It Lasted Just 12 Seconds at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina
At 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 1903, Orville Wright flew the Flyer for 12 seconds over 120 feet of the ground. This flight, conducted on Kill Devil Hill just outside of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, was the very first flight by a manned, controlled, heavier-than-air aircraft that flew under its own power. In other words, it was the first flight of an airplane.
The First Flight at Kitty Hawk
On December 17, 1903, the Flyer was fixed and ready to go. The weather was cold and windy, with winds reported around 20 to 27 miles per hour.
The brothers tried to wait until the weather improved but by 10 a.m. it had not, so they decided to try a flight anyway.
The two brothers, plus several helpers, set up the 60-foot monorail track that helped keep the Flyer in line for lift-off. Since Wilbur had won the coin toss on December 14, it was Orville’s turn to pilot. Orville clambered onto the Flyer, laying flat on his tummy on the middle of the bottom wing.
The biplane, which had a 40-foot 4-inch wingspan, was ready to go. At 10:35 a.m. the Flyer started off with Orville as pilot and Wilbur running along the right side, holding onto the lower wing to help stabilize the plane. Around 40 feet along the track, the Flyer took flight, staying in the air for 12 seconds and traveling 120 feet from liftoff.
They had done it. They had made the very first flight with a manned, controlled, powered, heavier-than-air aircraft. Today commemorates that event.