(1871-1948) (1867-1912)

Facts & Observations by Jonathan Sprout

The Wright brothers achieved one of humanity’s wildest dreams when they flew the first self-powered airplane. For years these self-taught engineers, who designed and made bicycles for a living, experienced failure after failure in the tedious testing of kites and gliders, but they continued to believe in the impossible -- that humans could fly. With courage, perseverance, teamwork and faith in the scientific method, they eventually achieved the dream of flight on the windy sands of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903.

“When my brother and I began experimenting (with flight) in 1900 it was purely for the pleasure of it. We did not expect to get back a cent of the money we spent.” -- Wilbur Wright

“I cannot but believe that we stand at the beginning of a new era, The Age of Flight.” – Orville Wright


Orville & Wilbur had confidence that their experiments with kites would prepare them satisfactorily for the creation of the first flying machines. Their logical one-small-step-at-a-time approach to achieving this amazing invention proved sound and exemplary. They dreamed. They visualized. They sketched, practiced with models and gradually, methodically reached a point where they were literally off the ground and flying thanks to their confidence, perseverance and trial-and-error approach.


You can do almost anything you put your mind to. In their day, it was considered impossible to fly because no one had ever flown before. The Wright Brothers did what was considered impossible by believing it could happen and by putting their minds to work finding a way.

To many people in their day, Wilbur & Orville created a miracle. Now, we look back on their accomplishment and realize how possible flying is. Then it was a miracle. Now it is commonplace. Can you think of doing something that most people would now consider a miracle, but that in time, might be looked upon as commonplace.


I visited the Wright Brothers historical site at a place called Kill Devil Hills in the little town of Kitty Hawk, NC and I recommend a visit. When you can see how far they actually flew, when you can walk the distance and imagine what it was like for them on that cold windy day, their accomplishments are easier to appreciate.

I had the opportunity to ask a lot of questions of the park rangers on my visit. I wanted to know why Wilbur and Orville were dressed in business suits in nearly all of their photographs. Wasn’t it impractical? Wouldn’t they rather have been wearing clothing they could feel more comfortable in and clothes they could feel more comfortable getting dirty? The answer: they wore their business suits all the time because that’s what gentlemen did. It didn’t matter how many people could see them in their suits. It didn’t matter how uncomfortable the clothing was. That’s what gentlemen did.

I have more respect for these two, knowing this about them.


Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills, NC [http://www.nps.gov/wrbr/index.htm]

Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park in Dayton, OH [http://www.nps.gov/daav/index.htm]

Wright Brothers Timeline [http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/wright_brothers/packet/timeline.html]

Milestones of Flight [http://www.nasm.si.edu/exhibitions/gal100/wright1903.html]