden propellers have a maximum efficiency of 85%.
The Wrights wrote to several engine manufacturers, but none met their need for a sufficiently lightweight powerplant. They turned to their shop mechanic, Charlie Taylor
Charlie Taylor
Charles Edward Taylor built the first aircraft engine used by the Wright brothers and was a vital contributor of mechanical skills in the building and maintaining of early Wright engines and airplanes.-Biography:...

, who built an engine in just six weeks in close consultation with the brothers. To keep the weight low enough, the engine block was cast from aluminum, a rare practice for the time. The Wright/Taylor engine was a primitive version of modern fuel-injection systems, having no carburetor
Carburetor
A carburetor , carburettor, or carburetter is a device that blends air and fuel for an internal combustion engine. It is sometimes shortened to carb in North America and the United Kingdom....

 or fuel pump
Fuel pump
A fuel pump is a frequently essential component on a car or other internal combustion engined device. Many engines do not require any fuel pump at all, requiring only gravity to feed fuel from the fuel tank through a line or hose to the engine...

. Gasoline was gravity
Gravitation
Gravitation, or gravity, is a natural phenomenon by which physical bodies attract with a force proportional to their mass. Gravitation is most familiar as the agent that gives weight to objects with mass and causes them to fall to the ground when dropped...

-fed into the crankcase through a rubber tube from the fuel tank mounted on a wing strut.

The propeller drive chains, resembling those of bicycles, were actually supplied by a manufacturer of heavy-duty automobile chain-drives. The Flyer cost less than a thousand dollars, in contrast to more than $50,000 in government funds given to Samuel Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley was an American astronomer, physicist, inventor of the bolometer and pioneer of aviation...

 for his man-carrying Great Aerodrome
Langley Aerodrome
The Langley Aerodrome was a pioneering but unsuccessful manned, powered flying machine designed at the close of the 19th century by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley. The U.S...

. The Flyer had a wingspan of 40.3 ft (12.3 m), weighed 605 lb (274.4 kg) and sported a 12 hp 180 lb (81.6 kg) engine.

In camp at Kill Devil Hills, they suffered weeks of delays caused by broken propeller shafts during engine tests. After the shafts were replaced (requiring two trips back to Dayton), Wilbur won a coin toss and made a three-second flight attempt on December 14, 1903, stalling after takeoff and causing minor damage to the Flyer. (Because December 13, 1903, was a Sunday, the brothers did not make any attempts that day, even though the weather was good.) In a message to their family, Wilbur referred to the trial as having "only partial success", stating "the power is ample, and but for a trifling error due to lack of experience with this machine and this method of starting, the machine would undoubtedly have flown beautifully." Following repairs, the Wrights finally took to the air on December 17, 1903, making two flights each from level ground into a freezing headwind gusting to 27 miles per hour (43.5 km/h). The first flight, by Orville, of 120 feet (36.6 m) in 12 seconds, at a speed of only 6.8 miles per hour (10.9 km/h) over the ground, was recorded in a famous photograph. The next two flights covered approximately 175 feet (53.3 m) and 200 feet (61 m), by Wilbur and Orville respectively. Their altitude was about 10 feet (3 m) above the ground. The following is Orville Wright's account of the final flight of the day:

Wilbur started the fourth and last flight at just about 12 o'clock. The first few hundred feet were up and down, as before, but by the time three hundred ft had been covered, the machine was under much better control. The course for the next four or five hundred feet had but little undulation. However, when out about eight hundred feet the machine began pitching again, and, in one of its darts downward, struck the ground. The distance over the ground was measured to be 852 feet; the time of the flight was 59 seconds. The frame supporting the front rudder was badly broken, but the main part of the machine was not injured at all. We estimated that the machine could be put in condition for flight again in about a day or two.

Five people witnessed the flights: Adam Etheridge, John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels was a member of the Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station who is best known for taking the photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight on December 17, 1903...

 (who snapped the famous "first flight" photo using Orville's pre-positioned camera) and Will Dough, all of the U.S. government coastal lifesaving crew; area businessman W.C. Brinkley; and Johnny Moore, a teenaged boy who lived in the area.
After the men hauled the Flyer back from its fourth flight, a powerful gust of wind flipped it over several times, despite the crew's attempt to hold it down. Severely damaged, the airplane never flew again. The brothers shipped it home, and years later Orville restored it, lending it to several U.S. locations for display, then to a British museum (see Smithsonian dispute below), before it was finally installed in the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D.C. in 1948, its current residence.

The Wrights sent a telegram about the flights to their father, requesting that he "inform press." However, the Dayton Journal refused to publish the story, saying the flights were too short to be important. Meanwhile, against the brothers' wishes, a telegraph operator leaked their message to a Virginia newspaper, which concocted a highly inaccurate news article that was reprinted the next day in several newspapers elsewhere, including Dayton. The Wrights issued their own factual statement to the press in January. Nevertheless, the flights did not create public excitement—if people even knew about them—and the news soon faded. (In Paris, however, Aero Club of France members, already stimulated by Chanute's reports of Wright gliding successes, took the news more seriously and increased their efforts to catch up to the brothers.)

Modern analysis by Professor Fred E. C. Culick and Henry R. Jex (in 1985) has demonstrated that the 1903 Wright Flyer was so unstable as to be almost unmanageable by anyone but the Wrights, who had trained themselves in the 1902 glider.

Trouble establishing legitimacy

In 1904 the Wrights built the Flyer II
Wright Flyer II
The Flyer II was the second powered aircraft built by Wilbur and Orville Wright, in 1904. The design of the Flyer II was very similar to the original 1903 Flyer, but with a slightly more powerful engine and construction using white pine instead of the spruce they used in the 1903 machine as well as...

. They decided to avoid the expense of travel and bringing supplies to the Outer Banks and set up an airfield at Huffman Prairie
Huffman Prairie
Huffman Prairie, also known as Huffman Prairie Flying Field or Huffman Field is part of Ohio's Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park...

, a cow pasture eight miles (13 km) northeast of Dayton
Dayton, Ohio
Dayton is the 6th largest city in the U.S. state of Ohio and the county seat of Montgomery County, the fifth most populous county in the state. The population was 141,527 at the 2010 census. The Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area had a population of 841,502 in the 2010 census...

. They received permission to use the field rent-free from owner and bank president Torrance Huffman. They invited reporters to their first flight attempt of the year on May 23, on the condition that no photographs be taken. Engine troubles and slack winds prevented any flying, and they could manage only a very short hop a few days later with fewer reporters present. Some scholars of the Wrights speculate the brothers may have intentionally failed to fly in order to cause reporters to lose interest in their experiments. Whether that is true is not known, but after their poor showing local newspapers virtually ignored them for the next year and a half.
The Wrights were glad to be free from the distraction of reporters. The absence of newsmen also reduced the chance of competitors learning their methods. After the Kitty Hawk powered flights, the Wrights made a decision to begin withdrawing from the bicycle business so they could devote themselves to creating and marketing a practical airplane. The decision was financially risky, since they were neither wealthy nor government-funded (unlike other experimenters such as Ader
Clément Ader
Clément Ader was a French inventor and engineer born in Muret, Haute Garonne, and is remembered primarily for his pioneering work in aviation.- The inventor :...

