Though the prospect of manned flight had been around for hundreds, maybe even thousands of years, it would be the Wright Brothers - Orville and Wilbur - that would put theory to practice and produce the first in a series of heavier-than-air aircraft systems capable of sustained flight and pilot-controlled. The Wright Flyers were actually a successive series of aircraft designed from lessons learned in their previous attempts and on that day in Kill Devil Hills of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, the Wright Brothers name would forever become synonymous with powered flight.
The Wright Flyers appeared in three forms known simply as the Flyer I, Flyer II and Flyer III, each indicating a successive design based on the previous. The original Flyer I (sometimes known simplify as "Flyer") appeared in 1903 in December and completed four flights with its 12hp Wright-designed engine driving two twin-blade propeller systems turning in opposite directions. The flight lasted only 12 seconds and covered just 120 feet but, 100 hundred years later, the brothers would be celebrated for bringing man in the world of manned aviation.
Flyer II appeared in 1904 and was very similar to Flyer I, though some design changes occurred to the wing structure and a 15hp engine was utilized. Naturally, the one-man Flyer II more in the way of progress as the Wright Brothers began to hone their expertise on creating a controllable system. Some 80 total flights would be achieved with Flyer II.
Flyer III appeared in 1905 and was really the definitive system in the series - anything close to resembling a controlled airborne vehicle. Similar once again to the preceding design (in this case the Flyer II), the Flyer III featured revised pilot controls and, as a result, improved handling and maneuverability. The Flyer III achieved some noteworthy statistics that would include a distance record of some 24 miles in nearly 40 minutes. Flyer III would complete 40 flights.
- X-Plane / Developmental
21.03 ft (6.41 m)
40.32 ft (12.29 m)
564 lb (256 kg)
750 lb (340 kg)
30 mph (48 kph; 26 kts)
30 feet (9 m; 0.01 miles)
162 miles (260 km; 140 nm)
Wright Flyer I - Appearing in 1903; fitted with 12hp Wright Brother's engine; twin "pusher" propellers.
Wright Flyer II - Appearing in 1904; revised wings; fitted with 15hp engine.
Wright Flyer III - Appearing in 1905