1903 – The Initial Engine Powered Flight
Orville and Wilbur Wright, by June 1903, have completed the design and
construction of their power machine. The Flyer’s wingspan was just over 40 feet,
over an area of 510 square feet and weighed 625 pounds. The brothers built as
much as they could in Dayton, Ohio, and then shipped the rest to Kitty Hawk, NC
for the final assembly.
The brothers departed for Kitty Hawk, NC on Sept. 23rd and arrived at Kill
Devil Hill, 2 days later. While they were waiting for the shipment, they
repaired the hangar and construct a new shop. After the shipment was delivered,
the Wrights took 3 weeks to construct the Flyer. Everything they did, they
practiced gliding using the 1902 glider, gliding longer hours and increasing the
control the glider.
Weather that day was cold and stormy-horrible. They had been working on assembly
and had the Flyer completed early in November. November 5, the brothers tested
the engine. The result was not pleasing. The motor almost did not work as had
been expected. Its excess vibration damaged shafts, which was shipped to Dayton
They tested the motor again on November 28. Again they had issues with a crack
in the propeller shaft. Orville returned to Dayton, to construct new shafts of
spring steel firm.
On December 12 the Flyer is ready for the flight, but the wind was too light for
takeoff. They did not want a flight on Sunday; because they told their father
they would never fly on the Sundays. Their first attempt at powered flight would
be on Monday, Dec. 14.
They threw a coin to choose who would be the pilot. Wilbur won and climbed onto
the Flyer. After a difficult start, it began to scoot down the rails, and then
began to rise from its path. Wilbur misjudged and turned up too early, without
realizing the efficiency of the rise. The Flyer rose slightly, stalled, and then
came to rest near the foothills. The machine had slight damage. Nevertheless,
the Flyer had flown off of the ground under its own power, which was a hopeful
start. Both the brothers were positive that the machine would fly.
The repairs took a couple of days, and the flyer was ready again late December
16. Dawn of December 17 had a stout wind blowing in from the northeast and rain
pounding down. The brothers had to wait till 10am, hoping the winds would die a
little. When it didn’t, they chose to continue anyway. They sent signals to the
rescue station to come help them carry their Flyer area top of the hill.
It was now Orville's time to fly; he climbed up into the Flyer. It rose rapidly
once they had estimated the power of the rise. For the first time, a motorized
flying machine took off from the ground; it traveled under the control of its
Not pleased, the brothers wanted to again try. They had to repair the runners’
cracks, and at nearly 11:20, Wilbur then made the second flight travel nearly
With the assistance of the rescue crew, they then carried the Flyer to its
original starting point and again tried. Orville made their third flight, twenty
minutes later, and landed nearly 200 feet from its start point.
The fourth attempt began at almost noon; Wilbur was at the controls. The flight
started like any other-with the Flyer pitching upwards and downwards. After
about 300 feet, Wilbur regained control and began to travel on the same secure
course. It proceeded in this manner until he had gotten about 800 feet. Then,
the new Flyer began to buck and suddenly dove into the ground. The front was
badly damaged, but the body was intact. He had traveled close to 852 feet in
about 59 seconds.
After lunch, the two brothers contacted their father, "Successful four flights
Thursday morning with average speed through the air of thirty one miles".