On 17 December 1903, a pair of brothers who ran a bicycle repair shop in Dayton, Ohio, changed the world forever. Orville and Wilbur Wright had spent the previous four years testing various gliders in the hope of becoming the first men to fly in a powered aircraft. On that December day, on the windswept sands of Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, the pair’s Wright Flyer became the first aircraft to take off under its own power with a man at the controls and stay in the air.
The Wright Flyer’s first flight – all 120ft (37m) of it – along the Kitty Hawk sands changed civilisation forever. The secret to the Wright Flyer’s success was not so much the engine, which had been hand-made in only six weeks by the Wright’s friend Charlie Taylor, but the revolutionary three-axis control system, which allowed the pilot to move keep control the aircraft in three dimensions. The controllable rudder and flaps the brothers invented are still used in every aircraft that flies today.
The Wrights’ historic flight was only one of many aviations firsts – in the following 110 years, mankind’s conquest of the air has seen many memorable firsts. Here, BBC Future lists just a few of them.
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