Happy 108th Birthday Airplanes!

On December 17th 1903, a morning, not unlike today, sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight become a reality in Kill Devil Hills, Dare County, North Carolina, when Orville and Wilbur Wright launched the Wright Flyer into the skies and into history.

The Wright Brothers’ Wright Flyer, 21 feet 1 inch long, constructed of giant spruce wood, driven by a sprocket chain drive and powered by twin propellers, took flight from the dunes of Kill Devil Kills, from a 60 foot long take-off track constructed of lumber 2x4s. The Wright Brothers placed their take-off-track on a level section of ground, facing into the wind, which was estimated at more than 20 miles per hour, to ensure they were facing into the wind so the Wright Flyer would achieve flight.


Orville Wright climbed into Wright Flyer, his opportunity to be the word’s first airplane pilot being decided by a coin toss, laid face down with his hands on the controls and took off … for 12 seconds, and a distance of 120 feet.

Throughout the 17th of December 1903 the Wright Brothers flew four historic flights, with Wilbur Wright flying the last flight of the day for 59 seconds and a distance of 852 feet.

The Wright Brothers’ first flight of 120 feet in comparison was shorter than the length of an Airbus A320 (123 feet 3 inches) and Boeing 737-800 (129 feet 6 inches).

These past 108 years of sustained and controlled heavier-than-air powered flight have been exciting, the transition from propellers to jets, jets to rocket ships, supersonic flight and now the development of hypersonic flight … so …

… thank you Orville and Wilbur and Happy Birthday Airplanes!

Happy Flying!



  1. Alberto Santos-Dumont didn’t design his airplane until 1905 and didn’t fly it until October 1906. Santos-Dumont’s first airplane flight, three years after the Wright Brothers, was under 200 feet.

    Santos-Dumont seems to come up often , but his first airplane flight us well known and well documented.

    Happy Flying!


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