Why Did the Wright Brothers Invent the Airplane?

Museum of Science and Industry, Chicago/Archive Photos/Getty Images

The Wright brothers became interested in airplanes and flying after learning about the studies of the late 19-century glider pilot Otto Lilienthal. They then began to study glider experiments and the theories of flying. Eventually, they became known as the first people to successfully fly a manned, powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

The Wright brothers developed a theory that was different from the ones other pilots had suggested at the time. They figured an airplane that flew by its wings would be a better machine than one where the pilot shifted its weight to control it. The Wright brothers began studying this concept and carried out various experiments using their own, hand-built devices, such as kites and gliders. These experiments took place in an area near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

The first flight they took occurred on Dec. 17, 1900, but there were many previous experiments and changes in design that took place during the previous three years. Their attempts include building and testing over 200 models of winged surfaces and recording the data on lift and drag. They also had to build their own engine to fly the first flight because no manufacturer would agree to construct one for them.