Orville Wright was an American inventor and the other half of the aviation legends, Wright Brothers. He along with his brother Wilbur invented the world’s first successful airplane. The brothers’ fascination towards flying and aviation started when their father gifted them with a toy helicopter inspired by another aviation pioneer Alphonse Pénaud.
Orville Wright Facts
1. He was generally credited along with his brother Wilbur to have built and flown the world’s first airplane.
Orville Wright with his older brother and co-inventor Wilbur flew their own plane four times on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. While it was just brief flights, it proved that their powered heavier-than-air flying invention can indeed fly. It started new dawn in the world of aviation.
2. Orville Wright and his brother Wilbur took turns in flying the first successful powered aircraft
On that historic day of December 17, 1903, the Wright Brothers took turns in attempting to fly the plane. An interesting fact about Orville Wright is that he was the first one to try it that day covering around 120 feet, which lasted for about 12 seconds. His brother Wilbur, on the other hand, recorded the longest flight covering a little more than 800 feet and lasted for about 59 seconds. These attempts were all controlled, sustained flights of a power-driven airplane. Two years after, they introduced to the world the first practical plane known as the “Wright Flyer.”
3. His camera was used for taking one of the most iconic photos in the world of aviation
During the four attempts the Wright Brothers took at Kitty Hawk, Orville made sure that his camera was present to be able to document their experiments. He asked John Thomas Daniels Jr., who was a member of the U.S. Life-Saving Station in Kill Devil Hills, to squeeze the bulb triggering the shutter if he thought that something monumental is taking place. That historic moment became the most iconic photo in the aviation world and served as proof later for patent claims. It showed Oliver Wright flying the plane while Wilbur was walking on the ground beside it. The camera used was Gundlach Korona V with 5-by-7-inch glass-plate negatives.
4. Wright was a bicycle racer
The younger Wright fell in love with bicycling in 1892. Orville Wright bought his first bicycle, a Columbia safety bicycle, at $160, an interesting fact about Orville Wright. He enjoyed cross-country cycling with his brother Wilbur. Joining competitive races during local fairs was a regular pastime for him and was known to have won a rocking chair at the Montgomery County Fair race. This love for speed and cycling led them to manufacture bicycles later on. It also started their passion for solving problems and inventing new things.
5. Orville Wright built bicycles and was a co-owner of Wright Cycle Company
Before he ever took a serious interest on flying planes, he and his brother were into bicycles. They established the Wright Cycle Exchange in 1892 and later on changed it to Wright Cycle Company. America became a bicycle-crazed nation when a more comfortable and safe bicycle was invented. Primarily, the store sold and rented bicycles. Later on, it expanded to selling parts and offering repair services. With the brothers’ skills on tinkering and experimenting, they started manufacturing their own bicycles. They started making regular ones called St. Clair and later on built a more expensive bicycle known as Van Cleve. The company was successful in raking several thousand a year. The last store they opened in 1895 at 22 South Williams Street can still be found up to this day. The money they saved from this company contributed to the funding of their aeronautical experiments.
6. He is the Father of Modern Aviation
Orville and his brother Wilbur, having piloted the world’s first airplane, are regarded as the “Fathers of Modern Aviation.” There had been many claims about who made the first successful flight of a powered airplane, but in the end, most aeronautical experts and analysts credited the Wright Brothers for that achievement. After their successful flight attempt, they went back to upgrading the Wright Flyer to something more efficient.
7. Orville and Wilbur Wright built the first mass-produced airplane, Wright Model A
A few years after their successful flight attempts, the Wright brothers built the very first production airplane, an interesitng fact about Orville Wright. It was popularly known as the Wright Model A. The airplane was powered by a 35-horsepower (26 kW) engine and designed with upright seating for two. This aircraft was the first to enter serial production in the world after selling the production license to different European companies. The largest production was for 60 Wright Model A airplanes made by Flugmaschine Wright GmbH in Germany.
8. He helped in developing technology for the United States army
When Wilbur died of typhoid fever in 1912, Orville continued what they both started. However, he did not have the tenacity for business like his brother and cared little about it. Three years after his brother’s death, he sold the company. He went back to his laboratory to focus on design and research. His work helped in developing and upgrading aeronautical technology for the United States army.
9. Wright fought hard for the first flight legitimacy claim with Smithsonian
In the early 1900s, proving claims of making firsts could be grueling especially that of inventions. There were no digital cameras for recording or live streaming the event for the public to witness. The Wright Brothers were no exceptions. Many people were wary of their claim even in the military. The Smithsonian Institute insisted that the first successful flight was made by Samuel P. Langley, who was the institute’s secretary during that time. However, the truth was, Langley failed, and the Smithsonian hired Glen Curtiss, another inventor, to make Langley’s plane work to prove their claim. The Institute failed to disclose to the public that amendments were made to the original Langley’s Aerodrome. Their primary reason was political because they needed funding. Orville Wright restored the original Wright Flyer and toured around America to prove his claim. He even lent the plane to the London Museum to help correct the historical inaccuracies of the Smithsonian. By 1942, due to insistent public demand particularly those that were in the aviation community, the Smithsonian recanted and apologized. Today, it is the most important object in the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The world will be forever grateful to the Wright Brothers for making flight a possibility. Orville Wright’s dedication to research and design along with Wilbur’s tenacity in the pursuit of flight changed the way we travel today.
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