In 2023, we'll celebrate the 120th anniversary of the Wright brothers' first powered flight on December 17, 1903. Orville and Wilbur are legendary innovators here in Dayton and all around the world for good reason - they invented the airplane and taught the world to fly! As we celebrate that historic first flight, we thought you might enjoy a few fun facts about the Wright Brothers ... some things you may already know and a few things that may surprise you!
Top Photo: Wilbur Wright and balloonist Ernest Zens sit in the Wright Model A Flyer at Camp d'Auvours, France in the early 1910s.
1. The Wright brothers were raised and lived most of their lives in Dayton. Wilbur was born near Millville, Indiana and Orville was born in Dayton. The family briefly moved to Iowa in 1878, then Richmond, Indiana in 1881, before returning to Dayton in 1884. The brothers would then spend the remainder of their lives in Dayton.
2. On Dec 17, 1903, the Wright brothers achieved the first powered, sustained and controlled airplane flight. Orville & Wilbur decided who would fly first that day with a coin toss! Wilbur won the toss, but his first attempt failed. Orville went second and managed to fly for 12 seconds. Later that day, Wilbur flew their plane for 59 seconds, over a distance of 852 feet.
3. In 1878, when Wilbur was 11 and Orville 7, their father gave them a helicopter-like toy to share. It was based on an invention by Alphonse Pénaud and was made of paper, bamboo and cork, with a rubber band to twirl the motor. The brothers later said this toy was the beginning of their obsession with flying machines.
4. In 1889, Orville and Wilbur started a newspaper printing business, publishing a weekly, and later a daily, newspaper - they even designed and built their own printing presses! In 1892 they opened a bicycle repair shop to capitalize on the national bicycle craze. They designed their own bicycle with custom features like an oil-retaining wheel hub and coaster brakes, things still used today in many modern bikes. Their bicycle business financed their work on inventing the world's first controlled flight of a power-driven, manned, heavier-than-air plane.
5. Neither brother ever married.
6. The Wright Flyer I cost about $1,000 to build, and the Wright brothers financed it entirely by themselves. The framework was made of spruce, with twin "pusher" propellers and a specially designed engine, cast mainly from lightweight aluminum. It was the first controlled and powered flying machine that could fly with the weight of humans. From this design, the modern airplane was born!
7. The Wright brothers established the world's first test flight facilities here in Dayton. Wright-Patterson Air Force Base and the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park are just a few of the Wright brothers' continuing legacies in Dayton today.
8. Neither brother attended college or even obtained a high school diploma.
9. The Wright brothers only flew together once (though both piloted the planes individually). On May 25, 1910, they took a six-minute flight together, piloted by Orville with Wilbur as his passenger.
10. In July 1969, Ohio astronaut Neil Armstrong carried remnants of fabric and the propeller of the original Wright Flyer to the moon - in less than 66 years, man had gone from the first powered flight to walking on the moon!
Enjoy this short video of Pulitzer Prize-winning The Wright Brothers author, David McCullough, as he shares a few more fun facts about Dayton's favorite brothers. To learn more about the Wright brothers and to see some of the world's most amazing authentic aviation sites and artifacts, plan your visit to Dayton, the Birthplace of Aviation & So Much More!