In Their Own Words:
How It All Began

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n January 13, 1920, Orville gave a deposition in a court case, Regina C. Montgomery et al vs. the United States. The defendants counsel, Maxwell Barus, asked him, "When and under what circumstances did you and Wilbur Wright first become interested in the problem of flight?" Orville's response:


"Our first interest began when we were children. Father brought home to us a small toy actuated by a rubber spring which would lift itself into the air. We built a number of copies of this toy, which flew successfully. By "we" I refer to my brother Wilbur and myself. But when we undertook to build the toy on a much larger scale it failed to work so well. The reason for this was not understood by us at the time, so we finally abandoned the experiments. In 1896 we read in the daily papers, or in some of the magazines, of the experiments of Otto Lilienthal, who was making some gliding flights from the top of a small hill in Germany. His death a few months later while making a glide off the hill increased our interest in the subject, and we began looking for books pertaining to flight. We found a work written by Professor Marey on animal mechanism which treated of the bird mechanism as applied to flight, but other than this, so far as I can remember, we found little.

"In the spring of the year 1899 our interest in the subject was again aroused through the reading of a book on ornithology. We could not understand that there was anything about a bird that would enable it to fly that could not be built on a larger scale and used by man. At this time our thought pertained more particularly to gliding flight and soaring. If the bird's wings would sustain it in the air without the use of any muscular effort, we did not see why man could not be sustained by the same means. We knew that the Smithsonian Institution had been interested in some work on the problem of flight, and, accordingly, on the 30th of May 1899, my brother Wilbur wrote a letter to the Smithsonian inquiring about publications on the subject..." – Orville Wright

Orville Wright in flying togs, just a few years before he gave this testimony.

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"Aviation is proof that – given the will – we can do the impossible."
 Eddie Rickenbacker



Milton Wright Remembers the Wright Brothers Childhood

Part of a biography of the Wright Brothers
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