, Maxim
Hiram Stevens Maxim
Sir Hiram Stevens Maxim was an American-born inventor who emigrated to England at the age of forty-one, although he remained an American citizen until he became a naturalized British subject in 1900. He was the inventor of the Maxim Gun – the first portable, fully automatic machine gun – and the...

, Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley
Samuel Pierpont Langley was an American astronomer, physicist, inventor of the bolometer and pioneer of aviation...

 and Santos-Dumont
Alberto Santos-Dumont
Alberto Santos-Dumont , was a Brazilian early pioneer of aviation. The heir of a wealthy family of coffee producers, Santos Dumont dedicated himself to science studies in Paris, France, where he spent most of his adult life....

). The Wright brothers did not have the luxury of giving away their invention; it was to be their livelihood. Thus, their secrecy intensified, encouraged by advice from their patent attorney, Henry Toulmin
Harry Aubrey Toulmin, Sr.
Harry Aubrey Toulmin, Sr. was the American lawyer located in Springfield, Ohio, who wrote the "flying machine" patent application that resulted in the patent granted to Dayton inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright on May 22, 1906....

, not to reveal details of their machine.
At Huffman Prairie, lighter winds and lower air density than in Kitty Hawk (because of Ohio's higher altitude and higher temperatures) made takeoffs very difficult, and they had to use a much longer starting rail, stretching to hundreds of feet, compared to the 60 feet (18 m) rail at Kitty Hawk. During the spring and summer they suffered many hard landings, real crackups, repeated Flyer damage, and bodily bumps and bruises. On August 13, making an unassisted takeoff, Wilbur finally exceeded their best Kitty Hawk effort with a flight of 1300 feet (396.2 m).
Then they decided to use a weight-powered catapult to make takeoffs easier and tried it for the first time on September 7. On September 20, 1904, Wilbur flew the first complete circle in history by a manned heavier-than-air powered machine, covering 4080 feet (1,244 m) in about a minute and a half. Their two best flights were November 9 by Wilbur and December 1 by Orville, each exceeding five minutes and covering nearly three miles in almost four circles. By the end of the year the brothers had accumulated about 50 minutes in the air in 105 flights over the rather soggy 85 acres (343,983.1 m²) pasture, which, remarkably, is virtually unchanged today from its original condition and is now part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
thumb|left|200 px|The Wright Flyer III, now in Carillon Historical Park, shown being flown by Orville Wright on October 4, 1905, over [[Huffman Prairie]] near Dayton...

, adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base
Wright-Patterson Air Force Base is a United States Air Force base in Greene and Montgomery counties in the state of Ohio. It includes both Wright and Patterson Fields, which were originally Wilbur Wright Field and Fairfield Aviation General Supply Depot. Patterson Field is located approximately...

.
Despite progress in 1904, the Flyer was still frequently out of control. The Wrights scrapped the battered and much-repaired airplane, but saved the engine, and in 1905 built a new Flyer III
Wright Flyer III
The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright made the first flight with it on June 23, 1905. The Flyer III had an airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903, rather than the less effective 1-in-25 used in 1904...

, which included an important design change. The brothers installed a separate control for the rear rudder instead of linking the rudder to the wing-warping "cradle" as before. Each of the three axes—pitch, roll and yaw—now had its own independent control. Nevertheless, this Flyer offered the same marginal performance as the first two. Its maiden flight was June 23 and the first several flights were no longer than 10 seconds. After Orville suffered a bone-jarring and potentially fatal crash on July 14, they rebuilt the Flyer with the forward elevator and rear rudder both enlarged and placed several feet farther away from the wings.
These modifications greatly improved stability and control, setting the stage for a series of six dramatic "long flights" ranging from 17 to 38 minutes and 11 to 24 miles (39 km) around the three-quarter mile course over Huffman Prairie between September 26 and October 5. Wilbur made the last and longest flight, 24.5 miles (39.4 km) in 38 minutes and 3 seconds, ending with a safe landing when the fuel ran out. The flight was seen by a number of people, including several invited friends, their father Milton, and neighboring farmers.
Reporters showed up the next day (only their second appearance at the field since May the previous year), but the brothers declined to fly. The long flights convinced the Wrights they had achieved their goal of creating a flying machine of "practical utility" which they could offer to sell.

The only photos of the flights of 1904–1905 were taken by the brothers. (A few photos were damaged in the Great Dayton Flood
Great Dayton Flood
The Great Dayton Flood of 1913 flooded Dayton, Ohio, and the surrounding area with water from the Great Miami River, causing the greatest natural disaster in Ohio history...

 of 1913, but most survived intact.) In 1904 Ohio beekeeping businessman Amos Root
Amos Root
Amos Ives Root developed innovative beekeeping techniques in the United States during the mid-19th century, a period when the industry played an important role in the economy of many communities. He founded his own company, which continues in business to the present day...

, a technology enthusiast, saw a few flights including the first circle. Articles he wrote for his beekeeping magazine were the only published eyewitness reports of the Huffman Prairie
Huffman Prairie
Huffman Prairie, also known as Huffman Prairie Flying Field or Huffman Field is part of Ohio's Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park...

 flights, except for the unimpressive early hop local newsmen saw. Root offered a report to Scientific American magazine, but the editor turned it down. As a result, the news was not widely known outside of Ohio, and was often met with skepticism. The Paris edition of the Herald Tribune
International Herald Tribune
The International Herald Tribune is a widely read English language international newspaper. It combines the resources of its own correspondents with those of The New York Times and is printed at 38 sites throughout the world, for sale in more than 160 countries and territories...

 headlined a 1906 article on the Wrights "FLYERS OR LIARS?"

In years to come Dayton newspapers would proudly celebrate the hometown Wright brothers as national heroes, but the local reporters somehow missed one of the most important stories in history as it was happening a few miles from their doorstep. James M. Cox
James M. Cox
James Middleton Cox was the 46th and 48th Governor of Ohio, U.S. Representative from Ohio and Democratic candidate for President of the United States in the election of 1920....

, publisher at that time of the Dayton Daily News
Dayton Daily News
The Dayton Daily News is a daily newspaper published in Dayton, Ohio. It is owned by Cox Enterprises. In the 2010 Associated Press Society of Ohio newspaper competition that takes place every year, DaytonDailyNews.com was named "the best large-newspaper web site in Ohio".-History:On August 15,...

 (later governor of Ohio and Democratic presidential nominee in 1920), expressed the attitude of newspapermen—and the public—in those days when he admitted years later, "Frankly, none of us believed it."
A few newspapers published articles about the long flights, but no reporters or photographers had been there. The lack of splashy eyewitness press coverage was a major reason for disbelief in Washington, D.C. and Europe and in journals like Scientific American, whose editors doubted the "alleged experiments" and asked how U.S. newspapers, "alert as they are, allowed these sensational performances to escape their notice."

The Wright brothers were certainly complicit in the lack of attention they received. Fearful of competitors stealing their ideas, and still without a patent, they flew on only one more day after October 5. From then on, they refused to fly anywhere unless they had a firm contract to sell their aircraft. They wrote to the U.S. government, then to Britain, France and Germany with an offer to sell a flying machine, but were rebuffed because they insisted on a signed contract before giving a demonstration. They were unwilling even to show their photographs of the airborne Flyer. The American military, having recently spent $50,000 on the Langley Aerodrome
Langley Aerodrome
The Langley Aerodrome was a pioneering but unsuccessful manned, powered flying machine designed at the close of the 19th century by Smithsonian Institution Secretary Samuel Langley. The U.S...

