The Design Feature and Marketing That Made the Wright Brothers the Inventors of the Airplane

David Pflieger explains how Wilbur and Orville Wright set themselves apart from their competition and became pioneers of aviation.

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We’ve all heard of the Wright brothers, but do you know exactly how they impacted the field of aviation and why they were different from their predecessors? Wilbur and Orville Wright were actually not even the first people to create a machine that flew in the air, but they are nonetheless credited with the invention more than anyone else, and they were definitely the most successful at it.

According to History, 1903 was the year that Wilbur flew the plane that the brothers had designed. He flew it for only 59 seconds, but he was able to safely land it. This was actually a huge step in aviation. Several other inventors had already been able to get a plane off of the ground, but the problem was that there was no control, and the aircraft often crashed. By observing how birds modulated their wings, they learned that this was the key to creating a flyer that the person flying it would be able to control. And this is also part of the reason why they are credited with creating the first successful airplane.

But having a machine that could both fly with control and land without crashing was only part of the success of the Wright brothers. It’s also only part of the reason that we have so long credited them with the invention of the airplane. When they first made claims in America that they had a machine that would fly, most people didn’t believe them. So Wilbur decided to take their invention over to Europe. The story was exactly the opposite there. In Europe, Wilbur found many people who were interested in their flying machine. By 1909, Orville had joined Wilbur, and they were giving rides to political figures and journalists. The interest grew, and soon after, Orville and Wilbur were setting up contracts both in Europe and the United States. After a few years, they were wealthy businessmen.

So although several other people were able to make machines that flew, the Wright brothers were the first ones to not only make one that could both fly and land without crashing, but they were also the first people to be able to market their invention to an interested public. On top of that, more than 100 years later, airplane designs still feature the modulated wing design that set their machine apart from the others that failed.