How the Wright Bros became Interested in Aviation

The Wright Brothers were born almost four years apart, Wilbur in 1867 and Orville in 1871. Their father was a Bishop in the United Brethren In Christ. The two were very close in their relationship as brothers, but far apart in their natures. Orville was the idea man, who would think up things of fantastic nature, while Wilbur was the practical doer, more focused, mature and able to get projects completed.

After Wilbur had his hopes of studying to be a clergyman dashed by a serious facial injury in a hockey game, he found himself turning to his father’s library while recovering, and became self educated. The brothers then worked for their father’s religious newspaper, “The Religious Telescope” and later produced their own newspaper “The West Side Times”.

This led to an interest in printing, and the brothers ran a successful printing business for a while. Then came the bicycle shop. At the time, the bicycle was the hot new invention and the mechanical workings captivated the brothers. By this time, the brothers were quite adept at the mechanical workings of things and at building machines.

Around 1892, Otto Lilenthal and his exploits were a focus of the brothers attention. Otto was the great glider pilot of the time. Upon his death in 1896, the brothers were sparked with enthusiasm about flying. This new fascination with flying combined with their love and knowledge of mechanics to spark the great obsession with building a flying machine.

They were in the right place at the right time. At the time, the explosion in advancements and knowledge concerning internal combustion, aerodynamics, and mechanics had produced the right information and conditions for two knowledgeable, intelligent, and creative brothers, who worked together in such a complimentary fashion, to put everything together into the concept of a heavier than air vehicle.

The brothers applied themselves to becoming educated about everything involving aerodynamics. This led to the glider experiments that began in 1900 in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. At Kitty Hawk, they tested hundreds of wings, which they considered to be the better option in controlling the plane. Existing planes were controlled by the pilot moving his body. After perfecting their glider and logging over 1000 flights, they moved on.

Next came the combustible engine. No manufacturer would make an engine to their specifications, so they began to work on engines.They developed a 12 horsepower engine and installed it. On December 17, 1903, they made the famous 59 second, 852 foot flight.

Wilbur and Orville Wright received their patent for a manned, heavier than air flying machine on May 22, 1906. Their next inspiration was to present their machine to the US government, again at just the right time. The US Army was conducting a comprehensive review of all new science, especially in aviation. After a rough start, the rest is military history.

It could be said that the Wright Brothers were destined to be aviators. It could also be said that the Wright Brothers were determined to be aviators.