Okay… am I alone in not realizing that Kitty Hawk was in North Carolina? I guess I took the whole “two brothers from Ohio” thing to mean they achieved all their triumphs in Ohio which is supremely not the case.
So most of us know the story of the Wright Brothers (even if we don’t all know the geography) and their breakthrough discoveries that led to modern airplanes. David McCullough delivers a well researched account of the boys’ journey to aviation glory without being too tedious.
In the late 19th century the race to concur the air was on! Orville and Wilbur Wright were two bicycle manufactures from Dayton, OH who took an interest in mastering the sky.
“It is very bad policy to ask one flying machine man about the experiments of another, because every flying machine man thinks that his method is the only correct one.”
The brothers used their mechanical savvy to craft manned gliders and began testing them on the beaches of Kitty Hawk, NC in 1900. The brothers returned every fall for three years to continue their tests. They used their time in Dayton to earn money at their bicycle shop (all their experiments were self financed) and perfect their next year’s design. In 1903 the brothers successfully flew the first controlled, sustained by power and heavier than air flying machine. Despite sending a message back home the fanfare was minimal and they received little accurate press coverage. They did, however, file a patent.
“It wasn’t luck that made them fly; it was hard work and common sense; they put their whole heart and soul and all their energy into an idea and they had the faith.”
The following year the brothers stayed closer to home, at Huffman Prairie outside Dayton, to perfect Flyer II. They began to get a lot more press coverage and attracting the German and French governments. Surprisingly, the American War department had no interest in the machine. Eventually, in 1908 Wilbur went to France and delivered the first public demonstration of their flyer. The Wrights became overnight sensations but legitimizing their aircraft for the French, and eventually American, government took several more years.
The brothers were a bit boring in their personal lives; neither ever married or had any great love affairs, the most important woman in their lives was their sister, Katharine. While the subject matter is very interesting the lack of excitement in the boy’s private affairs made it a bit dry and technical at times.