On this day in 1908, Wilbur Wright publicly demonstrated a Wright aircraft for the first time in Europe at the Hunaudières racecourse at Le Mans, southwest of Paris. The airplane was an improved version of the brothers’ experimental designs flown in 1903-1905. Wilbur’s flights at Le Mans confirmed without doubt the Wrights’ claims to have developed a successful airplane and made them world celebrities overnight.
But before Wilbur could stun Europeans with his aeronautical feats, he had to repair extensive damage to the airplane caused by careless customs officials who haphazardly repacked Wilbur’s shipping crates after inspection. Wilbur spent two stressful months before the Le Mans demonstration preparing the airplane for flight, including being badly scalded by steam from a broken water connection while testing the engine.