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"They have done it! Damned if they ain’t flew!" said a witness to the first human flight as he dashed into the Post Office at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. But so often had this claim proven hollow that people were skeptical
of yet another.

The morning of December 17, 1903 dawned bright with a strong chill in the air. The wind hit 25 miles per hour over the dunes at Kill Devil Hills, along the Outer Banks–dangerous conditions for flying a prototype aircraft. The Wright Brothers of Dayton, Ohio, dressed in coats and ties to add a touch of private ceremony for an event that would alter the world. Puddles around camp iced up, but the break in the weather might be their last chance of the season.

A contingent of helpers–Willie Dough, Adam Etheridge, John Daniels, W C. Brinkley, and Johnny Moore–arrived on foot. Young Johnny Moore lived in a shack with his fortune-telling mother in Nags Head Woods.

They mounted the Flyer, as they named their craft, on the track about 100 feet west of their camp, heading south to north. The Wrights each cranked a propeller and let the motor run. "Wilbur and Orville walked off from us and stood close together on the beach, talking low to each other for some time," remembered John Daniels. "After a while they shook hands, and we couldn't help notice how they held on to each other's hand, sort o' like they hated to let go; like two folks parting who weren't sure they'd ever see each other again." It was an uncharacteristically dramatic for the Wrights.

Orville positioned himself over the flyer. Then, on this remote, sandy beach, late in the year 1903, he broke man’s bond to the earth. He flew.

One hundred years later, man not only flies through the air with the greatest of ease but has ventured into outer space. And the aeroplane, which to the Wrights was a grand experiment, has become an integral part of life on Earth.

Read on to find out just how it all began.

Next: Beginnings

 

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