First Powered Flight

Orville piloting; Wilbur on the right

In a field south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, exactly 118 years ago today, Dec 17th, 1903, Orville Wright took off in what is described as “the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft.” He and his older brother, Wilbur, were mechanics from Dayton, Ohio. What they invented has revolutionized the world.

On Dec 17th, 1903, the world saw exactly one flying machine take to the air with one passenger, on a brief 12 second flight. Today, on average there are around 100,000 commercial flights daily around the globe. If the average flight has 150 passengers, then that means 15 million people fly every day. (That’s just commercial aviation and does not include general aviation.) From one per day to 15 million a day in just over a century is phenomenal.

Orville died in January 1948. What amazing advances in aviation was he witness to? He lived long enough to see Chuck Yeager break the sound barrier on Oct 14th, 1947. Humans, I tell you, are ingenious little critters.

Author: Atanu Dey

Economist.

3 thoughts on “First Powered Flight”

    1. A lot of researchers of those times were 100% self funded and not funded by universities or government programs. They were wealthy enough to have the luxury of spending their time on doing things that they loved doing.

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      1. Ayn Rand (some people condemn her as a fundamentalist) believed that tax payer funded universities are a crime. In Atlas Shrugged, one of the villains is a respected university professor who used his good name to lobby for government tax funding.

        In the Atlas-Shrugged, the great invention of Rearden Metal came from a profit seeking industrialist’s hardwork/passion for profit.

        I believe that universities should be funded by voluntary collectives (like Ashoka University) or should be profit-making. I heard that the second category (i.e. profit making) is not allowed as per Indian law.

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