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What Made The Wright Brothers' Plane Innovative?

A picture of the Wright Borthers plane
Smoithsonian National Air and Space Museum

It's been 110 years this week since the Wright Brothers successfully got their heavier-than-air flying machine off the ground. The "aero-plane" had a number of really cool inventions.

The Smithsonian Air and Space Museum has built a 3D model where you can explore the plane from every angle. Writer Peter Jakab details what made the plane take off. Here's some highlights:

1. The wings  had a unique design. Each wing had a wooden structure, but it was not rigidly fastened together. Instead, the structure floated inside a fabric covering, resulting in strong, flexible wings.

2. The propellers were cutting edge. The Wrights were the first to conceive an aerial propeller as a rotary wing.

3. The engine was state of the art. The Wright brothers, with the assistance of their bicycle shop mechanic, Charles E. Taylor, designed and built a gasoline engine capable of producing 12 horsepower.


The National Park Service and the First Flight Society will hold the 110th anniversary celebration of the Wright brothers' flight Tuesday December 17th on the Outer Banks at the Wright's Memorial near Kill Devil Hills, NC.

The ceremony will include speakers, an aviation flyover and a wreath-laying ceremony at the exact spot where the first flight occurred.

Descendants of both the Wright family and witnesses of the flight will be honored.

Joshua Boles is a park service interpreter for the Wright Brothers site:

With the exception of one, all the witnesses that were there were there specifically because they were providing help to the Wright Brothers on that day. They helped move the plane and put it on the rail, I mean the plane weighs 605 pounds, so without some help- and the help they got were people from the local lifesaving station- they weren't going to be able to do their test.

Boles says the Southern hospitality of the Outer Banks is what kept the Wright brothers coming back year after year to fly.

Schedule of events for the anniversary:

  • 8:45 a.m. - musical prelude, Northeastern High School Band
  • 9:00 a.m. - program begins
  • 10:35  a.m. - aviation flyover (timed to the exact moment of the Wright's flight)
  • 11:00 a.m. - wreath laying ceremony at the exact spot the flight took place
  • 11:30 a.m. - meet members of the Wright family

Wright brothers
Credit John T. Daniels
This is the iconic photo of the Wright brothers' first flight.

Jessica Jones covers both the legislature in Raleigh and politics across the state. Before her current assignment, Jessica was given the responsibility to open up WUNC's first Greensboro Bureau at the Triad Stage in 2009. She's a seasoned public radio reporter who's covered everything from education to immigration, and she's a regular contributor to NPR's news programs. Jessica started her career in journalism in Egypt, where she freelanced for international print and radio outlets. After stints in Washington, D.C. with Voice of America and NPR, Jessica joined the staff of WUNC in 1999. She is a graduate of Yale University.
Carol Jackson has been with WUNC since 2006. As Digital News Editor, she writes stories for, and helps reporters and hosts make digital versions of their radio stories. She is also responsible for sharing stories on social media. Previously, Carol spent eight years with WUNC's nationally syndicated show The Story with Dick Gordon, serving as Managing Editor and Interim Senior Producer.
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