Episode #8 of the course “Inventions that changed the world and their stories”
The creation of the airplane goes back a whole century prior to the Wright brothers. Sir George Cayley, born in 1773, built a model helicopter in 1796. In 1804, he successfully designed a glider before publishing details of the foundational lessons of aeronautics. These papers first explained the idea of thrust and lift.
However, the men commonly linked with inventing the airplane are the Wright Brothers, Wilbur and Orville. The brothers followed Otto Lilienthal, a German aviator, keeping abreast of his research. Lilienthal passed in a glider accident, and the brothers were inspired to continue research in aeronautics. The brothers experimented with ideas on airplanes and flight and did laborious tests for years. One test in particular focused on the wings. Wilbur and Orville built a set of wings similar to a bird’s in the form of a movable rudder. Known as “wing warping,” this idea became the benchmark for their design. On December 17th, 1903, the brothers showcased their first plane, which was capable of controlled flight with constant speed and safe landings.
For their research, the brothers photographed every prototype and persuaded a bystander to capture Orville in flight. The “flying machine,” as it was dubbed, could operate about ten feet high for a distance of 120 feet in just 12 seconds. The brothers accomplished two more successful flights later that day. Their success encouraged the brothers to call their father to tell him to get the press involved quickly. Sadly, their claims were widely dismissed by most of the media, so Wilbur traveled to Europe tell other people about their success. Finally, the news of the “flying machine” was accepted, and worldwide acclaim and recognition of the marvelous work followed.
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