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Wright Brothers, 1903

End of first attempt at powered flight, Dec. 14, 1903. (U.S. Air Force photo)

End of first attempt at powered flight, Dec. 14, 1903. (U.S. Air Force photo)

By 1903, the Wrights had solved two of the three basic problems associated with developing a successful flying machine -- lift and control. The problem of adding a lightweight power plant for propulsion remained.

In the summer of 1903, they built a 40-feet, 4-inch span airplane that incorporated all their aerodynamic knowledge. While their mechanic, Charlie Taylor, built a small, lightweight gasoline engine, they designed and built highly-efficient propellers -- a significant feat in itself. This engine was the last piece of the puzzle, and the Wrights traveled back to Kill Devil Hills to test their creation.

On Dec. 14, 1903, the Wrights flipped a coin to see who would be the first to try, and Wilbur won the toss. He attempted to fly the machine but over-corrected the elevator control and the airplane crashed. Three days later, after repairs, Orville flew it successfully for the first time.

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