Wilber Wright flying in France, 1908
It’s December 17, 2015, an important day on the Outer Banks, and to commemorate the 112th anniversary of the Wright Brothers Flight, here are three lesser known facts about the famous duo.
Wilbur had no front teeth. When he was 17 he was high sticked in a hockey game and his front teeth were knocked out. According to David McCullough in his book The Wright Brothers, Wilbur’s father, Milton, claimed the blow was struck by Oliver Crook Haugh, who went on to be one of Ohio’s most notorious killers.
The injury reshaped Wilbur’s life. A senior in high school, he was planning on attending Yale. He dropped out of school, and by all accounts became a recluse for three years. He spent the three years caring for his mother who was dying from tuberculosis.
Powered flight was not their only aviation breakthrough. Actually the Wright Brothers were not the first to realize powered flight. As one writer noted with enough power a barn door will fly. There had been a number of powered gliders making short hops before 1903.
What Wilbur and Orville accomplished was controlled, powered flight. They could turn in either direction and safely land at a time of their choosing.
They also made tremendous technological advances in propeller design. Their 1911 propellers have been shown to be just 5% less efficient than modern propellers.
The Wrights made almost no flights between 1906 and early 1908. Concerned that they had not yet received patents for many of their innovations, the Wrights stopped flying so no one could see what they were doing.
After receiving their patents, the US Government and France offered to purchase planes if certain conditions were met. The French in particular were skeptical, believing they had the lead in aviation technology . . . until Wilbur took his aircraft up for a quick flight to check his controls and performed feats no one in France even knew could be done.