The Wright Brothers
Born: Orville, August 19, 1871. Wilbur, April 16, 1867
Died: Orville, January 30, 1948, Age 76. Wilbur, May 30, 1912, Age 45
Occupation: Printer & publisher, Bicycle design and repair, airplane inventors and manufacturers
Education: Wilbur, 4 Years of High School. Orville, 3 Years of High School
Best known for: The first engine powered airplane flight
Did you ever think you could fly? Of course—every kid does! The Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur, not only thought about it—they did it. More than 100 years ago, they were among the first inventors in the world to test and fly an aircraft moved by an engine. Their craft was also heavier than air. That means it wasn’t just a paper plane you make at your dining room table. And it wasn’t like a balsa wood airplane that you simply snap together and throw around your backyard!
The Wright Brothers: How A Simple Toy Changed Their Lives
Meet the Wright Brothers who many say invented flight. You probably didn’t know that they had five other brothers and sisters! Wilbur, born in the American state of Indiana, was four years older than his brother Orville, born in Ohio. That’s because the family moved around a lot when they were kids following their father’s work as a bishop.
In fact, it was their dad who started them on a lifelong journey of learning and inventing and a love of flying. He gave them a toy helicopter made of bamboo, cork, and paper. It flew around with the help of some basic rubber bands. The brothers flew and crashed and fixed that helicopter until they couldn’t fix it anymore. But from that simple toy copter came other ideas. They began to design and invent things. They got really good at building stuff.
They Believed They Could…
First, they jumped into a printing press business. As printers, they wrote and published weekly and daily newspapers. After that, they opened a bicycle shop. But it wasn’t just any regular shop—they created custom-made bikes for clients. They also loved to fly kites, the same as kids all over the world. But while flying kites, they looked at kite designs, and measured the wind, and talked of actually flying—themselves, high up in the air. When they got old enough to start experimenting with flying, their dad made them promise to never fly together.
Soon enough, they dreamed up a real flying machine. It was 1903—just after the turn of the century—when they crafted a flying machine with a gas-powered engine, and wood propellers they also designed. The brothers observed the wings of real birds and how they flew to make their own design perfect. The machine the brothers put together wasn’t just a glider—that already existed. It was much more.
You Won’t Believe How Long The Wright Brothers Flew At First!
Can you guess how long the first flight lasted on December 17, 1903? 12 seconds! You can count to 12 pretty fast, can’t you? And nowadays, you and your friends and parents can fly around the world. One reason you can is that the Wright Brothers went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, a great place to practice short flights. Kitty Hawk had nice constant breezes and a big hill for launching a plane. There was lots of sand which made crashing much easier and less painful, if it happened.
That first famous flight was flown by Orville. These days, if you want to celebrate “National Aviation Day” in the USA, it’s August 19--Orville’s birthday. That special day, in only 12 seconds, he flew 120 feet --about 35 meters. You can bet the brothers were more than excited. Later the same day, they both made more, slightly longer flights. Sounds simple? Remember they had trained for years with gliders. What did they need on that unique day to finally get a human-driven flight up in the air? You guessed it: lots of ability, knowledge, study, and courage to boot!
Did The Wright Brothers Ever Fail?
Don’t get the wrong idea. The first famous flight came only after years of failing and testing and trying again. However, the Wright Brothers didn’t stop there. Wilbur and Orville went on to improve their flying machines and flights. A mere one year later in November 1904, they flew a plane called “Flyer II” a full five minutes. Ha—it’s not so easy or so fast for you to count to five minutes, is it?
So, the next time you fly overseas to another country, or maybe you’re even on your way to the International Space Station, think back to the Wright Brothers—Wilbur and Orville, to be precise. Imagine how they laughed and smacked each other on the back after they flew for twelve seconds over the Kitty Hawk sand in 1903.
4 Mega-Fun Facts about The Wright Brothers
- Why was Orville the first brother to really fly? Because of a coin toss! Wilbur, the older Wright brother, won the first coin flip, but his initial flight on December 14, 1903, wasn’t a success. Orville had the second shot, and the plane finally got off the ground.
- Neither Wilbur nor Orville got a high school diploma! Wilbur finished four years of high school, but the family moved from Indiana to Ohio before he got his hands on his diploma. On the other hand, Orville dropped out before senior year to start the printing biz.
- The brothers only flew together once in their lives. Their father let them do it for just six minutes on May 25, 1910, near Dayton, Ohio. When Orville landed, he then took his 82-year-old dad for his one and only flight. What did his father cry out as they went up? “Higher, Orville! Higher!”
- Sarah, the Wright Brothers’ mother, was also a creative force. After hanging out in her own dad’s carriage shop, she fixed appliances and made toys for her kids. Wilbur and Orville often asked mom for advice on their designs.