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1903 Wright Flyer

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This object is on display in The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age exhibition at the National Mall building.


The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine. The Wright Flyer was the product of a sophisticated four-year program of research and development conducted by Wilbur and Orville Wright beginning in 1899. After building and testing three full-sized gliders, the Wrights' first powered airplane flew at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903, making a 12-second flight, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds.

The Wrights pioneered many of the basic tenets and techniques of modern aeronautical engineering, such as the use of a wind tunnel and flight testing as design tools. Their seminal accomplishment encompassed not only the breakthrough first flight of an airplane, but also the equally important achievement of establishing the foundation of aeronautical engineering.

The Estate of Orville Wright.

Date: 1903

Country of Origin: United States of America

Dimensions: Wingspan: 12.3 m (40 ft 4 in)
Length: 6.4 m (21 ft 1 in)
Height: 2.8 m (9 ft 4 in)
Weight: Empty, 274 kg (605 lb)
Gross, 341 kg (750 lb)

Materials: Airframe: Wood Fabric Covering: Muslin Engine Crankcase: Aluminum

Physical Description:Canard biplane with one 12-horsepower Wright horizontal four-cylinder engine driving two pusher propellers via sprocket-and-chain transmission system. No wheels; skids for landing gear. Natural fabric finish; no sealant or paint of any kind.

Inventory number: A19610048000

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