Wright Brothers' Flying Machine

Wright Brothers' Flying Machine

2003, History  -   22 Comments
Ratings: 8.33/10 from 79 users.

Wright Brothers' Flying MachineOn December 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright became the first to make a controlled and sustained flight in a power-driven, heavier-than-air craft. Though not formally trained in the field of engineering, the brothers approached the problem of flight as would any well-trained engineer. Using a thorough and systematic approach, they were able to solve three key challenges that kept all other would-be flyers aground.

First, there was the issue of lift. When the brothers found the existing data on lift inaccurate, they collected their own data, making use of a wind tunnel that they designed and built themselves. Then there was the control of an aircraft. While others saw their crafts as being inherently stable, the Wrights knew that the opposite was true; they knew that a successful aircraft would have to continually make adjustments in response to changes in wind speed and direction.

Finally, there was propulsion. Before the Wrights, there was no detailed data on propeller design. Again with the help of their wind tunnel, they developed a propeller that was far more efficient than any other then in existence. In fact, their propeller design has remained virtually unchanged to this day.

This interactive feature describes the Wrights' 1903 Flyer, including how they used the plane's controls to maneuver their craft.

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22 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Peter Farmer

    First fly ever with a self powered machine:
    Santos Dumont 1906 point! with the 14th Bis! Oficial and in the presence of hundreds or thousends of people!
    With a catapult even stones can fly. So the romans were flying better!
    Any one who wants to believe "the early secret flies of the Wright Brothers" must know that the danish were the firs on the moon SECRETELY, using a submarine painted with a secret antigravitational formula they took from the nazis in de end of WW II!
    The drama of the Wright brother´s that for any purpose were good pioneers, was the tipical greed of the american capitalism ! The eupopean aviators were on the air since years and competing with each other! No doubt than the Wrights made some improvements and contributions to aviation , but it is SiLLY or a JOKE to say that the Wrights invented the airplane! In 1915, when all europe in war was already flying with proper airplanes the Wright brothers were STILL flying and trying to sell their anachronic flying machine.
    If you look to one airplane today it looks like Dumont´s demoiselle or like Blériot XI! And we can add all the british, italian, german aviators and many others! The european pioneers were not in America spying the "Secrts of the Wright Brother´s, but the opposite war real sinse there was no secrecy in EUROPE!

  2. Brian White

    Lawrence Hargrave did get aloft on a kite but the kite was tethered to the ground. Great achievement though! Exciting times!

  3. David Garrigus

    Kitty Hawk: The Wright Brothers' Journey of Invention is considered by most experts to be the very best documentary about the invention of the airplane.

  4. Cristina V

    I guess only Americans credit the Wright Brothers as the inventors of the airplane. It seems that lots of people were, simultaneously around the world, working on developing a machine heavier than air that could fly.
    In Brazil, Alberto Santos-Dumont is considered the inventor of the airplane. His flights were recorded in Paris, where he lived at that time. He flew around the Eiffel Tower in 1903.

    1. Steve K

      Cristina if Alberto Santos-Dumont had flown an airplane around the Eiffel Tower in 1903 then he would indeed be given credit for the first heavier than air flight. But he flew a dirigible around the Eiffel Tower in 1901 which is a lighter than air machine with completely different control mechanisms. Alberto Santos-Dumont did not fly a heavier than air craft until 1906 and then it was a similar design to the Wright Brothers. To be sure, he was a great aviation pioneer but he was not the first to fly a heavier than air machine.

  5. stripeywho

    On November 12, 1894, Lawrence Hargrave, the Australian inventor of the box kite, linked four of his kites together, added a sling seat, and flew.

    The Wright brothers had access to Hargrave's work through the aviation annuals published by James Means, and Octave Chanute's Progress in Flying Machines.

    Chanute, who corresponded with the Wright brothers, devoted a section of his book to Hargrave's experiments.

    But the Wright brothers, constrained by politics and patent problems of their time, admitted no influences.

