1903 Wright Flyer

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    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.

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image is the engine of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds.

    3 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds.

    4 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image are a Richard anemometer to record airspeed and a stopwatch to time the flights.

    5 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image are a Richard anemometer to record airspeed and a stopwatch to time the flights.

    6 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds.

    7 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image is the pilot’s position of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

    8 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image are the wings of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

    9 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image are the propellers and wings of the 1903 Wright Flyer.

    10 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    The Wright brothers inaugurated the aerial age with the world's first successful flights of a powered heavier-than-air flying machine at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17, 1903. The historic first flight of the Wright Flyer lasted 12 seconds, traveling 36 m (120 ft), with Orville piloting. The best flight of the four flights that day, with Wilbur at the controls, covered 255.6 m (852 ft) in 59 seconds. Highlighted in this image are a Richard anemometer to record airspeed and a stopwatch to time the flights.

    11 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    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.

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    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    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.

    13 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    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.

    14 of 17

    CCO - Creative Commons (CC0 1.0)

    This media is in the public domain (free of copyright restrictions). You can copy, modify, and distribute this work without contacting the Smithsonian. For more information, visit the Smithsonian's Terms of Use page.

    IIIF provides researchers rich metadata and image viewing options for comparison of works across cultural heritage collections. More - https://iiif.si.edu

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    1903 Wright Flyer

    1903 Wright Flyer hanging on public display in the Milestones of Flight Gallery

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    Front of the 1903 Wright Flyer

    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.

    16 of 17

    1903 Wright Flyer

    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. 

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Display Status:

This object is on display in the The Wright Brothers & the Invention of the Aerial Age exhibition at the National Air and Space Museum in Washington, DC.

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.