The Experiments of 1899: Wilbur and Orville Wright Fly a Kite

Tom D. Crouch
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The names of the places where Wilbur and Orville Wright made history are familiar to people everywhere who know and cherish the story of the invention of the airplane. The brothers tested their first kite/glider at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1900, then shifted their seasonal camp four miles south to the Kill Devils Hills, where they flew from 1901 to 1903. They perfected their invention at Huffman Prairie, eight miles east of Dayton, in 1904 and 1905, and opened their flying field there in 1910.

Wilbur astonished the world with his first public flights from the race course at Hunaudieres, France, in the high summer of 1908, while Orville demonstrated the airplane to the Army trials at Ft. Myer, Virginia in 1908 and 1909. Wilbur taught the first three U.S. Army airmen to fly in 1909 at College Park, Maryland. And there are other familiar places, from Gardiner’s Island in New York Harbor, where Wilbur took off for his flight around the Statue of Liberty in 1909, to a field near Montgomery, Alabama, where Orville made the first night flights and began to instruct the young men who would fly as members of the Wright exhibition team.

Ironically, the precise spot where Wilbur tested their first experimental aircraft is unknown to all but the most knowledgeable students of Wright lore. Many of the circumstances surrounding that first Wright flight test remain hazy. Over a century after the Wright brothers began their period of active experimentation with the flights of their wing-warping kite of 1899, the time has come to clarify the record of those initial experiments.

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