Who Were Wilbur and Orville?
1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
Return to Kitty Hawk
Flight Controls
In September 1903, the Wrights brothers again departed for Kitty Hawk. They had approached each previous trip as a stimulating opportunity to conduct their aeronautical experiments and contribute something to this exciting new field. This year things were different. They were going to fly an airplane.
1903 Wright Flyer on Launching Rail
Here, the Flyer rests atop the "Grand Junction Railroad", ready for flight.
The Wrights’ initial confidence waned, however, as they began to confront an unsettling pattern of setbacks. Between technical problems and bad weather, they at times wondered if their self-assured intention to fly the airplane in 1903 was premature.
The grand junction railroad
Because of its size and weight, the Flyer could not be hand launched like the Wright gliders. The brothers built a 60-foot launching rail from four 15-foot two-by-fours laid end to end. To take off, the airplane rode down this track on a small, wheeled dolly or “truck,” as the Wrights called it. The brothers referred to their launching track as the “Grand Junction Railroad.”
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Wilbur Wright with 1903 Flyer
Too Heavy?
The completed Flyer sits outside the Wrights’ Kitty Hawk hangar, with Wilbur looking on. The Flyer ended up 125 pounds heavier than the Wrights initially estimated. Fortunately, their propellers provided 50 percent more thrust than expected, which the brothers hoped would compensate for the extra weight.