How Many Times Did the Wright Brothers Fail?

In their careers as inventors of man-made flying machines, the Wright brothers had two failures before they actually achieved sustainable flight. They had initially built gliders and tested them in the form of kites, which encouraged their inventive curiosity. Several years of creating these kites and gliders led them to finally create a motorized, human-controlled flying machine.

The Wright brothers’ careers as inventors of flying machines started in 1899 when Wilbur started working on a way to bend the wings of a biplane in order to steer it. Many previous attempts, starting as early as 1896, had failed, and Wilbur had always wanted to solve this problem. In 1899, the Wright brothers created a kite glider that demonstrated Wilbur’s ideas of bending the wings. It worked as a kite, but full-sized models that were human-controlled failed to live up to the brothers’ expectations in their test flights at Kittyhawk in 1900 and 1901.

In 1902, their third attempt at building a glider worked as designed, and they made over 700 successful flights with it. The following year, the Wright brothers added a small motor to the glider, and the first powered flight was a success, lasting 20 seconds and moving 120 feet. They flew this plane a total of three times on Dec. 17, 1903, with the longest flight covering 852 feet and lasting 59 seconds.