—a product of the nation's foremost scientist—only to see it plunge twice into the Potomac River "like a handful of mortar", was particularly unreceptive to the claims of two unknown bicycle makers from Ohio. Thus, doubted or scorned, the Wright brothers continued their work in semi-obscurity, while other aviation pioneers like Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont
Alberto Santos-Dumont
Alberto Santos-Dumont , was a Brazilian early pioneer of aviation. The heir of a wealthy family of coffee producers, Santos Dumont dedicated himself to science studies in Paris, France, where he spent most of his adult life....

, Henri Farman, Leon Delagrange
Léon Delagrange
Léon Delagrange Léon Delagrange Léon Delagrange (Ferdinand Léon Delagrange; March 13, 1873 was a pioneer French aviator and also a sculptor .He was born at Orléans and studied at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris...

 and American Glenn Curtiss
Glenn Curtiss
Glenn Hammond Curtiss was an American aviation pioneer and a founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. He began his career as a bicycle then motorcycle builder and racer, later also manufacturing engines for airships as early as 1906...

 entered the limelight.

European skepticism

In 1906, skeptics in the European aviation community had converted the press to an anti-Wright brothers stance. European newspapers, especially in France, were openly derisive, calling them bluffeurs (bluffers). Ernest Archdeacon
Ernest Archdeacon
Ernest Archdeacon , was a prominent French lawyer of Irish descent who was associated with pioneering aviation in France before the First World War. He made his first balloon flight at the age of 20. He commissioned a copy of the 1902 Wright No. 3 glider but had only limited success...

, founder of the Aéro-Club de France
Aéro-Club de France
The Aéro-Club de France was founded as the Aéro-Club on 20 October 1898 as a society 'to encourage aerial locomotion' by Ernest Archdeacon, Léon Serpollet, Henri de la Valette, Jules Verne and his wife, André Michelin, Albert de Dion, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe, and Henry de...

, was publicly scornful of the brother's claims in spite of published reports; specifically, he wrote several articles and in 1906, stated that "the French would make the first public demonstration of powered flight".

The Paris edition of the New York Herald
New York Herald
The New York Herald was a large distribution newspaper based in New York City that existed between May 6, 1835, and 1924.-History:The first issue of the paper was published by James Gordon Bennett, Sr., on May 6, 1835. By 1845 it was the most popular and profitable daily newspaper in the UnitedStates...

summed up Europe's opinion of the Wright brothers in an editorial on February 10, 1906:
The Wrights have flown or they have not flown. They possess a machine or they do not possess one. They are in fact either fliers or liars. It is difficult to fly. It's easy to say, 'We have flown.'


Alberto Santos-Dumont
Alberto Santos-Dumont
Alberto Santos-Dumont , was a Brazilian early pioneer of aviation. The heir of a wealthy family of coffee producers, Santos Dumont dedicated himself to science studies in Paris, France, where he spent most of his adult life....

´s public flight in October 1906 was the first certified by the Aéro-Club de France
Aéro-Club de France
The Aéro-Club de France was founded as the Aéro-Club on 20 October 1898 as a society 'to encourage aerial locomotion' by Ernest Archdeacon, Léon Serpollet, Henri de la Valette, Jules Verne and his wife, André Michelin, Albert de Dion, Alberto Santos-Dumont, Henry Deutsch de la Meurthe, and Henry de...

 and the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
Fédération Aéronautique Internationale
The Fédération Aéronautique Internationale is the world governing body for air sports and aeronautics and astronautics world records. Its head office is in Lausanne, Switzerland. This includes man-carrying aerospace vehicles from balloons to spacecraft, and unmanned aerial vehicles...

 (FAI).
In 1908, after the Wrights' first flights in France, Archdeacon publicly admitted that he had done them an injustice.

Contracts and return to Kitty Hawk

The Wright brothers made no flights at all in 1906 and 1907. They spent the time attempting to persuade the U.S. and European governments that they had invented a successful flying machine and were prepared to negotiate a contract to sell such machines. They also experimented with a pontoon and engine setup on the Miami River (Ohio) in hopes of flying their airplane from the water. These experiments proved unsuccessful. In May 1906 they were finally granted a patent for their flying machine.

Replying to the Wrights' letters, the U.S. military expressed virtually no interest in their claims. The brothers turned their attention to Europe, especially France where enthusiasm for aviation ran high, and journeyed there for the first time in 1907 for face-to-face talks with government officials and businessmen. They also met with aviation representatives in Germany and Britain. Before traveling, Orville shipped a newly-built Model A Flyer to France in anticipation of demonstration flights.

In France Wilbur met Frank P. Lahm, a lieutenant in the U.S. Army Aeronautical Division
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
The Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps was the world's first heavier-than-air military aviation organization and the progenitor of the United States Air Force. A component of the U.S...

. Writing to his superiors, Lahm smoothed the way for Wilbur to give an in-person presentation to the U.S. Board of Ordnance and Fortification in Washington, D.C. when he returned to the U.S. This time, the Board was favorably impressed, in contrast to its previous indifference. With further input from the Wrights, the U.S. Army Signal Corps issued Specification #486 in December 1907, inviting bids for construction of an airplane under military contract. The Wrights submitted their bid in January.The Board was surprised when it received 41 bids, having expected only one. None of the other bids amounted to a serious proposal.
In early 1908 the brothers also agreed to a contract with a French company. In May they went back to Kitty Hawk with their 1905 Flyer to practice in private for their all-important public demonstration flights, as required by both contracts. Their privacy was lost when New York newspapers heard about the tests and sent several reporters to the scene.
Their contracts required them to fly with a passenger, so they modified the 1905 Flyer by installing two seats and adding upright control levers. After tests with sandbags in the passenger seat, Charlie Furnas
Charles Furnas
Charles W. Furnas was born in West Milton, Miami County, Ohio, the second son of Tanzy and Elizabeth Furnas. He is chiefly remembered for his work as a mechanic for the Wright Company and for being the world's first aeroplane passenger...

, a helper from Dayton, became the first fixed-wing aircraft passenger on a few short flights May 14. For safety, and as a promise to their father, Wilbur and Orville did not fly together. However, several newspaper accounts at the time mistakenly took Orville's flight with Furnas as both brothers flying together. Later that day after flying solo seven minutes, Wilbur suffered his worst crash when—still not well-acquainted with the two new control levers—he apparently moved one the wrong way and slammed the Flyer into the sand between 40 miles (64.4 km) and 50 miles (80.5 km) an hour. He emerged with only bruises and a cut nose, but the accident ended the practice flights—and the aircraft's flying career.

Return to Glider Flights

In October 1911, Orville Wright returned to the Outer Banks again, to improve the aircraft and conduct tests for safety and stabilization with a new glider
Wright Glider
The Wright brothers designed, built and flew a series of three manned gliders in 1900-1902 as they worked towards achieving powered flight. They also made preliminary tests with a kite in 1899. In 1911 Orville conducted tests with a much more sophisticated glider...

