On December 17, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright tested out their Wright Flyer I near Kill Devil Hills by Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The photo above is of the first successfully powered, heavier-than-air aircraft with a pilot aboard. Orville acted as the pilot while Wilbur ran at the wingtip to balance it. The starting rail, wing-rest and a coil box are visible, these were necessary for flight preparation. The camera was preset by Orville with John T. Daniels charged with squeezing the rubber bulb which tripped the shutter.
The structure of the Wright Flyer was made out of spruce and ash with muslin coverings. There were fabric pockets sewn inside to help the aircraft “float.” Powered by a four-cylinder engine created by the brothers, the Wright Flyer proved to be strong, flexible and light.
In order to fly the aircraft, the pilot laid on their stomach with their head forward while their left hand operated the elevator control. Attached to the pilot’s hips was a cradle that pulled wires – warped the wings and turned the rudder. To steer, the pilot would move their hips from side to side. The brothers patented their “wing warping” technique (a system for lateral control of a fixed-wing machine).
On it’s first flight, the aircraft took off and flew for 12 seconds and landed with a distance of 120 feet. They flew the Wright Flyer I four times that day, with the brothers alternating as pilot. Of the four flights, the longest lasted 59 seconds with a distance of 852 feet with Wilbur as the pilot.
After the last flight, those present discussed Wilbur’s long flight. A gust of wind lifted up the Wright Flyer and it went crashing across the sand. It was severely damaged and would never be flown again. However, the Wright brothers accomplished what they set out to do. They demonstrated that basic techniques could in fact fly heavier-than-air aircrafts. The Smithsonian nicley summarized the Wright brothers famous 1903 flight:
Their seminal accomplishment encompassed not only the breakthrough first flight of an airplane, but also the equally important achievement of establishing the foundation of aeronautical engineering.