Air Transport World

Centennial of flight.(Wilbur and Orville Wright's first flight)

Control was key to flight; this seemed obvious to the Wright Brothers, who considered it odd that previous attempts at control had been relatively shallow. Both Otto Lilienthal and Englishman Percy Pilcher used the shifting weight of the pilot. Lilienthal paid the ultimate price for the limitations of that technique in 1896, while Pilcher died in 1899 when his glider's rain-soaked tail failed while being towed aloft, a lesson in structural strength not lost on the Wrights.

Wilbur Wright in late May 1899 wrote to the Smithsonian Institution asking for information on human flight. A Smithsonian official responded with reports and recommendations to read Octave Chanute's "Progress in Flying Machines" from 1894 and copies of the "Aeronautical Annuals. …

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