. On October 24, he soared for nine minutes and 45 seconds, a record that held for almost 10 years, when Gliding
Gliding
Gliding is a recreational activity and competitive air sport in which pilots fly unpowered aircraft known as gliders or sailplanes using naturally occurring currents of rising air in the atmosphere to remain airborne. The word soaring is also used for the sport.Gliding as a sport began in the 1920s...

 as a sport began in the 1920s.

Public showing

The brothers' contracts with the U.S. Army and a French syndicate depended on successful public flight demonstrations that met certain conditions. The brothers had to divide their efforts. Wilbur sailed for Europe; Orville would fly near Washington, D.C.

Facing a lot of skepticism in the French aeronautical community and outright scorn by some newspapers that called him a "bluffeur," Wilbur began official public demonstrations on August 8, 1908 at the Hunaudières horse racing track near the town of Le Mans
Le Mans
Le Mans is a city in France, located on the Sarthe River. Traditionally the capital of the province of Maine, it is now the capital of the Sarthe department and the seat of the Roman Catholic diocese of Le Mans. Le Mans is a part of the Pays de la Loire region.Its inhabitants are called Manceaux...

, France. His first flight lasted only one minute 45 seconds, but his ability to effortlessly make banking turns and fly a circle amazed and stunned onlookers, including several pioneer French aviators, among them Louis Bleriot
Louis Blériot
Louis Charles Joseph Blériot was a French aviator, inventor and engineer. In 1909 he completed the first flight across a large body of water in a heavier-than-air craft, when he crossed the English Channel. For this achievement, he received a prize of £1,000...

. In the following days, Wilbur made a series of technically challenging flights, including figure-eights, demonstrating his skills as a pilot and the capability of his flying machine, which far surpassed those of all other pilot pioneers.

The French public was thrilled by Wilbur's feats and flocked to the field by the thousands. The Wright brothers catapulted to world fame overnight. Former doubters issued apologies and effusive praise. L'Aérophile
L'Aérophile
L’Aérophile was a French aviation magazine published from 1893 to 1947. It has been described as "the leading aeronautical journal of the world" around 1910.- History and contents :L’Aérophile was founded and run for many years by Georges Besançon...

editor Georges Besançon wrote that the flights "have completely dissipated all doubts. Not one of the former detractors of the Wrights dare question, today, the previous experiments of the men who were truly the first to fly...." Leading French aviation promoter Ernest Archdeacon wrote, "For a long time, the Wright brothers have been accused in Europe of bluff... They are today hallowed in France, and I feel an intense pleasure...to make amends."

On October 7, 1908, Edith Berg, the wife of the brothers' European business agent, became the first American woman passenger when she flew with Wilbur—-one of many passengers who rode with him that autumn. Wilbur also became acquainted with Léon Bollée
Léon Bollée
Léon Bollée was a French automobile manufacturer and inventor.-Life:Bollée's family were well known bellfounders and his father, Amédée Bollée , was the major pioneer in the automobile industry who produced several steam cars...

 and his family. Bollee was the owner of an automobile factory where Wilbur would assemble the Flyer and where he would be provided with hired assistance. Bollee would fly that autumn with Wilbur. Madame Bollee had been in the latter stages of pregnancy when Wilbur arrived in LeMans in June 1908 to assemble the Flyer. Wilbur promised her that he would make his first European flight the day her baby was born which he did, August 8, 1908.

Orville followed his brother's success by demonstrating another nearly identical Flyer to the United States Army
United States Army
The United States Army is the main branch of the United States Armed Forces responsible for land-based military operations. It is the largest and oldest established branch of the U.S. military, and is one of seven U.S. uniformed services...

 at Fort Myer
Fort Myer
Fort Myer is a U.S. Army post adjacent to Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington County, Virginia, across the Potomac River from Washington, D.C. It is a small post by U.S...

, Virginia, starting on September 3, 1908. On September 9, he made the first hour-long flight, lasting 62 minutes and 15 seconds. On September 17, Army lieutenant Thomas Selfridge
Thomas Selfridge
Thomas Etholen Selfridge was a First Lieutenant in the U.S. Army and the first person to die in a crash of a powered airplane. He was a passenger while Orville Wright was piloting the aircraft.-Biography:...

 rode along as his passenger, serving as an official observer. A few minutes into the flight at an altitude of about 100 feet (30.5 m), a propeller split and shattered, sending the aircraft out of control. Selfridge suffered a fractured skull in the crash and died that evening in the nearby Army hospital, becoming the first airplane crash fatality. Orville was badly injured, suffering a broken left leg and four broken ribs. Twelve years later, after he suffered increasingly severe pains, X-rays revealed the accident had also caused three hip bone fractures and a dislocated hip. The brothers' sister Katharine, a school teacher, rushed from Dayton to Virginia and stayed by Orville's side for the seven weeks of his hospitalization. She helped negotiate a one-year extension of the Army contract. A friend visiting Orville in the hospital asked, "Has it got your nerve?" "Nerve?" repeated Orville, slightly puzzled. "Oh, do you mean will I be afraid to fly again? The only thing I'm afraid of is that I can't get well soon enough to finish those tests next year."

Deeply shocked by the accident, Wilbur determined to make even more impressive flight demonstrations; in the ensuing days and weeks he set new records for altitude and duration. In January 1909 Orville and Katharine joined him in France, and for a time they were the three most famous people in the world, sought after by royalty, the rich, reporters and the public. The kings of England, Spain and Italy came to see Wilbur fly.
The Wrights traveled to Pau, in the south of France, where Wilbur made many more public flights, giving rides to a procession of officers, journalists and statesmen—and his sister Katharine on February 15. He trained two French pilots, then transferred the airplane to the French company. In April the Wrights went to Italy where Wilbur assembled another Flyer, giving demonstrations and training more pilots. An Italian cameraman Federico Valle climbed aboard and filmed the first motion picture from an aircraft.

After their return to the U.S., the brothers and Katharine were invited to the White House where President Taft
William Howard Taft
William Howard Taft was the 27th President of the United States and later the tenth Chief Justice of the United States...

 bestowed awards upon them. Dayton followed up with a lavish two-day homecoming celebration. In July 1909 Orville, with Wilbur assisting, completed the proving flights for the U.S. Army, meeting the requirements of a two-seater able to fly with a passenger for an hour at an average of speed of 40 miles an hour (64 km/h) and land undamaged. They sold the aircraft to the Army's Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
Aeronautical Division, U.S. Signal Corps
The Aeronautical Division, Signal Corps was the world's first heavier-than-air military aviation organization and the progenitor of the United States Air Force. A component of the U.S...

 for $30,000 (which included a $5,000 bonus for exceeding the speed specification). Wilbur climaxed an extraordinary year in early October when he flew at New York City's Hudson-Fulton celebrations, circling the Statue of Liberty
Statue of Liberty
The Statue of Liberty is a colossal neoclassical sculpture on Liberty Island in New York Harbor, designed by Frédéric Bartholdi and dedicated on October 28, 1886...

 and making a 33-minute flight up and down the Hudson River alongside Manhattan in view of up to one million New Yorkers. These flights solidly established the fame of the Wright brothers in America.

