I Have Today Seen Wilbur Wright and his Great White Bird
The airplane debuted to rave reviews.
- By Mary Collins
- Air & Space magazine, March 2003
Library of Congress NEG. #LC-W861-1
(Page 4 of 7)
“When it first turned that circle and came near the starting point, I was right in front of it; and I said then, and I believe still, it was one of the grandest sights, if not the grandest sight, of my life. Imagine a locomotive that has left its track, and it is climbing up in the air right toward you—a locomotive without any wheels, we will say, but with white wings instead.... Well, now imagine that locomotive, with wings that spread 20 feet each way, coming right toward you with a tremendous flap of its propellers, and you will have something like what I saw... I tell you friends, the sensation that one feels in such a crisis is something hard to describe.”
—Amos Root, Gleanings of Bee Culture, January 1, 1905
SKEPTICS Afraid that others would steal their technology, the Wright brothers stopped test flights by 1905 and focused instead on securing patents for their control system and contracts with the U.S. and French military. For three years they refused to fly their machines, and their secrecy left them vulnerable to naysayers’ lambasting.
“It seems that [the Wrights’] alleged experiments were made at Dayton, Ohio, and that the newspapers of the United States, alert as they are, allowed these sensational performances to escape their notice. When it is considered that...Langley’s experimental model never flew more than a mile, and that Wright’s [sic] mysterious aeroplane covered a reputed distance of 38 kilometers at the rate of one kilometer a minute, we have the right to exact further information before we place reliance on these French reports. Unfortunately, the Wright brothers are hardly disposed to publish any substantiation or to make public experiments, for reasons best known to themselves.”
—Scientific American, January 13, 1905
WORLD’S FIRST AIRPLANE PASSENGERS Some brave souls had to be the first people to sit as passengers in the fragile-looking Flyer. A view from coach:
“The air was bumpy and I had the feeling that there were moments when Orville didn’t have full control of the machine as we dipped groundward. It was as if someone on the ground had a string attached to us and would pull occasionally as they would a kite. But each time Orville would raise the elevator slightly and we would gain back the lost altitude.”
—Benjamin Foulois on flying a test run with Orville at Fort Myer, Virginia, July 30, 1909