The Long, Complicated History of the Very First Flight
We've been covering the latest in science and tech since 1903, including the trials of the Wright Brothers. But did another aviator actually beat them to the punch?
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December 18, 2019 - by Courtney Linder for popularmechanics.com
On this day in 1903 (December 17) , Orville and Wilbur Wright were ordinary men, not household names.
For seven years, the brothers had been working toward a grand, larger-than-life invention, beginning in 1896 with glider experiments that they conducted while working as mechanics at a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. No one seemed to notice what they were doing. No one seemed to care. In fact, according to Pulitzer Prize-winning author David McCullough, many considered the duo to be "crackpots."
Those critics changed their tune once something incredible happened: On December 17, in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville Wright piloted the first mechanical airplane some 20 feet above the ground.
It only lasted about 12 seconds and spanned about a 120-foot stretch, but it would usher in a whole new world of transportation—one that's so omnipresent in our lives that we can't wait for our flights to end, get through airport security, and know that we won't be stranded in a cabin with a screaming baby for another eight hours.
But 116 years ago, the first flight was truly a marvel.
Ditto the three other flights that would follow on that same windy day. This history, and the course of aviation through the decades, is detailed across the pages of Popular Mechanics, which has been around since the year the Wright Flyer took to the air for the first time.
Here's some of what we discovered while looking through our archives...
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