The Wright Brothers

Growing up in North Carolina, I always had a sense of pride about the “First in Flight” slogan on our license plates, and I even had a resistance to Ohio having “Birthplace of Aviation” on its license plates. Those feelings of pride and resistance, along with many feelings associated with my various identities, have faded over the years, and I greatly enjoyed reading about Wilbur and Orville’s adventures back and forth between Dayton and Kitty Hawk in David McCullough’s The Wright Brothers.

What an amazing story! They figured out how to build an airplane basically in the manner that someone might build a treehouse in their back yard. They just kept working at it and eventually figured it out. Of course, they were incredibly devoted to it, and worked hard for many years, but it seems like it really happened just through a combination of interest, devotion, and tinkering.

McCullough’s telling focuses on the brothers’ journey and their character, and although some might call it hagriographic, it’s a very engaging read. I particularly enjoyed the details from the brothers’ letters, and the descriptions of the challenges and excitement of life at Kitty Hawk. I wish, though, that there had been more detail on the history of attempts at flying, and on the specific way in which they solved it versus what else was being attempted at the time. Based on some quick research, it looks like To Conquer the Air might satisfy my desire to learn more about this.

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  1. I’m pretty convinced that they were the first ones to really “solve the problem”. I’d love to learn more about what the different approaches were and how each different group addressed them, including during the years after the first flights.

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