Orville Wright

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Orville Wright (1871 - 1948) was the first to fly the flying machine he and his brother Wilbur Wright created. These American brothers are generally credited with the invention of the first airplane (though whether they were truly first or not is debatable). They first flew their aircraft in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Orville was born at Dayton, Indiana, in the year of 1871. Like his brother Wilbur, he never graduated from high school because he took special subjects in his junior year of high school instead of a prescribed course. Wilbur, however, did not graduate because he failed to attend the commencement ceremonies. Together the brothers started a bicycle shop, called the "Wright Cycle Company", were they built, sold, and repaired bicycles.

The two became interested in aviation when they read an article on the death of a daring glider pilot and inventor named Otto Lilienthal. In 1899, they began to experiment with a biplane kite. The next year, the brothers went to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, to test a 16-foot (ft.) glider, which cost them $15.00 to build. They returned to Kitty Hawk in 1901 to experiment with a larger non-motor powered aircraft, but neither glider had the lift they had counted on. They concluded that the published tables of air pressure on curved surfaces were all wrong.

The brothers built a wind tunnel in their bicycle shop, and began experiments with model wings. From these tests, they determined the first reliable air pressure tables on curved surfaces. They then built a new glider in 1902, with aerodynamic qualities far in advance of its time. By the fall of 1903, they had completed building a machine that weighed just over 750 pounds with the pilot, and it had a 40 ft. wing span.

On December 17, 1903, they returned to Kitty Hawk to test the new aircraft. Orville piloted the machine, and he flew 120 ft. in just over 12 seconds.