Monday, August 8, 2011

The Wright Brothers' First Public Flight

August 8, 1908:
 Wilbur Wright makes his first flight at a racecourse at Le Mans, France. It is the Wright Brothers' first public flight. Facing a lot of skepticism in the French aeronautical community and outright scorn by some newspapers that called him a "bluffeur," Wilbur began official public demonstrations on August 8, 1908 at the Hunaudières horse racing track near the town of Le Mans, France. His first flight lasted only one minute 45 seconds, but his ability to effortlessly make banking turns and fly a circle amazed and stunned onlookers, including several pioneer French aviators, among them Louis Bleriot. In the following days, Wilbur made a series of technically challenging flights, including figure-eights, demonstrating his skills as a pilot and the capability of his flying machine, which far surpassed those of all other pilot pioneers.
The French public was thrilled by Wilbur's feats and flocked to the field by the thousands. The Wright brothers catapulted to world fame overnight. Former doubters issued apologies and effusive praise. L'Aérophile editor Georges Besançon wrote that the flights "have completely dissipated all doubts. Not one of the former detractors of the Wrights dare question, today, the previous experiments of the men who were truly the first to fly...." Leading French aviation promoter Ernest Archdeacon wrote, "For a long time, the Wright brothers have been accused in Europe of bluff... They are today hallowed in France, and I feel an intense make amends."
Dayton's most famous residents proved the doubters wrong.


  1. Considering the French had plenty of reason to believe they had invented the flying machine, I think they were damn generous to the Wrights when they finally came out of hiding with theirs. Remember that by 1909 when Bleriot crossed the English Channel in a monoplane, French aviation had left the Wrights in the dust. Of course, back in USA, so had Glenn Curtiss.

    The French love of aviation would be on display again when they made Lindbergh into an international hero. Keep that in mind whenever you describe an airplane's ailerons, fuselage, nacelles, or empennage.

  2. True, but if you take the Wright brothers, John Patterson and Charles Kettering out of the picture, Dayton has little of note to offer the world. Thanks to the Wright brothers (and some area Congressmen over the years), we have Wright-Patterson AFB, which keeps the region afloat.

  3. I am SURE that Dayton Ohio has contributed PLENTY of insanely important but otherwise almost unknown parts of the USA's industrial infrastructure over the years.

    As for the Wrights, they were undoubtably geniuses but in truth, almost none of their contributions to aircraft design (canard pitch controls, pusher props, wing warping) made it even into WW I. So their actual contribution to flight is pretty trivial while their absurd patent fights actually set USA aviation back so far, our only WW I aircraft--the "Jenny"- was a laughingstock next to something like the Fokker D-7.

  4. Dayton has contributed some other interesting and useful things, such as the pop-top can lid. I would guess that the Wright brothers, like many geniuses (Edison with DC electric), were much too inflexible in adapting to other peoples' developments which might cut into their income. Genius seems to have its good and bad points, and being first doesn't end up being best.

    Notably, I feel better about our area's claim to part of aviation history, at least compared to North Carolina claiming to be "First in Flight."