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On a windy December day in 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright became the first people to fly a powered airplane. Their four flights in a field near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, were the first to be longer than a few seconds and to be controlled by the pilot. Both brothers flew twice.
Their first plane, the Wright Flyer, took years to make. The brothers built it using skills they learned working on printing presses and motors. They built many prototypes and gliders at their bicycle shop.
According to the popular image, the Wright brothers were bicycle shop owners who beat the experts, but in fact, they studied the science of flight to help them build gliders to test their ideas. Each failed test flight gave them data to improve their next test.
One of their most important ideas was about how to control their planes. They saw that birds turn by leaning their bodies and wings, like bicyclists do. They invented a new kind of wing that could turn, and tested it in a wind tunnel — a fairly novel idea at the time. The Wright Flyer used these new wings, and the rest is history.
Since its invention, the plane has changed the world in ways we cannot count, and not always in good ways. They make the world smaller by letting people travel farther and faster — but they rain death on people from above. They let us dream of space travel — but they also pollute the skies, warming the world.
Still, planes have opened up the world to more possibilities — and it all started in Kitty Hawk. (T)
This article was provided by The Japan Times Alpha.