Tuesday, February 20, 2007

North Carolina: First In Flight

The “Tarheel State” of North Carolina has an unusual boast. The state is home to the very first airplane flight, made on the sandy hills of the tiny town of Kitty Hawk on the chain of Barrier Islands known as the Outer Banks. Brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright may have lived in Ohio, but they took their flying contraption south in hopes of making it fly!

The Wright brothers owned a bicycle shop in the town of Dayton, Ohio when the notion struck them to develop a flying machine. After a great many designs and problems, the duo completed their famous “Wright Flyer” using wood, metal, and canvas stretched across the wings. In order to fly the plane, the pilot must lay flat on his stomach to steer the controls.

Building a newfangled flying contraption was quite strenuous and time consuming, taking the Wright brothers from approximately 1899 until 1903 to figure out the proper aerodynamics necessary to create an airplane. Even after their historic flight, the brothers kept working on the design until 1905, when the pair created the first practical airplane. Building these monsters was certainly a family affair, as the Wright sister helped the boys sew and stretch the canvas across the wing’s fame.

The Wright brothers visited Kitty hawk many times before they actually completed their flying machine. They went to the North Carolina coast and tested gliders to get a better idea of aerodynamics. Finally, they left for Kitty Hawk in Spetember 1903 to take their first test flight. They have now become well versed in local topography and often used the services of local people to help them in towing and maintaining the flying machine.

This flying machine was considerably heavier than the earlier models of the Wright flyers. It was 125 pounds heavier than what the brothers actually wanted it to be. Because of its weight, the plane could not be launched like the earlier versions and required the building of a 15-foot launching rail to catapult it on its trajectory. They jokingly called it "Grand Junction Railroad".

The brothers then had to postpone their regular tests because of the inclement weather in the late fall and early winter of 1903. This lead them to doubt whether they will at all be able to achieve their intended test flight that year. Things however changed for the better soon, enabling Wright brothers to start testing again and take their historic flight.

Finally on 17th December 1903 the brothers were succesful in realising their long cherished goal. After doing a toss to decide on who would pilot the airplane, Orville got into the machine to fly off at 10.35 am. Inspite of cold weather the fight was successful and lasted for 12 seconds. The plane travelled a mere 120 feet but it was enough to put the brothers and their flying machine into history books for eternity.

After the initial flight, the brothers went on to make three additional flights, with Wilbur piloting the longest course, staying in the air for 59 minutes and covering 852 feet. The great state of North Carolina bore silent witness to this feat of engineering and man on a cold December day. Today, a monument to the Wright Brothers sits on top of the hill that saw their first flight in Kill Devil Hill, North Carolina.

By: Fleur Paipa

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Fleur Paipa is the chief editor for F north carolina, the web's premier resource for information about north carolina, For more articles on north carolina visit: www.fyinorthcarolina.com/articles
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