Family flights

On May 25, 1910 back at Huffman Prairie, Orville piloted two unique flights. First, he took off on a six-minute flight with Wilbur as his passenger, the only time the Wright brothers ever flew together. They received permission from their father to make the flight. They had always promised Milton they would never fly together to avoid the chance of a double tragedy and to ensure one brother would remain to continue their experiments. Next, Orville took his 82-year old father on a nearly seven-minute flight, the first and only one of Milton Wright's life. The airplane rose to about 350 feet (107 m) while the elderly Wright called to his son, "Higher, Orville, higher!"

Patent war

The Wright brothers wrote their 1903 patent application
Patent application
A patent application is a request pending at a patent office for the grant of a patent for the invention described and claimed by that application. An application consists of a description of the invention , together with official forms and correspondence relating to the application...

 themselves, but it was rejected. In January 1904 they hired Ohio patent attorney Henry Toulmin
Harry Aubrey Toulmin, Sr.
Harry Aubrey Toulmin, Sr. was the American lawyer located in Springfield, Ohio, who wrote the "flying machine" patent application that resulted in the patent granted to Dayton inventors Wilbur and Orville Wright on May 22, 1906....

, and on May 22, 1906, they were granted U.S. Patent 821393 for a "Flying Machine".
The patent illustrates a non-powered flying machine—namely, the 1902 glider. The patent's importance lies in its claim of a new and useful method of controlling a flying machine, powered or not. The technique of wing-warping is described, but the patent explicitly states that other methods instead of wing-warping could be used for adjusting the outer portions of a machine's wings to different angles on the right and left sides to achieve lateral (roll) control. The concept of varying the angle presented to the air near the wingtips, by any suitable method, is central to the patent. The patent also describes the steerable rear vertical rudder and its innovative use in combination with wing-warping, enabling the airplane to make a coordinated turn, a technique that prevents hazardous adverse yaw
Adverse yaw
Adverse yaw is a yaw moment on an aircraft which results from an aileron deflection and a roll rate, such as when entering or exiting a turn. It is called "adverse" because it acts opposite to the yaw moment needed to execute the desired turn. Adverse yaw has three mechanisms, listed below in...

, the problem Wilbur had when trying to turn the 1901 glider. Finally, the patent describes the forward elevator, used for ascending and descending.

Lawsuits begin

Attempting to circumvent the patent, Glenn Curtiss
Glenn Curtiss
Glenn Hammond Curtiss was an American aviation pioneer and a founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. He began his career as a bicycle then motorcycle builder and racer, later also manufacturing engines for airships as early as 1906...

 and other early aviators devised aileron
Aileron
Ailerons are hinged flight control surfaces attached to the trailing edge of the wing of a fixed-wing aircraft. The ailerons are used to control the aircraft in roll, which results in a change in heading due to the tilting of the lift vector...

s to emulate lateral control described in the patent and demonstrated by the Wrights in their public flights.
Soon after the historic July 4, 1908 one-kilometer flight by Curtiss in the June Bug, the Wrights warned him not to infringe their patent by profiting from flying or selling aircraft that used ailerons. Curtiss refused to pay license fees to the Wrights and sold an aircraft equipped with ailerons to the Aeronautic Society of New York in 1909. The Wrights filed a lawsuit, beginning a years-long legal conflict. They also sued foreign aviators who flew at U.S. exhibitions, including the leading French aviator Louis Paulhan
Louis Paulhan
Isidore Auguste Marie Louis Paulhan, known as Louis Paulhan, was a pioneering French aviator who in 1910 flew "Le Canard", the world's first seaplane, designed by Henri Fabre....

. The Curtiss people derisively suggested that if someone jumped in the air and waved his arms, the Wrights would sue. European companies which bought foreign patents the Wrights had received sued other manufacturers in their countries. Those lawsuits were only partly successful. Despite a pro-Wright ruling in France, legal maneuvering dragged on until the patent expired in 1917. A German court ruled the patent not valid because of prior disclosure in speeches by Wilbur Wright in 1901 and Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute was a French-born American railway engineer and aviation pioneer. He provided the Wright brothers with help and advice, and helped to publicize their flying experiments. At his death he was hailed as the father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine...

 in 1903. In the U.S. the Wrights made an agreement with the Aero Club of America
Aero Club of America
The Aero Club of America was a social club formed in 1905 by Charles Glidden and others to promote aviation in America. It was the parent organization of numerous state chapters, the first being the Aero Club of New England. It thrived until 1923, when it transformed into the National Aeronautic...

 to license airshows which the Club approved, freeing participating pilots from a legal threat. Promoters of approved shows paid fees to the Wrights. The Wright brothers won their initial case against Curtiss in February 1913 when a judge ruled that ailerons were covered under the patent. The Curtiss company appealed the decision.

From 1910 until his death from typhoid fever
Typhoid fever
Typhoid fever, also known as Typhoid, is a common worldwide bacterial disease, transmitted by the ingestion of food or water contaminated with the feces of an infected person, which contain the bacterium Salmonella enterica, serovar Typhi...

 in 1912, Wilbur took the leading role in the patent struggle, traveling incessantly to consult with lawyers and testify in what he felt was a moral cause, particularly against Curtiss, who was creating a large company to manufacture aircraft. The Wrights' preoccupation with the legal issue stifled their work on new designs, and by 1911 Wright aircraft were considered inferior to those of European makers. Indeed, aviation development in the U.S. was suppressed to such an extent that when the U.S. entered World War I no acceptable American-designed aircraft were available, and U.S. forces were compelled to use French machines. Orville and Katharine Wright believed Curtiss was partly responsible for Wilbur's premature death, which occurred in the wake of his exhausting travels and the stress of the legal battle.

Victory and cooperation

In January 1914, a U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the verdict against the Curtiss company, which continued to avoid penalties through legal tactics. Orville apparently felt vindicated by the decision, and much to the frustration of company executives, he did not push vigorously for further legal action to ensure a manufacturing monopoly. In fact, he was planning to sell the company and departed in 1915. In 1917, with World War I underway, the U.S. government pressured the industry to form a cross-licensing organization, the Manufacturers Aircraft Association, to which member companies paid a blanket fee for the use of aviation patents, including the original and subsequent Wright patents. The Wright-Martin company (successor to the Wright company) and the Curtiss company (which held a number of its own patents) each received a $2 million payment. The "patent war" ended, although side issues lingered in the courts until the 1920s. In a twist of irony, the Wright Aeronautical Corporation (another successor) and the Curtiss Aeroplane company merged in 1929 to form the Curtiss-Wright
Curtiss-Wright
The Curtiss-Wright Corporation was the largest aircraft manufacturer in the United States at the end of World War II, but has evolved to largely become a component manufacturer, specializing in actuators, aircraft controls, valves, and metalworking....

 corporation, which remains in business today producing high-tech components for the aerospace industry.

Friendship ends

The lawsuits damaged the public image of the Wright brothers, who were generally regarded before this as heroes. Critics said the brothers were greedy and unfair and compared their actions unfavorably to European inventors, who worked more openly. Supporters said the brothers were protecting their interests and were justified in expecting fair compensation for the years of work leading to their successful invention. Their 10-year friendship with Octave Chanute, already strained by tension over how much credit, if any, he might deserve for their success, collapsed after he publicly criticized their actions.

