There have been many pioneers in the history of aeroplanes but the first to successfully fly an aeroplane were the Wright Brothers, Orville and Wilbur. Orville and Wilbur were skilled craftsmen and keen experimenters. They owned a business making and repairing bicycles. They were able to bring the value of a scientific approach to the invention of a heavier-than-air machine.

On the 17th of December 1903 they were successful in producing the world’s first powered flight. Wilbur ran alongside the plane, Flyer, as Orville took off on the sand dunes outside a town called Kitty Hawk in North Carolina, USA. The flight lasted just 12 seconds and travelled 37 metres. This distance is less than the wingspan of a modern airliner, but it was a major accomplishment at the time.

The brothers received very little recognition in their home country. People were very sceptical about their achievement. On the 8th of October 1908, Wilbur flew their famous plane, Flyer, in front of a large crowd in France. The next day it was all over the French newspapers.

Orville and Wilbur Wright
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Why Do Aeroplanes Fly?

Aeroplanes planes are able to fly due to differences in air pressure. When a plane is on the ground, not moving, the pressure around it is the same top and bottom. The downward pressure of gravity is the same as the upward pressure of the ground. The plane has no lift.

A plane on the ground.
The shape of the wing gives the aeroplane the ability to lift of the ground. The wings are more curved on top than they are the bottom. As the wings move through the air, the air that travels over the top of the wings has further to move than the air travelling below. Air that moves faster has lower air pressure than air that moves slower. This means that there is lower air pressure above the wing than below. The result is an upward force or pressure and the plane is able to lift.
A cross section of a wing with air moving over it.
A plane is able to move forward because of the engine powered propellor. As it starts to move forward, the air pressure on the plane starts to change as the air moves over the wings. The upward pressure is now greater than the downward pressure of gravity and the plane starts to lift of the ground and is able to fly.