On December 17, 1903, Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a wind-swept beach in North Carolina. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Three more flights were made that day with Orville’s brother Wilbur piloting the record flight lasting 59 seconds over a distance of 852 feet.
Wilbur and Orville were the sons of Milton and Susan Wright and members of a warm, loving family that encouraged learning and doing. Milton was a bishop in the United Brethren Church, and was often away from home on church business. But he wrote hundreds of letters home, and often brought back presents from his trips, exposing his children to the world beyond their horizon. In 1878, he brought home a rubber band-powered helicopter and young Wilbur and Orville immediately began to build copies of it.
The brothers began their experimentation in flight in 1896 at their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio. They selected the beach at Kitty Hawk as their proving ground because of the constant wind that added lift to their craft. In 1902 they came to the beach with their glider and made more than 700 successful flights. Having perfected glided flight, the next step was to move to powered flight. No automobile manufacturer could supply an engine both light enough and powerful enough for their needs. So they designed and built their own. All of their hard work, experimentation and innovation came together that December day as they took to the sky and forever changed the course of history.