On December 17th, 1903 the aviation industry was changed forever. The sustained dreams and passion for breaking the human bondage on Earth in order to soar high in the heavens were achieved. Wilbur and Orville Wright, simply put as the Wright brothers revolutionized the aviation industry by successfully sustaining a powered flight manned by mankind at Kitty Hawk. They christened it the Wright Flyer.
Aviation historians have provided two accounts that may have sparked the idea of concurring the sky through flight on the minds of the Wright brothers. One account credits Alphonse Penaud, an aeronautical scientist who created rubber toy helicopters as the chief catalyst. A gift presented to the brothers by Milton Wright (their father). The toy was short lived. Attempts to fabricate their own versions proved futile. However, according to Orville the younger of the two brothers, the vital lesson and inspiration were imparted for life.
The death of glider pilot, Otto Lilienthal and the successful launching of the unmanned craft by Samuel Langley marked the beginning of their journey to the skies. The journey was to start with self-mastery of the principles and concepts of flying and gliding. Building upon on the already known aerodynamics concepts. With hardly any knowledge in the field of engineering, the two brothers proved to be mature for their ages. This was manifested by their ability to start up and run successful business enterprises without having any formal training. From a newspaper publishing house to bicycle fabrication the two brothers excelled. Their scientific experiments were entirely funded from their business proceedings.
Developing the Wright Flyer
The Smithsonian letter seeking literature on work already accomplished by other scientists in 1899 ushered a new area of thinking in the field of aerodynamics. Dismayed by the dearth in the literature regarding aerodynamics, the wright brothers embarked on a journey of putting conventional aviation theories to practice. Discarding the misplaced concepts such as the principle of inherent stability and coming up with new evidence-based concepts on aerodynamics.
Inspired by the birds’ air movement and maneuverability of its tails and wings, the concept of wing warping was engineered. The ultimate goal being to control a manned flight during lateral movement. The initial test proved a success. Perfect weather conditions remained the only significant barrier to their human flight dream. On professional advice from the National Weather Bureau, the wright brothers settled for Kitty Hawk, New York for their maiden flight test. The glider wing generated inadequate lift. Verdict: mission failed miserably. Hard lessons learnt, the Wright’s retreated back to the drawing board. After several false starts that were occasioned by false Lilienthal data, the two were at a point of quitting.
Modelling Machine Embodying Their Research
With quitting not an option, the Wright brothers built their own wind tunnel from which they used to generate accurate data. In 1902, a machine reflecting their scientific principles was fashioned. Upon linking the tail movement to the warping concept, the wright flyer was ready to be put to test.
The 12 Seconds That Changed the Universe
The year was 1903. On board was Orville. For 12 seconds he concurred the skies with a self-powered machine heavier than air which was under the control of a pilot. Just like that, history was written.
Legacy of the Wright Brothers
They ushered the era of modern aircraft. With the invention of a three-axis control, modern aircraft have the ability to be controlled airborne without loss of equilibrium. From new war aerial warfare frontier to commerce to communication to traveling, the Wright brothers left a lasting legacy with their invention.
John T. Daniels, an eyewitness of the first successful flight of a device heavier than air, had these kind words over the achievement of the Wright’s brothers, “it wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their energy into an idea and they had the faith.” To date the Wright brothers’ methodology of the invention is used as a template to solve engineering problems by NASA scientists.
Though not considered as the first innovators to break the bondage with the earth, the Wright brothers rightly deserve a place in history as the pioneers of a self-powered manned machine, heavier than air that could sustain its own power during flight.