Another First for the Wright Brothers: Patents Take Flight in May

May 22, 2011


Celebrating May the Wright Way


On May 22, 1906 the U.S. Patent Office granted Wilbur and Orville Wright patent No. 821,393, for a flying machine. Tested nearly three years earlier on the beach of North Carolina, their design was unlike any other and allowed the brothers to take off on the world’s first powered and controlled flight. It may have only lasted twelve seconds, but it made a wide footprint in flight history.


It wasn’t until 1908, however, that the Wright brothers showed off their creation. Wilbur Wright astonished spectators in France when he took the Wright Flyer up into the skies and circled the clouds for a record breaking two hours and eighteen minutes. It also won him a prize of 20,000 francs.


The self-taught engineers continued on to form their own aviation business, the Wright Company. However, even with new designs and creative ambition, American airplane companies began rapidly losing their technological edge to the Europeans.


By 1912, the Wright Company was falling even further behind, and Wilbur focused the majority of his efforts on protecting the company’s patent rights, contracting typhoid in the process. Orville sold the company in 1915, shortly after his brother’s death.


Orville went on to become one of the original members of the National Advisory Council on Aeronautics, currently known as NASA. Today, the organization continues to celebrate the Wright brothers' passion, and works to develop fresh and original ways to improve aircraft performance and technology.


- S.E.


 






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