October 8, 2012 / IST / Story.

The Wright Brothers Pilot The First Airplane. Man attempted to achieve flight hundreds of years before he actually accomplished it.

Flight was realized initially with a hot air balloon in 1783, but while this type of travel was amusing, it wasn’t great for getting places with the rider at the mercy of wind direction. Then, Sir George Cayel created the first glider that flew with a man on board, but gliders were difficult to control and weren’t able to travel long distances.

The Wright brothers were employed at a bicycle shop in 1890, when they found an interest in flying. The shop taught them that bicycles were fast and near the ground and they used this knowledge in their experiments. The brothers researched airplanes from books and they began to tinker with gliders. Their first attempt had only half the lift that the brothers had calculated. After many improvements to the glider they invented a kite with two wings in 1899.

Orville and Wilbur created a wind tunnel to measure drag and lift on their wing designs. The brothers were able to fix errors on earlier designs and developed several sophisticated mechanisms that accurately measured how their wings handled the environment.

The brothers continued their work on gliders and finally invented one that could be piloted while it was in the air. This was accomplished when they found out that a rudder in the tail of the plane and flaps on the wings would allow the airplane to be controlled. A pilot would be able to direct where the airplane was going and at what height.

The Wright brothers officially became the first team to fly an airplane with a pilot in December, 1903.

The first flight lasted for 12 seconds and was a distance of 123 feet. This was one of three flights that were successful for the brothers that day. The longest one was piloted by Wilbur and he flew for 892 feet and remained in the air for 59 seconds.

Orville and Wilbur were the first airplane designers that focused on the ability to control and power an aircraft at the same time. They created wing warping to solve the problem of control and added a yaw that included a steerable rudder located at the back of the aircraft. They were also responsible for attaching a low-powered engine to their invention.

The brothers were tenacious in their desire to achieve flight and were instrumental in the advancement of airplanes. They helped create a convenient way for everyone to travel.


Wilbur and Orville Wright launched a century of aviation when their plane, the Wright Flyer I, took flight on December 17, 1903.

was the first licensed female pilot in the United States, earning her certification in 1911. See a famous World War I plane in the next photo.

One of the most advanced aircraft of World War I was the German Junkers D1. As the range of travel increased, pilots developed ways to get more fuel in mid-flight.

The world’s first mid-air refueling happened in 1923. See the legendary Fokker D VII fighter plane next.

The Fokker D VII was considered by many historians to be the best fighter of World War I. Germans of the time were also hard at work on airships.

It is difficult to imagine the tremendous grip that dirigibles had on the public, especially in Germany. Although not as common, airships still have specialized uses today.

The Spirit of St. Louis was the plane that Charles Lindbergh used on his famous transatlantic flight in 1927. See more famous warplanes in the next photos.

The graceful elliptical wings of the Heinkel He 111 made it one of the most attractive aircraft of the Luftwaffe. The next photo shows the first jet fighter.

The Lockheed XP-80 was the first operational jet fighter. It was used extensively throughout the U.S. military in the 1940s and 1950s. See a famous test pilot next.

On August 26, 1954, Major Arthur “Kit” Murray set an altitude record of 90,440 feet in the Bell X-1A. He is shown here in a protective pressure suit of the time.

The Lockheed U-2 was one of the first and most important reconaissance aircraft in the U.S. fleet. See another famous plane from the 1950s in the next photo.

The Boeing B-52 was designed as a strategic long rifle, able to fly alone or in cells of three deep into the Soviet Union with powerful nuclear weapons. During the Vietnam War it became a tactical artillery barrage.

The Grumman F-14 Tomcat is a supersonic fighter plane with variable wing geometry. It first flew in 1970 and remained the Navy’s primary aircraft for more than 30 years. See the long-lived F-15 next.

McDonnell Douglas F-15 Eagle was a tactical fighter introduced in 1976. This powerful aerial combat plane is still in use today. The next photo shows a unique, bubble-shaped experimental plane

With its helicopterlike cockpit, the Edgley Optica gained worldwide attention upon its first flight in 1979. Unfortunately, the plane seemed to be cursed, suffering crashes, business failures, arson and other mishaps. Only a handful were ever produced.

The Rockwell B-1B bomber had one of the longest and most controversial development periods in the 1970s and 1980s. After a rocky start, the swing-wing B-1B has proved its worth in several theaters of war. The famous stealth bomber is next.

The Lockheed F-117A Nighthawk is a ground attack airplane. Its unique stealth design helps to minimize its radar profile. See an advanced civilian aircraft in the next photo.

Voyager was an all-composite aircraft designed by Burt Rutan, which his brother Dick flew for the first time on June 22, 1984. It’s the experiments of ambitious civilians like the Rutans and the Wright brothers that eventually made space flight possible.

NASA launched Space Shuttle Discovery in 1984, and the vehicle is now the oldest of the three active shuttles. Take a look at an experimental space plane in the next photo.

Lockheed Martin gambled on its X-33 spacecraft prototype, but technical problems forced cancellation of its government contract. Read more about flight history in the Aviation Channel.