The Wright brothers are considered the most influential personalities in aviation history. Their creative and technological minds paved the way to revolutionize transportation everywhere. The brothers dedicated their adult lives to working towards their dream of building a flying machine. They strived hard to achieve their goal. But did you ever wonder if the brothers had experienced the fruit of their ingenuity?
Forty years after the first successful flight of the Wright brothers’ aircraft, Orville Wright was invited to fly on the Lockheed Constellation. Wright claims that the plane’s wingspan was longer than the distance of his first flight.
What Inspired the Wright Brothers to Build the First Aircraft?
Following the passing of their mother in the late 1800s, the Wright Brothers were in the newspaper printing industry. Orville, the younger Wright, learned the printing trade and persuaded his older brother Wilbur to join him. The brothers set up a printing shop that also edited and published two local newspapers.
The printing shop was a complete success. It highlighted the brothers’ extraordinary technical capabilities and creative solutions for mechanical issues. After a few years, the brothers opened a bicycle shop, which led to the invention of a self-oiling wheel hub.
The brothers’ fascination with flight started when their father, Milton Wright, brought home a toy called the flying bat. Their interest in aviation was reignited when they began reading the work of a German inventor named Otto Lilienthal, who created a glider. Upon Lilienthal’s death in 1896, the brothers started their own project towards inventing the very first aircraft.
The brothers collected as much information they could on aviation. They visited libraries and even wrote to the Smithsonian Institute to request more reading material. The Wrights also reached out to Octave Chanute, one of the leading civil engineers, and were considered an authority in aviation.
The brothers’ extraordinary skills to analyze mechanical problems and develop creative solutions surfaced as they started building the prototype of their airplane. They concluded that with Lilienthal’s development of wings capable of carrying his weight in flight and combining it with the development of lighter internal-combustion engines at the time, their only challenge would be how to control the flying machine.
The two then developed their small biplane kite prototype. They discovered that they could control the direction of the kite. They started building their first glider, using Lilienthal’s data to compute the amount of wing surface area required to lift the estimated weight in a given wind velocity. And the rest was history. (Source: Britannica)
Orville Wright’s Last Flight
Orville Wright assumed the responsibility of their famous aviation company in 1912. Wilbur passed on May 30, 1912, due to typhoid fever coupled with the stress brought about by the business and legal aspects of the company. Orville remained the company’s leader until he decided to sell it in 1915. (Source: Britannica)
The surviving Wright was still active in the aviation industry, becoming a senior member in several aviation groups. As an esteemed member of the society due to their innovation in aviation, he was invited by Howard Hughes and Trans World Airlines president Jack Frye to fly with them aboard the Lockheed Constellation airliner prototype. On April 17, 1944, the prototype flew from Burbank, California, to Washington, DC. The trip took 6 hours and 58 minutes. It broke the transcontinental speed record.
On their flight back on April 26, 1944, the plane stopped in Wright Field in Dayton to pick up Orville. Aboard, they even let him sit at the controls. He said that airplanes would fly themselves eventually if you let them. He also noted that the 123-foot wingspan of the prototype was longer than his first flight, flying only 120 feet. (Source: Dayton Local)