  6. baculum

    In reference to the Sir George Cayley comment, the documentarians did admit that gliders existed when the Wright Brothers set out to build their plane. But they made significant improvements on the technology from their precursors.

  7. caleb tan

    well the debate to claim the title of the very first flying man still goes on no doubt, but what i really enjoyed is seeing a group of people passionately working together with the same interest and enthusiasm. really enjoyed seeing such old shelved model designs being brought back to life.

  8. Sarge

    yes Pearse was, however the key thing here is SUSTAINED, powered, CONTROLLED flight, which Pearse did not do, he crashed into a hedge I believe. And if you want to be real picky, the bicycle guys, took off, flew and landed safely.

  9. Micko Castroghvaghne

    agree with scotty on that one eh

  10. pikestaff

    yep, richard pearse, waitohi, new zealand, march 31st 1902, first to fly powered aircraft, Google it.

    1. Steve K

      You can easily google Richard Pearse and he was clearly a great aviation pioneer, but there is no proof that he built and flew a heavier than air machine prior to the Wright Brothers. In face, he repeatedly denied in interviews that he had "anything to do with flying" prior to 1906. Why would he deny being the first, proof or no proof? And as Sarge states above, nobody flew a heavier than air machine prior to Dec 17, 1903 under control, sustained (they flew for 59 seconds and over 400 feet), and safely, and repeatedly - (they made four flights the first day.)

  11. faizan

    i want to made a project on flying machine pls give me idea.............

  12. Milton Babb

    Richard Pearse did not recieve enough support from his neighbors and New Zealanders so did not continue his efforts in aviation. He did not assert primacy in aviaton.

  13. Milton Babb

    Upon seeing the Wright Flyer in in France the French marveled at the manuvers and swoops of the aircraft and exclaimed "we are children, see how marvelous it flies"
    meaning of course the Wright Flyer was a superior machine to any thing the French had produced even other countries were surpassed, the French were delighted to see such adroit fling.

  14. Rob

    Richard Pearse of christchurch new zealand flew before the wright brothers - he also built his own flat four petrol engine to power it. He was in contact with the wright brothers and swapped ideas. We get taught that at school in NZ, just like americans get taught the wrights were first. A kiwi was first to fly a heavier then air machine. And climb Mt Everest, split the atom, run the 4 minute mile etc.

  15. riley

    my british friends,

    if gliders counted, you'd have been first.

    but they didn't, so you aren't.

    if balloons had counted, the french would have beat you, too.

    powered, controlled flight was the game. a scaffold upon which to build a viable, practicable means of un-assisted, on-demand air-navigation to any point in the compass, at any time conditions permitted being up in the air.

    that's what the orville and the wilbur provided. to say nothing of their pioneering engineering methods - not bad for a couple of bicycle mechanics, eh what?

  16. Paul

    .. and Richard Pearce flew his plane further than the Wright Brothers a year before their first flight. Obviously an American-centric documentary

    1. Prof. m

      It was all about the propeller you dumb Brit. Nobody had solved that but the brothers . Yeah, everyone was looking at what everyone else was doing, but it was the damn propeller that was the breakthrough like the vacuum chamber in the lightbulb. Next, you’ll Be taking credit for that. Where those minutes eventually achieved huge no. However, when the Europeans got their hands on the PROPER propeller they took off. We stand on the shoulder of giants. Rest knowing the story of the search for longitude by you brits is one of the best scientific stories ever. You got plenty of achievements to be proud of.

  17. Stevie


    It was Sir George Cayley who invented the aeroplane, 100 years before these hillbilly brothers.

  18. Chris

    Rubbish documentary, for one reason; The Wright Brothers' were NOT the first to make a controlled and sustained flight.

    This is history noobs. They don't even teach that in school anymore lol.

    Obviously an American production.

  19. david

    Really great nova science documentary. Super insight into the first flights by the Wright brothers and a recreation of a model b.
    Recommended viewing.