What did the Wright brothers nickname their historic 1903 motor-operated airplane prototype?

And the answer: Kitty Hawk.
Photo credit: public domain. 

Orville and Wilbur Wright achieved the first sustained flight by an airplane on December 17, 1903. Their prototype plane was commonly known as the Wright Flyer, but the Wright Brothers often called it the Kitty Hawk. The name refers to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina—the town that Orville and Wilbur chose for their test flights. Their historic flight occurred about 4 miles outside the town on a hill known for steady winds, soft and sandy landing surfaces, and limited obstructions.

When Orville and Wilbur Wright’s father brought home a spinning helicopter toy in 1878, no one could have predicted how the Wright brothers would take the idea to new heights. In a 1908 magazine article, the brothers recall how the top soared across the air, rather than falling to the ground as they had expected. Although the contraption was made out of cork, bamboo and paper, Orville and Wilbur’s passion for aviation was immediately sparked. Today, August 19, marks National Aviation Day— a holiday established by President Roosevelt in 1939 to commemorate the strides made by the Wright Brothers. In fact, the date was chosen as August 19 marks Orville Wright's birthday!    

In 1889, the brothers opened a printing business which released a daily newspaper, The Evening Item. There, Orville and Wilbur began to hone their engineering skills, as Orville designed and built a larger, more professional press in order to accept bigger jobs. The brothers’ business marked the first time their historic moniker, “the Wright brothers,” appeared in print.  

Soon after, the Wright brothers opened a bicycle shop together. Orville and Wilbur developed their own self-oiling bicycle wheel hub and installed tools in the shop to expedite the bicycle creation and repair process. Ultimately, it was the Wright brothers’ endeavors in bicycle and print making that funded their experiments in aeronautics.

Did you know?

The first successful flight, taken by Orville Wright, was a result of a coin toss. Wilbur won the first toss, but his flight was rendered unsuccessful due to a crash and minor damage to the airplane on December 14, 1903. Three days later, Orville, in coat and tie, lay flat on his stomach and took the controls. At 10:35 AM, the Wright Flyer moved down the guiding rail with Wilbur running alongside to balance the machine. For 12 seconds, the aircraft left the ground before touching down 120 feet away in the sand.

Learn more about the Wright Brothers here.


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