Although not born with the ability to fly, humans achieved flight through years of engineering expertise and ingenuity. Now, we can fly anywhere on Earth, and even out of this world.
In honor of Orville Wright’s birthday, President Franklin D. Roosevelt coined August 19th as National Aviation Day in 1939. Without the passion and dedication of the Wright brothers, the world may be a very different place.
Born in Dayton, Ohio, on August 19th, 1871, Orville and his older brother, Wilber, are best known for their invention of the world’s first successful airplane. As children, the brothers exemplified a curious nature to speculate how and why things happened. Orville wrote in his memoir that, “We were lucky enough to grow up in an environment where there was always much encouragement to children to pursue intellectual interest; to investigate whatever aroused curiosity”. One day in 1878, Milton Wright, the brothers’ father and a bishop, returned from a religious trip with a toy helicopter as a souvenir. The contraption, made of cork, bamboo, and paper, using a rubber band to twirl the blades, was a far cry from a today’s toy helicopters. But for the late 19th century, it became a marvel for the brothers. This chance childhood gift kindled the brothers’ pursuit of aeronautics.
When famous German aviator Otto Lilienthal died in a glider crash, news spread to the Wright Brothers. Having studied his work, they injected themselves into improving the glider’s engineering. Eventually, the first free, controlled flight of a power-driven airplane succeeded on December 17th, 1903. That day four flights took off, the longest being 59 seconds, spanning a distance of 852 feet.
From the humble beginnings of the Wright brothers, the aeronautics industry thrived. Technology developed so quickly that the first manned spacecraft successfully launched less than sixty years later on April 12th, 1961 with Soviet astronaut Yuri Alekseyevich Gagarin on board.
Today, we extend our arms parallel to “spread our wings”, honoring over a hundred years of aeronautical genius.
Published by Julia Mariani
Sources: NASA, biography.com, history.com