In business

The Wright Company
Wright Company
The Wright Company was the commercial aviation business venture of the Wright Brothers, established by them in 1909 in conjunction with several prominent industrialists from New York and Detroit with the intention of capitalizing on their invention of the practical airplane. It maintained a...

 was incorporated on November 22, 1909. The brothers sold their patents to the company for $100,000 and also received one-third of the shares in a million dollar stock issue and a 10 percent royalty on every airplane sold. With Wilbur as president and Orville as vice president, the company set up a factory in Dayton and a flying school/test flight field at Huffman Prairie; the headquarters office was in New York City.

In mid-1910, the Wrights changed the design of the Wright Flyer, moving the horizontal elevator from the front to the back and adding wheels although keeping the skids as part of the undercarriage unit. It had become apparent by then that a rear elevator would make the airplane easier to control, especially as higher speeds grew more common. This aircraft was designated the "Model B", although the original canard design was never referred to as the "Model A" by the Wrights. However, the US Signal Corps which bought the aircraft did call it "Wright Type A".

There were not many customers for aircraft, so in the spring of 1910 the Wrights hired and trained a team
Wright Exhibition Team
The Wright Exhibition Team was a group of early aviators trained by the Wright brothers at Wright Flying School in Montgomery, Alabama in March 1910.-History:The group was formed in 1910 at the suggestion of Augustus Roy Knabenshue....

 of salaried exhibition pilots to show off their machines and win prize money for the company—despite Wilbur's disdain for what he called "the mountebank business". The team debuted at the Indianapolis Speedway on June 13. Before the year was over, pilots Ralph Johnstone
Ralph Johnstone
Ralph Johnstone was a pioneering early aviator who died in a crash.-Biography:He was born in Kansas City, Missouri in 1886. He started as a vaudeville trick bicycle rider. With a signature finale of performing a mid-air forward somersault. He became a Wright exhibition team pilot...

 and Arch Hoxsey died in air show crashes, and in November 1911 the brothers disbanded the team on which nine men had served (four other former team members died in crashes afterward).

The Wright Company transported the first known commercial air cargo on November 7, 1910 by flying two bolts of dress silk 65 miles (105 km) from Dayton to Columbus, Ohio for the Morehouse-Martens Department Store, which paid a $5,000 fee. Company pilot Phil Parmelee
Philip Orin Parmelee
Philip Orin Parmelee was an American aviation pioneer trained by the Wright brothers and credited with several early world aviation records and "firsts" in flight...

 made the flight—which was more an exercise in advertising than a simple delivery—in an hour and six minutes with the cargo strapped in the passenger's seat. The silk was cut into small pieces and sold as souvenirs.

Between 1910 and 1916 the Wright Company flying school at Huffman Prairie trained 115 pilots who were instructed by Orville and his assistants. Several trainees became famous, including Henry "Hap" Arnold, who rose to Five-Star General, commanded U.S. Army Air Forces in World War II, and became first head of the U.S. Air Force; Calbraith Perry Rodgers
Calbraith Perry Rodgers
Calbraith Perry Rodgers was an American pioneer aviator. He made the first transcontinental airplane flight across the U.S. from September 17, 1911 to November 5, 1911, with dozens of stops, both intentional and accidental...

, who made the first coast-to-coast flight in 1911 (with many stops and crashes) in a Wright Model EX named the "Vin Fiz
Vin Fiz Flyer
The Vin Fiz Flyer was an early Wright Brothers Model EX pusher biplane, that in 1911 became the first to cross the North American continent by air.-History:...

" after the sponsor's soft drink; and Eddie Stinson, founder of the Stinson Aircraft Company
Stinson Aircraft Company
The Stinson Aircraft Company was an aircraft manufacturing company in the United States between the 1920s and the 1950s.-The Company:The Stinson Aircraft Company was founded in Dayton, Ohio, in 1920 by aviator Edward “Eddie” Stinson, brother to Katherine Stinson. After five years of business...

.

Problem airplanes in the Army

In 1912–1913 a series of fatal crashes of Wright aircraft bought by the U.S. Army called into question their safety and design. The death toll reached 11 by 1913, half of them in the Wright model C. All six model C Army airplanes crashed. They had a tendency to nose dive, but Orville insisted that stalls were caused by pilot error. He cooperated with the Army to equip the airplane with a rudimentary flight indicator to help the pilot avoid climbing too steeply. A government investigation said the Wright C was "dynamically unsuited for flying," and the military ended its use of airplanes with "pusher
Pusher configuration
In a craft with a pusher configuration the propeller are mounted behind their respective engine. According to Bill Gunston, a "pusher propeller" is one mounted behind engine so that drive shaft is in compression...

" type propellers, including models made by both the Wright and Curtiss companies, in which the engine was located behind the pilot and likely to crush him in a crash. Orville resisted the switch to manufacturing "tractor
Tractor configuration
thumb|right|[[Evektor-Aerotechnik|Aerotechnik EV97A Eurostar]], a tractor configuration aircraft, being pulled into position by its pilot for refuelling....

" type propeller airplanes, worried that a design change could threaten the Wright patent infringement case against Curtiss.

Smithsonian feud

Samuel P. Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution
Smithsonian Institution
The Smithsonian Institution is an educational and research institute and associated museum complex, administered and funded by the government of the United States and by funds from its endowment, contributions, and profits from its retail operations, concessions, licensing activities, and magazines...

 from 1887 until his death in 1906, experimented for years with model flying machines and successfully flew unmanned powered model aircraft in 1896 and 1903. Two tests of his manned full-size motor-driven Aerodrome in October and December 1903, however, were complete failures. Nevertheless, the Smithsonian later proudly displayed the Aerodrome in its museum as the first heavier-than-air craft "capable" of manned powered flight, relegating the Wright brothers' invention to secondary status and ironically triggering a decades-long feud with Orville Wright, whose brother had received help from the Smithsonian when beginning his own quest for flight.
The Smithsonian based its claim for the Aerodrome on short test flights Glenn Curtiss
Glenn Curtiss
Glenn Hammond Curtiss was an American aviation pioneer and a founder of the U.S. aircraft industry. He began his career as a bicycle then motorcycle builder and racer, later also manufacturing engines for airships as early as 1906...

 and his team made with it in 1914. The Smithsonian allowed Curtiss, in an unsavory alliance, to make major modifications to the craft before attempting to fly it. The Smithsonian hoped to salvage Langley's aeronautical reputation by proving the Aerodrome could fly; Curtiss wanted to prove the same thing to defeat the Wrights' patent lawsuits against him. The tests had no effect on the patent battle, but the Smithsonian made the most of them, honoring the Aerodrome in its museum and publications. The Institution did not reveal the extensive Curtiss modifications, but Orville Wright learned of them from his brother Lorin and a close friend, Griffith Brewer, who both witnessed and photographed some of the tests.

Orville repeatedly objected to misrepresentation of the Aerodrome, but the Smithsonian was unyielding. Orville responded by loaning the restored 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer to the London Science Museum in 1928, refusing to donate it to the Smithsonian while the Institution "perverted" the history of the flying machine. Subsequently Orville would never see his invention again as he would die before its return to the United States. Charles Lindbergh
Charles Lindbergh
Charles Augustus Lindbergh was an American aviator, author, inventor, explorer, and social activist.Lindbergh, a 25-year-old U.S...

 attempted to mediate the dispute, to no avail. In 1942, after years of bad publicity, and encouraged by Wright biographer Fred C. Kelly
Fred C. Kelly
Fred Charters Kelly was an American humorist, newspaperman, columnist and author.Kelly was born in 1882 in Xenia, Ohio and studied at the University of Michigan . He began his newspaper career in 1896 as a local correspondent for a small town newspaper and wrote a humor column for The Plain...

