340. The Wright Brothers: The Fathers of Aviation

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In today's world, it is not unusual for people to board a plane, and be halfway around the world within hours. The jumbo jetliners in use today are commonplace in most developed countries, but there was a time, not long ago, before air travel was even possible. That was before Orville, and Wilbur Wright built and flew their first aircraft in the early 20th Century.

On December 17, 1903, the brothers made their historic flight in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, officially opening a new era in travel. Their contributions to the new science of aeronautics continued for at least 10 years after that historic day. What separated the Wright brothers from other aviation pioneers was that the brothers developed an effective mechanism to control their airplane. Their three-axis control system is still in use today, more than 100 years after its development.

The first flight was not a very long one. It totaled only 120 feet long, 10 feet high, and only 12 seconds in duration, but it was flight. Orville piloted the plane, as Wilbur ran alongside. There were only five eyewitnesses to the flight, but one photographer captured the image on film, and the rest was aviation history.

The brothers were very protective of their new invention, and made it difficult for reporters to chronicle their efforts. This led to widespread rumors that the entire thing was a hoax. For the next several years, the brothers worked to refine their flying machine in secret, leading to more doubt. However, in 1908, the brothers took their invention to Le Mans, France to put on an exhibition. Wilbur guided his aircraft making turns and other maneuvers, which amazed the crowd. Soon, the Wright Brothers were famous. They changed the way people travel.

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