A Wright Brother
Flies in France
The Wright brothers may have been the first
to fly in 1903, but over the next few years
a number of inventors—most of them
French—also produced flyable aircraft.
Many of these French efforts were conducted
in public, while very few people had ever
seen the Wrights fly. Many Frenchmen doubted
that the brothers had ever flown at all.
Meanwhile, back in Dayton, Ohio, Orville
and Wilbur were quietly making many improvements
upon their initial flyer. By 1905, they had
developed the world’s first truly practical
airplane. They could control it better than
the 1903 plane. It could stay safely in the
air as long as the fuel supply lasted. It
could easily and gracefully bank, turn, circle
around and perform figure eights. And, while
it still did not take off without the help
of a launch rail (and a catapult mechanism
if the wind wasn’t strong enough),
it was sturdy enough to withstand repeated
takeoffs and landings.
By 1908, they had developed a flyer in which
the pilot could sit upright for the first
time. A second seat next to him could even
carry a passenger. The pilot could now operate
the control system by simply maneuvering
two hand levers, rather than moving his hips
from side to side like before.
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