• Exploring American History

America's Amazing 66 years - Part 1 - Taking Flight

The United States of America has a rich history in which can be found an enormous number of unbelievable events. Nestled into the list is a 66-year time span (1903 – 1969) during which man would take flight, break the sound barrier and shoot for the moon. The genesis of this amazing era began on December 17, 1903, at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Willing to throw caution to the wind, Orville and Wilbur Wright set out to prove air travel for man was indeed possible. On the night of December 16, a menacing line of black clouds stretched across the horizon. A sensible individual would likely consider postponing their plans for the next day as he looked upon these intimidating billows, but then his name likely wasn’t “Wright”. Instead, our dynamic duo was undeterred, despite the fact the clouds soon morphed into a roaring nor’easter.

As the sun rose the next morning, the rain had moved on, leaving in its wake puddles of ice throughout Kitty Hawk’s sand dunes. Though the rain had left, the wind refused to vacate the premises. Gusting upwards of 30 mph, the wind brought with it a wind chill of 4°. One can only wonder the thoughts in the minds of Wilbur and Orville as they made their way to the plane.

Some would probably ask why they did not wait for better weather. Likely it was due to the fact weather radar was not available to offer a report regarding conditions in the near future and they wanted to be back in Dayton for Christmas. Thus, it was all-systems-go!

By nailing a red blanket to their hangar, the brothers notified their safety crew they were on their way. It’s an easy bet the crew was not happy. This meant leaving the warmth of a cozy fire in the station and traipsing across frozen sand to haul a 600-pound plane to the designated launch site.

At approximately 10:30 a.m., the plane was ready. As the brothers cranked up the propeller, the engine came to life. It was Orville’s turn to fly, so as he climbed into position, Wilbur enlisted the help of an assistant to capture on film history in the making. When Orville removed the restricting wire, the plan began to taxi into the bitter wind, whose gusts averaged approximately 27 miles per hour.

The flyer was soon airborne and rose quickly, then briefly nosedived, only to move upward again, and then down. The yo-yo voyage continued for an interlude of approximately 12 seconds, then landed. Throughout the process, the only damage sustained by the plane was a cracked skid.

The quantity of frazzled nerves Orville may have acquired during the flight is lost to history. In their place was the euphoria of his major accomplishment. Though the Wright brothers would engage in additional flights prior to leaving Kitty Hawk for Christmas in Dayton, likely the euphoria of each was a bit dimmer than that of the very first.

"There are elements in man that escape rational description, that lie beyond the measurements of science. They may exist at distance beyond the body, yet still exert an influence within. "

Charles Lindbergh

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