Profile of the Wright Brothers
The Wright Brothers knew they had mastered the basics necessary to achieve
Hi, I'm Jamal Andress for About.com, and today we're taking a look at the men who made flight possible, the Wright brothers.Orville and Wilbur Wright are credited with inventing and building the world's first operable motorized airplane and with engineering the first sustained event of engine-powered human flight, on December 17, 1903. The brothers also made the first operable fixed-wing aircraft, and with inventing the aircraft controls which made fixed-wing flight possible.Neither brother completed high school, but they went to work in a printing press, became newspaper owners, worked in a bicycle shop, and tinkered with engines and motors. Pretty much, guy stuff. Both brothers were deeply studious, and had reportedly been interested in flight since they were young, when their father brought them home a crude version of a helicopter. They studied aeronautics and the flight of birds to arrive at some of the premises that made their flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, successful.The breakthrough in flight occurred because of their invention of “three-axis control,” which enabled pilots to be able to steer aircraft effectively while maintaining a steady equilibrium. That breakthrough remains the standard for fixed-winged flight to this day. Rather than focusing on bigger engines and more power, the Wright Brothers focused on efficiency and balance. Interestingly enough, it was their work in a bicycle shop that gave them the idea that a device like an airplane needed to embody principles of balance in much the same way a bicycle needs to do the same.And while efforts to achieve and sustain man-made flight were all the rage in the 1890's, many who attempted met a less than favorable outcome. The brothers focused on the “problem with flight,” noting that a combination of pilot control, wings and the proper engine were all central to successful sustained, engine-powered flight. They incorporated some ideas from the seas, like the use of rudders, and developed drooping, rather than stiff, wings based on their observations of birds' winged-flight.Before manned-flight, the Wright Brothers spent much of their time developing the scientific underpinnings of what would make flight successful. They practiced with gliders time and again and came up with an equation to determine the amount of lift the wings of an aircraft would generate, a problem that plagued potential aviators for year.The brothers began to test all of their research at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, the week of December 14, 1903. All week long, the brothers attempted multiple flights. Each encountered its own set of problems. On December 17, the brothers tried three flights, but on the fourth around noon, they achieved success, sustained, stabilized, motorized flight. The flight covered 852 feet in 59 seconds. While few felt the flight was significant, the Wright Brothers knew they had mastered the basics necessary to achieve prolonged, motorized, stable human flight.The brothers spent the next several years perfecting their flying machine, eventually demonstrating it in France and before U.S. military leaders in 1908. Despite a great deal of skepticism, particularly in Europe, the brothers were able to establish time and again, with increasing efficiency, their ability to improve manned flight. They were honored for their achievements by U.S. President William Howard Taft. And while the Wright Brothers spent many years fighting patent infringements and others claims to first-flight, they were rewarded richly with both fortune and fame for their diligence in establishing the first stable manned, motorized flight. And that's a short look at the Wright Brothers.For more information, check out About.com.