In the late 1800s, a bishop and a professor were talking about the future. The bishop was of the opinion that everything about nature had already been discovered and all the useful inventions had been made. The professor politely told the bishop that he was mistaken. In fact, the professor said, we’ll be able to fly through the air in a few years. The bishop said that was nonsense. “Flight is reserved for the birds and the angels.” Do you know who that bishop was? Bishop Milton Wright, father of Wilbur and Orville Wright!
Now, I don’t know how true that is, though I heard this anecdote mentioned in the Apple Keynote Education Event on you-tube and found reference to it here. (Certainly not scholarly sources by any means!)
I heard that little anecdote about a month ago and chuckled at the time. Little did I know that we’d be visiting the sight of the Wright brother’s first flight not long after that! While we were at the Outer Banks last week in North Carolina we visited the Wright Brother’s National Memorial. It is the site of Wilbur and Orville Wright’s first airplane flights. (More accurately referred to as the first controlled, motor-powered heavier-than-air human flight.) They invented aircraft controls that made it possible to fly a fixed-wing airplane.
In the picture below you can see photos of the plane and the Wright brothers. In the lower left picture, you can see the rail on which the airplane was set. The airplane took off at the rock memorial and in the photo you can see another small marker in the distance that shows the length of the first flight.
What I didn’t know before our visit to the Memorial was how very short that first flight was! It lasted for just twelve seconds and flew 120 feet. I also didn’t know that the brothers conducted a total of four flight tests that morning. Orville Wright piloted the plane on the first and third attempts, while his brother Wilbur was the pilot for the second and fourth flights. The fourth flight lasted for 59 seconds and it flew 852 feet.
We also enjoyed the museum exhibits. There was a replica of their glider and airplane, lots of photos, an exhibit about their homemade wind tunnel, plane parts and a really informative set of paintings that talked about the famous aviators.
I thought the poster in the exhibit hall said it well… “From Kitty Hawk to the Moon in 66 Years.” When you think of it that way, it’s really impressive don’t you think?!