How not to... take to the skies
Although the Flyer successfully got off the ground on 17 December 1903, Wilbur Wright had actually made an attempt to fly the plane on a cold winter’s morning three days earlier. He’d won the chance following the toss of a coin with his brother, Orville, and the pair made preparations at Kill Devil Hills, four miles south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.
Assisted by men from the local coast guard, the Wrights got the plane into position on an incline of a sand dune and Wilbur crawled into the pilot’s position. The Flyer – newly fitted with a lightweight engine that the brothers designed themselves – journeyed 12 metres (40 feet) down the rail. But Wilbur pulled up too sharply and the plane suddenly lurched and stalled.
This drove the aircraft into the sand, ending the flight after just three-and-ahalf seconds. Wilbur was confident that success was in their grasp. Even so, it would be Orville that would be the one to pilot on their next attempt – and make history in the progress.