, the Smithsonian finally relented by publishing, for the first time, a list of the Aerodrome modifications and recanting misleading statements it had made about the 1914 tests. Orville then privately requested the British museum to return the Flyer, but the airplane remained in protective storage for the duration of World War II and finally came home after Orville's death.

On November 23, 1948, the executors of Orville's estate signed an agreement for the Smithsonian to purchase the Flyer for one dollar. At the insistence of the executors, the agreement also included strict conditions for display of the airplane.
The agreement reads, in part, "Neither the Smithsonian Institution or its successors, nor any museum or other agency, bureau or facilities administered for the United States of America by the Smithsonian Institution or its successors shall publish or permit to be displayed a statement or label in connection with or in respect of any aircraft model or design of earlier date than the 1903 Wright Aeroplane, claiming in effect that such aircraft was capable of carrying a man under its own power in controlled flight." If this agreement is not fulfilled, the Flyer can be reclaimed by the heir of the Wright brothers. Some aviation buffs, particularly those who promote the legacy of Gustave Whitehead
Gustave Whitehead
Gustave Albin Whitehead, born Gustav Albin Weisskopf was an aviation pioneer who emigrated from Germany to the U.S., where he designed and built early flying machines and engines meant to power them....

, now accuse the Smithsonian of refusing to investigate claims of earlier flights. After a ceremony in the Smithsonian museum, the Flyer went on public display on December 17, 1948, the 45th anniversary of the only day it was flown successfully.
The Wright brothers' nephew Milton (Lorin's son), who had seen gliders and the Flyer under construction in the bicycle shop when he was a boy, gave a brief speech and formally transferred the airplane to the Smithsonian, which displayed it with the accompanying label:
The original Wright brothers aeroplane
The world's first power-driven heavier-than-air machine in which man made free, controlled, and sustained flight

Invented and built by Wilbur and Orville Wright

Flown by them at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina December 17, 1903

By original scientific research the Wright brothers discovered the principles of human flight

As inventors, builders, and flyers they further developed the aeroplane, taught man to fly, and opened the era of aviation

Wilbur

Neither brother married. Wilbur once quipped that he "did not have time for both a wife and an airplane." He became ill on a business trip to Boston in April 1912. After returning to Dayton, he was diagnosed with typhoid fever. He lingered in and out of consciousness for several weeks until he died, at age 45, in the Wright family home on May 30. His father Milton wrote about Wilbur in his diary: "A short life, full of consequences. An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty, seeing the right clearly, pursuing it steadfastly, he lived and died."

Orville

Orville succeeded to the presidency of the Wright company upon Wilbur's death. Sharing Wilbur's distaste for business but not his brother's executive skills, Orville sold the company in 1915. He, Katharine and their father Milton moved to a mansion, Hawthorn Hill
Hawthorn Hill
Hawthorn Hill in Oakwood, Ohio, USA, was the post-1914 home of Orville, Milton, and Katharine Wright. Wilbur and Orville Wright intended for it to be their joint home, but Wilbur died in 1912, before the home's 1914 completion. The brothers hired the prominent Dayton architectural firm of...

, Oakwood, Ohio
Oakwood, Montgomery County, Ohio
Oakwood is a city in Montgomery County, Ohio, United States. The population was 9,202 at the 2010 census. Oakwood is part of the Dayton Metropolitan Statistical Area. It was incorporated in 1908...

, which the newly wealthy family built. Milton died in his sleep in 1917. Orville made his last flight as a pilot in 1918 in a 1911 Model B. He retired from business and became an elder statesman of aviation, serving on various official boards and committees, including the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics (NACA
NACA
- Organizations :* National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner of the U.S. federal agency NASA* National Association for Campus Activities, an organization for programmers of university and college activities...

), predecessor agency to the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA
NASA
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is the agency of the United States government that is responsible for the nation's civilian space program and for aeronautics and aerospace research...

) and Aeronautical Chamber of Commerce (ACCA), predecessor to the Aerospace Industries Association (AIA). Katharine married Henry Haskell of Kansas City, a former Oberlin classmate, in 1926, which greatly upset Orville. He refused to attend the wedding or even communicate with her. He finally agreed to see her, apparently at Lorin's insistence, just before she died of pneumonia in 1929.

Orville Wright served NACA
NACA
- Organizations :* National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, the forerunner of the U.S. federal agency NASA* National Association for Campus Activities, an organization for programmers of university and college activities...

 for 28 years. In 1930, he received the first Daniel Guggenheim Medal established in 1928 by the Daniel Guggenheim Fund for the Promotion of Aeronautics. In 1936, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences.

On April 19, 1944, the second production Lockheed
Lockheed Corporation
The Lockheed Corporation was an American aerospace company. Lockheed was founded in 1912 and later merged with Martin Marietta to form Lockheed Martin in 1995.-Origins:...

 Constellation
Lockheed Constellation
The Lockheed Constellation was a propeller-driven airliner powered by four 18-cylinder radial Wright R-3350 engines. It was built by Lockheed between 1943 and 1958 at its Burbank, California, USA, facility. A total of 856 aircraft were produced in numerous models, all distinguished by a...

, piloted by Howard Hughes
Howard Hughes
Howard Robard Hughes, Jr. was an American business magnate, investor, aviator, engineer, film producer, director, and philanthropist. He was one of the wealthiest people in the world...

 and TWA president Jack Frye
Jack Frye
William John "Jack" Frye was an aviation pioneer, who with Paul E. Richter and Walter A. Hamilton, built TWA into a world class airline during his tenure as chairman from 1934-1947....

, flew from Burbank, California
Burbank, California
Burbank is a city in Los Angeles County in Southern California, United States, north of downtown Los Angeles. The estimated population in 2010 was 103,340....

, to Washington, D.C. in 6 hours and 57 minutes (2300 mi – 330.9 mph). On the return trip, the aircraft stopped at Wright Field
Wright Field
Wright Field was an airfield of the United States Army Air Corps and Air Forces near Riverside, Ohio. From 1927 to 1947 it was the research and development center for the Air Corps, and during World War II a flight test center....

 to give Orville Wright his last airplane flight, more than 40 years after his historic first flight. He may even have briefly handled the controls. He commented that the wingspan of the Constellation was longer than the distance of his first flight. Perhaps the last major highlight of Orville's life was supervising the reclamation and preservation of the 1905 Wright Flyer III
Wright Flyer III
The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright made the first flight with it on June 23, 1905. The Flyer III had an airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903, rather than the less effective 1-in-25 used in 1904...

, an aircraft that stands equally in importance with the 1903 Flyer.

Orville died on January 30, 1948, after his second heart attack, having lived from the horse-and-buggy age to the dawn of supersonic
Supersonic
Supersonic speed is a rate of travel of an object that exceeds the speed of sound . For objects traveling in dry air of a temperature of 20 °C this speed is approximately 343 m/s, 1,125 ft/s, 768 mph or 1,235 km/h. Speeds greater than five times the speed of sound are often...

 flight. He was followed a day later by John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels
John T. Daniels was a member of the Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station who is best known for taking the photograph of the Wright brothers' first flight on December 17, 1903...

