Wilbur Wright makes 1st public flight, August 8, 1908

-August 08, 2017

On August 8, 1908, the Wright brothers showed off their flying machine in its first public flight, five years after their first successful flight in 1903.

Many in the European aviation community, especially in France, were skeptical of reports of the Wright Brothers' successful flights, even proclaiming in 1906 that the French would make the first public demonstration of powered flight.

To prove their doubters wrong, the early aircraft took flight with Wilbur at the controls at a racecourse at Le Mans, France. The first flight lasted only a minute and 45 seconds, but Wright's ability to make banking turns and fly a circle amazed and stunned onlookers, and subsequently silenced the critics.

While in France, Wilbur became friends with Léon Bollée, the owner of an automobile factory where he would assemble the flyer and be provided with hired assistance. Madame Bollée was in her final weeks of pregnancy when Wilbur arrived. He promised her that the flight would take place on the day the baby was born and so it did.

The Wright brothers, to some contention, are credited with engineering the world's first successful airplane. Unlike the many other flying machine designers of the time that focused on engine power, their focus was on a system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine's surfaces. Orville and Wilbur’s three-axis control enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium.

The brothers are said to have found inspiration for the controls from bicycle design. The two men capitalized on the bicycle’s popularity at the time and opened their own repair and sales shop in 1892 to manufacture their own brand of bikes. Their own bicycle is on display the National Air and Space Museum.

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Editor's note: This article was originally posted on August 8, 2012 and edited on August 8, 2017.

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