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Wilbur & Orville Wright’s Childhood to Becoming the Inventors of the First Airplane

Wilbur & Orville Wright's Childhood to Becoming the Inventors of the First Airplane

Wilbur & Orville Wright’s Childhood to Becoming the Inventors of the First Airplane – Jakarta – The Wright brothers were inventors and aviation pioneers who flew the first continuous, electrically powered, controlled aircraft on December 17, 1903, exactly 119 years ago.

Less than 2 years later, Wilbur and Orville Wright also built and flew the first practical airplane, as quoted from the Encyclopaedia Britannica .

Long before he became an inventor, young Wilbur Wright dropped out of school in high school and buried his hopes of entering Yale University. What made him drop out of school? So, how did he and Orville Wright continue to study and become aviation pioneers?

Dad’s Helicopter Toy

Wilbur was born on April 16, 1867 as the third child. The family moved from Milville, Indiana, USA to Dayton, Ohio so that Milton, Wilbur’s father, could serve as editor of the church newspaper. This writing habit would later be passed down to Wilbur.

Orville was born on August 19, 1871. This fourth child was close to Wilbur and became his playmate.

Despite living in an unsupportive environment, Orville found his parents encouraged him and his siblings to investigate anything that aroused curiosity so that their intellectual interests would grow.

After work, Milton usually brings home small toys for his children. One day in 1878, when Wilbur was 11 years old and Orville 7 years old, his father brought him a toy helicopter.

The helicopter is made of cork, bamboo and paper. So that it can be played, the helicopter is powered by a rubber band to rotate the blades, as quoted from History.

The helicopter model is based on the helicopter design of French aviation pioneer, Alphonse Pénaud. Because of this gift, Wilbur and Orville became very happy and grew to love aviation.

Dropped Out of School, Still Wants to Be a Teacher

Wilbur was originally a friendly, confident and strong child. At school, he is known as an athlete, a smart child, studious, and has a strong memory. He plans to attend Yale University when he graduates from school.

At the end of Wilbur’s senior year at Richmond High School, Indiana, his father brought the family back to Dayton for church work. Because of this, Wilbur was unable to complete the remaining courses and graduate.

Despite the conditions at that time, Wilbur still hoped to study at Yale University and was confident that he could be successful in the profession he was interested in, namely as a teacher. Wilbur also enrolled in several college preparatory programs at Central High School in Dayton.

However, he had an accident in the winter of 1885-1886 while playing some kind of ice hockey. The injuries and cuts on his face and teeth healed, but he experienced heart and digestive complications, as quoted from the US National Air and Space Museum website.

Because he was unsure about his health and future, Wilbur felt depressed. He canceled plans to go to college, choosing to read in his home library for 4 years, and cared for his mother who was sick with tuberculosis until she died in 1889.

Orville: Shy Inventor and Curious King

Little Orville’s childhood was closer to the inventor stereotype than Wilbur’s. He liked to do experiments and take things apart to see how they worked.

Orville is more impulsive than his more contemplative and thoughtful brother. Orville’s curiosity led him to pursue his many interests, from engineering to piano to playing the mandolin. The sounds of Orville’s mandolin and piano, which were considered noisy by his sister, Katherine, were heard in the neighboring house.

Orville’s curiosity also made him prefer studying in advanced college preparatory courses rather than focusing on studying in classes according to the high school curriculum. As a result, Orville’s grades at school were insufficient to graduate high school.

Not interested in formal diploma credentials, Orville decided not to continue school in the final semester and did not graduate.

Nevertheless, the independent and extensive learning that Orville and Wilbur pursued, according to the US National Aeronautics and Space Museum, was equivalent to today’s 4-year college.

Orville was known to be intelligent and often made new discoveries. The idea of ​​making an airplane was originally Wilbur’s idea, but Orville’s enthusiasm and optimism often encouraged his older brother to find solutions to technical problems.

On the other hand, Orville was very shy in public. He can be a funny family member and close friend, and likes to provide interesting discussion threads. However, Orville was so shy around strangers since childhood, Wilbur would later always be his spokesperson when the Wright brothers were invited in public.

First Flight

In 1889, Wilbur & Orville created the West Side News newspaper. Wilbur edited the paper, and Orville published it. They also caught bicycle fever, opening a bicycle shop in 1892, repairing bicycles and selling their own designs.

The Wright brothers were also always working on different mechanical projects and following scientific research information. One of them is the research of German aviator Otto Lilienthal.

Lilienthal died in a glider accident. Wilbur and Orville were encouraged to start their own research in aviation and create their own aircraft designs.

They also went to the sand dunes area in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, which is famous for its strong winds.

There, they looked for ways to design wings for flight. Their observations found that birds tilt their wings for balance and control. From there, the two developed the “wing bending” concept and added a movable rudder.

This formula led Wilbur and Orville to successfully fly the first airplane powered freely and under control by electricity which was heavier than air. Wilbur flew their plane for 59 seconds, covering a distance of 852 feet or 259 meters.

However, their success was not appreciated by the press and not trusted by aviation experts. Therefore, Wilbur went to Europe in 1908 to convince the public and sell airplanes.

In France, Wilbur made many public flights, giving rides to officials, journalists and statesmen, followed by Orville in 1909 and his sister, Katharine.

Widely known among the nobility and society, he sold aircraft in Europe, becoming a wealthy businessman in Europe and the United States. Wilbur became president of the Wright company with instincts, business thinking, and operations executive, while Orville was in engineering and startup.

Wilbur would later die on May 30, 1912 from typhoid fever. His father, Milton, recalled to Wilbur his diary, “A short life, full of consequences. Unfailing intelligence, unwavering temperament, great independence and extraordinary modesty, seeing right clearly, pursuing it doggedly, he lived and dead.”

Meanwhile, Orville then served on aeronautics- related boards and committees for the next 30 years, including the National Advisory Committee for Aeronautics, which would later become the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Neither Orville nor Wilbur ever married. On January 30, 1948, Orville died of a second heart attack and was buried in the family plot in Dayton, Ohio.

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