, the Coast Guardsman who took their famous first flight photo. Both brothers are buried at the family plot at Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio
Woodland Cemetery, Dayton, Ohio
Woodland Cemetery and Arboretum , located at 118 Woodland Avenue, Dayton, Ohio, is one of the oldest "garden" cemeteries in the United States....

.

Competing claims

First flight claims are made for Ader
Clément Ader
Clément Ader was a French inventor and engineer born in Muret, Haute Garonne, and is remembered primarily for his pioneering work in aviation.- The inventor :...

, Whitehead, Pearse
Richard Pearse
Richard William Pearse , son of Cornish immigrants from St Columb near Newquay, a New Zealand farmer and inventor who performed pioneering experiments in aviation....

, and Jatho
Karl Jatho
Karl Jatho was a German pioneer and inventor, performer and public servant of the city of Hanover.On August 18, 1903 he flew with his self-made motored gliding airplane 4 months before the first flight of the Wright Brothers. He made his first attempts with a plane with three lifting surfaces, but...

 for their variously documented tests in years prior to and including 1903. Claims that the first true flight occurred after 1903 are made for Vuia and Santos-Dumont. Supporters of these pre- and post-Wright pioneers argue that techniques used by the Wright brothers disqualify them as first to make successful airplane flights. Those techniques were: a launch rail; skids instead of wheels; a headwind at takeoff; and a catapult after 1903. Supporters of the Wright brothers argue that proven, repeated, controlled, and sustained flights by the brothers entitle them to credit as inventors of the airplane, regardless of those techniques.

Ohio/North Carolina rivalry

The U.S. states of Ohio
Ohio
Ohio is a Midwestern state in the United States. The 34th largest state by area in the U.S.,it is the 7th‑most populous with over 11.5 million residents, containing several major American cities and seven metropolitan areas with populations of 500,000 or more.The state's capital is Columbus...

 and North Carolina
North Carolina
North Carolina is a state located in the southeastern United States. The state borders South Carolina and Georgia to the south, Tennessee to the west and Virginia to the north. North Carolina contains 100 counties. Its capital is Raleigh, and its largest city is Charlotte...

 both take credit for the Wright brothers and their world-changing inventions—Ohio because the brothers developed and built their design in Dayton, and North Carolina because Kitty Hawk was the site of the first flight. With a spirit of friendly rivalry, Ohio adopted the slogan "Birthplace of Aviation" (later "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers", recognizing not only the Wrights, but also astronauts John Glenn
John Glenn
John Herschel Glenn, Jr. is a former United States Marine Corps pilot, astronaut, and United States senator who was the first American to orbit the Earth and the third American in space. Glenn was a Marine Corps fighter pilot before joining NASA's Mercury program as a member of NASA's original...

 and Neil Armstrong
Neil Armstrong
Neil Alden Armstrong is an American former astronaut, test pilot, aerospace engineer, university professor, United States Naval Aviator, and the first person to set foot upon the Moon....

, both Ohio natives). The slogan appears on Ohio license plates. North Carolina uses the slogan "First In Flight" on its license plates.

The site of the first flights in North Carolina is preserved as Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wright Brothers National Memorial
Wright Brothers National Memorial, located in Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, commemorates the first successful, sustained, powered flights in a heavier-than-air machine. From 1900 to 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright came here from Dayton, Ohio, based on information from the U.S. Weather Bureau...

, while their Ohio facilities are part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
thumb|left|200 px|The Wright Flyer III, now in Carillon Historical Park, shown being flown by Orville Wright on October 4, 1905, over [[Huffman Prairie]] near Dayton...

. As the positions of both states can be factually defended, and each played a significant role in the history of flight, neither state truly has an exclusive claim to the Wrights' accomplishment.

Statuary Hall vote

In early 2010, the Wright brothers were proposed by the Ohio Historical Society
Ohio Historical Society
The Ohio Historical Society is a non-profit organization incorporated in 1885 as The Ohio State Archaeological and Historical Society "to promote a knowledge of archaeology and history, especially in Ohio"...

 as finalists in a statewide vote for inclusion in Statuary Hall at the United States Capitol
United States Capitol
The United States Capitol is the meeting place of the United States Congress, the legislature of the federal government of the United States. Located in Washington, D.C., it sits atop Capitol Hill at the eastern end of the National Mall...

.

See also

  • History by Contract
    History by Contract
    History by Contract, published in 1978, is a book written by Major William J. O'Dwyer, U.S. Air Force Reserve , of Fairfield, Conn. about the aviation pioneer Gustave Whitehead....

  • Wilbur Wright Middle School
    Wilbur Wright Middle School
    Wilbur Wright Middle School is an integrated learning school serving grades six through eight in the Dayton school district of Dayton, Ohio.-Past and present:...

  • Katharine Wright
    Katharine Wright
    Katharine Wright Haskell was the only sister of aviation pioneers Wilbur and Orville Wright. She was a high school teacher and later became an international celebrity when she accompanied her famous brothers in Europe....

  • Milton Wright (bishop)
    Milton Wright (Bishop)
    Milton Wright was the father of aviation pioneers Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright, and a Bishop of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ.- Family :* Father: Dan Wright* Mother: Catherine Wright née Reeder...

  • Wright Brothers flights of 1909
    Wright Brothers flights of 1909
    The Wright brothers, Orville and Wilbur, invented the modern aeroplane. Responsible for the first controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight on 17 December 1903 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they made a number of other flights that played an important part in the history of aviation...

  • Wright Brothers Medal
    Wright Brothers Medal
    Conceived of in 1924 by the Dayton Section of the SAE, the SAE established Wright Brothers Medal in 1927 to recognize individuals who have made notable contributions in the engineering design, development, or operation of air and space vehicles...

  • Wright Cycle Company
    Wright Cycle Company
    The bicycle business of the Wright brothers, the Wright Cycle Company occupied five different locations in Dayton, Ohio. Orville and Wilbur Wright began their bicycle repair business in 1892, and soon added rentals and sales. In 1896 they began manufacturing and selling bicycles of their own...

  • Wright Exhibition Team
    Wright Exhibition Team
    The Wright Exhibition Team was a group of early aviators trained by the Wright brothers at Wright Flying School in Montgomery, Alabama in March 1910.-History:The group was formed in 1910 at the suggestion of Augustus Roy Knabenshue....

  • Wright Flyer
    Wright Flyer
    The Wright Flyer was the first powered aircraft, designed and built by the Wright brothers. They flew it four times on December 17, 1903 near the Kill Devil Hills, about four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, U.S.The U.S...

  • Wright Flying School
    Wright Flying School
    The Wright Flying School, also known as the Wright School of Aviation, was operated by the Wright Company from 1910 to 1916 and trained 119 individuals to fly Wright airplanes.-History:...

  • Wright Glider
    Wright Glider
    The Wright brothers designed, built and flew a series of three manned gliders in 1900-1902 as they worked towards achieving powered flight. They also made preliminary tests with a kite in 1899. In 1911 Orville conducted tests with a much more sophisticated glider...

  • John Joseph Montgomery

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Flying machine – O. & W. Wright

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