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Wright Brothers Day is celebrated every year on December 17 in the United States. The day commemorates the first successful flights in a mechanically propelled airplane that was heavier-than-air. The planes were made by Orville and Wilbur Wright, or ‘the Wright brothers’ in 1903 near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. A proclamation is made annually, inviting Americans to celebrate the day with various ceremonies and activities.
History of Wright Brother's Day
Wright Brother’s Day is an important event in U.S. history and the advancement of aviation. Can you imagine not being able to fly around the world? What would transport be like without flights? Man has taken huge leaps in aviation over the past century, and Orville and Wilbur Wright had a huge part in this development.
The Wright brothers were always fascinated with flying from a young age. The brothers were two of seven children born to Milton Wright and Susan Catherine Koerner. The family moved 12 times because of Milton Wright’s position as a bishop in the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, before permanently moving to Dayton in 1884. The young Wright brothers’ father brought home a toy helicopter for them in 1878. The toy device was based on an invention by French aeronautical pioneer Alphonse Pénaud. Wilbur and Orville played with it until it broke, and then built their own. They credited the toy as the origin of their interest in flying.
1896 saw three notable aeronautical events, which were embedded in the minds of the Wright brothers and marked the beginning of their serious interest in flight research. They favored the strategy of practicing gliding in order to master the art of control before trying out a motor-driven flight. This was inspired by German glider Otto Lilienthal and, despite Lilienthal plunging to his death in August 1896, the Wright Brothers noted that his gliding was the correct way to go about learning to fly a motor-powered aircraft.
The brother’s experimentation with flying was quite simple, yet impressive. They observed birds and how the animals change the angle of their wings to make their bodies roll left or right. Wilbur concluded that this would also be a great way for a flying machine to turn, just like a bird, or a person riding a bicycle.
After several weeks of delays prompted by broken propeller shafts during the engine tests, the Wright brothers finally took to the air on December 17, 1903. The historic moment saw Orville and Wilbur Wright make two flights each from level ground into a glacial headwind blowing at 27 miles per hour. The first flight, by Orville at 10:35 am, flew 120 feet in 12 seconds at a speed of 6.8 miles per hour. This was recorded in a famous photograph. The next flights traveled roughly 175 and 200 feet, by both Wilbur and Orville respectively, at an altitude of 10 feet above the ground.
The two aviation pioneers are now regarded as the brothers who invented, built, and flew the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane. The states of Ohio and North Carolina both take credit for the Wright brothers and their world-changing inventions because the brothers developed and built their design in Dayton, Ohio, and their first powered flight took place in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. This has created a friendly rivalry between the two states.
Wright Brother's Day timeline
The young Wright Brothers play and break a toy helicopter their father brought home — this starts their passion and interest in aviation.
German glider Otto Lilienthal dies in a gliding accident, yet the Wright brothers note that his strategy is the correct way to master the control of flying.
Orville and Wilbur Wright complete two flights in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, marking the first successful flights in a mechanically propelled airplane that is heavier-than-air.
Orville Wright returns to glider flights to conduct safety and stabilization tests in Outer Banks, where he soars for 9 minutes and 45 seconds, setting the record, which was held for almost 10 years, for the longest time spent gliding.
Wright Brother's Day FAQs
Did the Wright Brothers get rich?
Although they were from humble beginnings, the Wright brothers’ extraordinary success led to contracts in both Europe and the United States, and they soon became wealthy business owners. They began building a grand family home in Dayton, where they had spent much of their childhood.
Who helped the Wright Brothers?
Taylor, a mechanic who worked in the Dayton, Ohio, bicycle shop owned by Orville and Wilbur Wright, is credited with building the lightweight engine that powered the craft that took flight at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903.
Why did the Wright Brothers invent the airplane?
In 1896, newspapers were filled with accounts of flying machines. Wilbur and Orville noticed that all these primitive aircraft lacked suitable controls. They began to wonder how a pilot might balance an aircraft in the air, just as a cyclist balances his bicycle on the road.
How To Celebrate Wright Brothers Day
Go to an aviation museum
Aviation history is full of exciting accomplishments, adventure, and heroism. There are several aviation museums across the U.S. and the world that you can go see, or even do a virtual tour of online. There’s also the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park, which displays the accomplishments of the Wright brothers and other aviation pioneers, and their abilities to take a dream and turn it into a reality. Make sure you go and check out the history of aviation no matter where you are in the world!
Go plane spotting
There’s something kind of fascinating and nostalgic about watching planes in the sky. If you live near an airport, climb onto your roof or lie down in your backyard and watch the planes go by. You can even go to an airport and watch the planes take off while sitting in a departure lounge and sipping on coffee or reading a book. Although the Wright brothers were not the first to build and fly experimental aircraft, they are recognized as the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing flight possible. Make sure to ponder over their achievements as you watch the modern-day planes go by.
Fly a drone
The Wright Brothers noted how birds fly in the sky and how a bicycle is ridden to give them the ideas they needed to fly a motor-powered aircraft. This was a pretty big deal and cutting edge technology during the early 1900s. These days, we have drones and modern devices that help us feel what it’s like to actually fly. While the Wrights were pioneers in manned flight, learning how to fly a drone can also be a perfect way to get into the cutting edge of aviation — while taking killer photography or videos from above!
5 Amazing Facts About Aviation
The world’s busiest airport
The busiest commercial airport in the world is the Hartsfield-Jackson Airport in Atlanta, with more than 110 million passengers a year.
Not everyone gets to fly
Though the aviation sector is growing rapidly, less than 20% of the world’s population has ever flown on an airplane.
The incredible Boeing 747
It’s made up of six million parts and one of them is its engine, which weighs almost 9,500 pounds and costs about $8 million.
The world’s oldest airline
KLM Royal Dutch Airlines is the world's oldest airline, established in 1919, shortly followed by Qantas in 1920.
Flying high over America
At any given hour, there are over 61,000 people airborne over the USA.
Why We Love Wright Brothers Day
We love planes
Imagine a world without planes? Well, thanks to the Wright brothers and other aviation pioneers, we need not imagine. The Wright brothers are widely believed to have invented the airplane. However, there are some debates as to whether or not they were actually the first. Regardless of those claims, the Wright Flyer was the first patented aircraft. So, Wright Brothers Day is one to be remembered and cherished, because without them we might not be checking in on our flight to our next holiday destination.
We admire problem-solving skills
The Wright brothers identified and solved the basic problems of a heavier-than-air craft through experimentation and innovation. How do wings stay afloat with enough surface area and the proper curve to provide lift? What are the means needed to control the direction of the movement of an aircraft? The Wright brothers solved this, which was a huge step forward for humans.
We love intellectual curiosity
If the Wright brothers were alive today, they might warn us that certain ways of learning in the 21st century prevent us from cultivating engineers of the extraordinary type that they were. Did you know that neither Wilbur nor Orville Wright majored in a STEM discipline? Neither brother went to college and neither had any formal technical training. Yet, they successfully solved an engineering problem that continues to captivate human imagination today. In fact, Orville Wright said during an interview that they had “no special advantages” growing up and “there was always much encouragement to pursue intellectual curiosity” in their family.
Wright Brother's Day dates