Arts & Culture
5:00 am
Sun December 15, 2013

What Made The Wright Brothers' Plane Innovative?

A detail from The Smithsonian animated tour of the Wright's plane. Here is a cross-section of the controls.
Credit Smoithsonian National Air and Space Museum

It's been 110 years this week since the Wright Brothers successfully got their heavier-than-air flying machine off the ground. The "aero-plane" had a number of really cool inventions.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has built a 3D model where you can explore the plane from every angle. Writer Peter Jakab details what made the plane take off. Here's some highlights:

1. The wings  had a unique design. Each wing had a wooden structure, but it was not rigidly fastened together. Instead, the structure floated inside a fabric covering, resulting in strong, flexible wings.

2. The propellers were cutting edge. The Wrights were the first to conceive an aerial propeller as a rotary wing.

3. The engine was state of the art. The Wright brothers, with the assistance of their bicycle shop mechanic, Charles E. Taylor, designed and built a gasoline engine capable of producing 12 horsepower.

TRACING THE FLIGHT PATH THIS WEEK

The National Park Service and the First Flight Society will hold the 110th anniversary celebration of the Wright brothers' flight Tuesday December 17th on the Outer Banks at the Wright's Memorial near Kill Devil Hills, NC.

The ceremony will include speakers, an aviation flyover and a wreath-laying ceremony at the exact spot where the first flight occurred.

Descendants of both the Wright family and witnesses of the flight will be honored.

Joshua Boles is a park service interpreter for the Wright Brothers site:
 

With the exception of one, all the witnesses that were there were there specifically because they were providing help to the Wright Brothers on that day. They helped move the plane and put it on the rail, I mean the plane weighs 605 pounds, so without some help- and the help they got were people from the local lifesaving station- they weren't going to be able to do their test.

Boles says the Southern hospitality of the Outer Banks is what kept the Wright brothers coming back year after year to fly.

Schedule of events for the anniversary:

  • 8:45 a.m. - musical prelude, Northeastern High School Band
  • 9:00 a.m. - program begins
  • 10:35  a.m. - aviation flyover (timed to the exact moment of the Wright's flight)
  • 11:00 a.m. - wreath laying ceremony at the exact spot the flight took place
  • 11:30 a.m. - meet members of the Wright family

This is the iconic photo of the Wright brothers' first flight.
Credit John T. Daniels