Today, when air travel is ubiquitous and any computer gamer can take a virtual turn piloting a jumbo jet, it seems quaint to think about Orville and Wilbur Wright, bicycle shop owners from Dayton, Ohio, who took their quest to build a self-powered flying machine to the North Carolina Outer Banks.
It was on the morning of Dec. 17, 1903, on the beach at Kill Devil Hill, N.C., that Orville Wright released a rope that rolled The Flyer down a set of tracks and aloft into history (see photo, below).
The first pilots to fly a machine-powered airplane, the Wrights’ four trips that day were measured in hundreds of feet and tens of seconds in front of five witnesses. This month, tens of thousands are due to attend the First Flight Centennial Celebration at the North Carolina site now called the Wright Brothers National Memorial.
There’s a wealth of information about the flight online (start at www.firstflightcentennial.org), including photos of the event from the Library of Congress.
And yes, Microsoft’s Flight Simulator 2004 lets you pilot a virtual version of the Wright Flyer.