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The Airplane Turns 108 Years Old Today
December 17th 1903 was a cold winter morning along the dunes of Kill Devil Hills, in North Carolina, on the east coast of the United States. Unlike most chilly winter mornings in this sparsely populated town, history that would change the world was taking place.
On the 14th of December 1903 the Wright Brothers were ready to take flight, flipping a coin to determine the first pilot, but this day was not to be the day man took flight in an airplane for the first time.
On the 14th of December Wilbur Wright won the coin toss, climbed onto the 21 foot 1 inch long Wright Flyer, facing face down, and launched down the 60 foot long launch track, constructed of four fifteen foot sections of wooden 2x4 tracks. Once reaching the end of the launch tracks Wilbur pulled the aircraft off causing the engines to stall and the Wright Flyer never achieved flight.
Three days later, on the 17th of December, 108 years ago today, the Wright Brothers returned to their launch site in the dunes of Kill Devil Hills, laying their wooden take off tracks, dubbed the Junction Railroad, facing into the wind, this time with Orville Wright at the controls. Orville Wright laid face down in the Wright Flyer, hands on the controls, just as his brother had three days earlier, but unlike his brother, he took flight.
The Wright Flyer flew 120 feet for 12 seconds and history was made. To put the distance of the first flight into perspective, a Boeing 747-400 is 231 feet 10 inches from nose to tail.
The Wright Brothers made four historic flights on the 17th of December, with each flight flying longer and farther, ultimately the last flight of the day was flown by Wilbur for 852 feet for a 59 second flight.
Without Orville and Wilbur Wright’s first flight we wouldn’t be able to complain about airport delays, whine about cramped airline seats and be annoyed by having to connect flights in Atlanta.
Happy Birthday Airplanes!