On December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Flyer became the first powered, heavier-than-air machine to achieve a controlled, sustained flight with a pilot aboard. With Orville Wright as pilot, the airplane took off from a launching rail and flew for 12 seconds and a distance of 120 feet. The airplane was flown three more times that day, with Orville and his brother Wilbur alternating as pilot.
The Wright brothers had been fascinated by the idea of flight from an early age. In 1878 their father, a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, gave them a flying toy made of cork and bamboo. It had a paper body and was powered by rubber bands. The young boys soon broke the fragile toy, but the memory of its faltering flight across their living room stayed with them. By the mid-1890s Wilbur was reading every book and paper he could find on the still earthbound science of human flight. And four years before they made history at Kitty Hawk, the brothers built their first, scaled-down flying machine--a pilotless "kite" with a 5-ft. wingspan, and made of wood, wire and cloth. Based on that experiment, Wilbur became convinced that he could build an aircraft that would be "capable of sustaining a man.
A listing of some key documents in the Wright Brothers Exhibit:
Orville Wright's Own Account of his First Flight at Kitty Hawk 17 December 1903
The First Report to the world of the World's First Powered Flight
The First Long Flights
The description of the first flight by one of the Kitty Hawk Team who saw and collaborated in the World's First Powered Flight AND His Reflections of that First Flight written many years later
The First Interview with the Wright Brothers
The Announcement of the Wright Brother's First Sale of an Airplane: [Made to the French Government]
The Wright Brothers and The Invention of The Sea-Plane
The Wright Brothers and The Airplane as a Weapon
The First International Aviation Meeting
"The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together."
-- Bill Gates, CEO, Microsoft Corporation