Exhibition Home
The 1903 Wright Flyer, the world’s first successful powered airplane, had a very brief operational history. Its entire flying career took place on a single chilly December morning in 1903, on the isolated Outer Banks of North Carolina. Nevertheless, it was a morning that changed the world forever. Three weeks after the historic December 17 flights, the Wrights held a press conference in which they succinctly summed up their moment of triumph:

“… We … packed our goods and returned home, knowing that the age of the flying machine had come at last.”

A Short Flight Log
Including an abortive 3.5-second first attempt on December 14, which the Wrights did not consider a flight, the Flyer’s total time in the air was a modest 101.5 seconds. Between 10:35 a.m. and noon on December 17, 1903, the brothers made four flights. The first and second were 12 seconds, then 15 seconds on the third, and the final, long flight lasted 59 seconds. Distances covered were 120 feet, 175 feet, 200 feet, and 852 feet. Altitudes ranged between about 8 to 14 feet.
Damaged on the Ground
After a break for lunch, the brothers intended to resume test flying their airplane. But as they and the local observers discussed the latest flight, a gust of wind overturned the airplane and sent it tumbling across the ground. The Flyer was severely damaged and was never flown again. Nearly all the wing ribs were broken, one spar and several struts snapped, the engine crankcase was fractured, and the propeller transmission chain guides were badly bent. The experiments for 1903 were over, but not before the Wrights had accomplished what they had set out to do.