The Wright Brothers

Introduction

The Wright brothers are famously known for the building and flight of the first airplane in the world. Wilbur and Orville Wright were American pioneers and inventors of aviation. They achieved their first successful flight in 1903 at a time when the thought of inventing a contraption that could beat the force of gravity was unthinkable. They achieved what could have been deemed by most as a dream to reach the sky just as Icarus who made a pair of wings from feathers of large birds on the animal kingdom and wit the use of wax, he was able to fly. However, history tells us that he fell to his death as the wax which had been used to bind the feathers melted as he got closer to the sun. This is somehow argumentative though because according to science, the higher you go the cooler it becomes and the knowledge of sun melting with height is absurd. This is the reason why most the valleys tend to be hot while mountain tops tend to be cooler. If this is anything to go by then he would have melted while he was down and not when he went up. According to this then it means it could have been a myth or a story told wrong. Though the story of Icarus is somehow questionable it is not too different from that of the Wright brothers who dared fate and with sheer determination and willpower, they would be regarded as the fathers of flight and/ or fathers of modern aviation.

My research objectives were achieved by studying the Wright brothers’ journey from their childhood to becoming the first people in the world to successfully fly a practical airplane. This however does not tell every point of their life but the one in brief associated with aviation and their importance in making an aero plane.

 

 

 

Background

The Wright Brothers- Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912). They were the children of Milton Wright, an ordained minister of the Church united Brethren in Christ and Susan Catherine Koerner.

Their father was a bishop who travelled a lot. Their passion for aeronautics and flying began in 1878 when their father bought the two boys a helicopter based on a design by a French aeronautical engineer called Alphonse Penaud. It was made of paper, bamboo and powered by a rubber band that twirled its blades.

The Wright brothers had the ability to think independently and very confident in their talents with an undying determination to forge ahead in the face of disappointment. When these traits were put together gave them success in inventing the airplane. This is a very inspiring tale of self- belief. There were failures and discouragement of course due to whatever journey they decided to undertake in making the dream become reality. This however could not make them be discouraged or change their determination but went ahead and accomplished what they really yearned for. The Wright brothers went to public schools and as Orville explained later that “there is much encouragement for children to pursue their interests and whatever aroused their curiosity”

The brothers started their own newspaper in 1889 known as the West Side News. Wilbur was the editor and Orville was the publisher. They had a passion for bicycles that led them to open a bike shop which they fixed and sold bicycles. The brothers were the only members in their family that neither married nor attended college. Their experience in building small and lightweight machines with wires, wood and canvas played a major role in the building of airplanes.

The concept of flight was borne from the creation of lift by applying momentum gathered from an object moving at a speed which would subsequently create what is known as lift. With the help of their trusted mechanic Charlie Taylor, the Wright brothers designed and constructed a gasoline-powered engine which was light but yet powerful enough to propel an aircraft between 1902 and 1903. Various advancements were designed subsequent to the building and/ or construction of the gasoline- powered engine. These include the first airplane propellers.

Back in Kitty Hawk, they suddenly found themselves in a race. Samuel P. Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, had also built a powered aircraft; patterned after a small, unmanned "aerodrome" he had flown successfully in 1896. To add to their frustrations, the Wrights were delayed by problems with their propeller shafts and the weather, giving Langley time to test his aircraft twice in late 1903. Both attempts failed miserably, however, and Langley left the field to the Wrights. On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first sustained, controlled flights in a powered aircraft.

The Wright brothers enjoyed working on mechanical projects and following the work of German aviator Otto Lilienthal. It was when Otto died in a glider crash that the brothers started experimenting with flight. They headed to Kitty Hawk in North Carolina which was known for having strong winds. They began by figuring out how to design wings suitable for flight. By observing how birds angled their wings to achieve flight. They developed “Wing warping”, a concept to try to emulate birds. The addition of a moveable rudder is what made their first flight successful in 1903 when Wilbur flew their modal for 59 seconds at 852 feet, a milestone in aeronautics.

Their achievements were rarely appreciated. Flight experts and press releases couldn’t believe the brothers’ claims were true at all. In 1908, Wilbur left for France where he met an eager audience. He gave rides to statesmen and officials which helped in the Wright brothers selling airplanes in Europe. That same year they approved a contract with the United States army who gave $25,000 if the Wrights built an airplane that could fly for an hour while carrying two people. They returned to the United States and later became wealthy entrepreneurs through selling airplanes in both the United States and Europe. In 1909 the Wright Company was established the president being Wilbur and Orville as one vice president.

Wilbur focused on business and legal activities in the summer of 1909. The brother felt that rival airplane makers in Europe and the United States were violating their patent right therefore Wilbur brought lawsuits against them. This damaged their public image due to their pursuit of patent rights around the world as they were being blamed for holding back technological advancements by other aeronautical enthusiasts. Mostly these are challenges and miscalculations that most of the people who comes up with an idea go through. When one comes up with a unique idea then there will be other people who will be interested and start thinking on ways to improve it on their own. In general this is what is known in today’s world as technological advancement as one technology is replaced by another but rather superior one.

Wilbur unfortunately died in 1912 leaving Orville to take leadership and run the Wright Company. As a highly celebrated person in his time, Orville was a recipient of many awards and honorary awards from higher learning institutions in the United States and Europe. He did not like speaking in public; he mostly preferred spending time at home with family and friends.  Orville suffered from heart attack in 1948 and died three days later in Dayton Hospital.

Presently, the Wright brothers are referred to as “Fathers of modern aviation”. They taught man how to fly and gave way to an age of flying.

The concept of flight was borne from the creation of lift by applying momentum gathered from an object moving at a speed which would subsequently create what is known as lift. With the help of their trusted mechanic Charlie Taylor, the Wright brothers designed and constructed a gasoline-powered engine which was light but yet powerful enough to propel an aircraft between 1902 and 1903. Various advancements were designed subsequent to the building and/ or construction of the gasoline- powered engine. These include the first airplane propellers.

Back in Kitty Hawk, they suddenly found themselves in a race. Samuel P. Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, had also built a powered aircraft; patterned after a small, unmanned "aerodrome" he had flown successfully in 1896. To add to their frustrations, the Wrights were delayed by problems with their propeller shafts and the weather, giving Langley time to test his aircraft twice in late 1903. Both attempts failed miserably, however, and Langley left the field to the Wrights. On December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made the first sustained, controlled flights in a powered aircraft. They started with an idea that their father had given them through a present and later it turned out to be a dream comes true. Through their shear hard work, they were given awards and celebrated to a point that our generations and the others to come will remember them as important figures in the creation of modern aviation and their mind in business and determination.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

References

TRAINOR, S. (2015). The Wright Brothers: Pioneers of Patent Trolling. [online] Time. Available at: https://time.com/4143574/wright-brothers-patent-trolling/ [Accessed 23 Jan. 2020].

Encyclopedia Britannica. (2019). Wright brothers | Biography, Inventions, & Facts. [online] Available at: https://www.britannica.com/biography/Wright-brothers [Accessed 23 Jan. 2020].


Calculate your price!