Happy Wright Brothers Day, and Thanks to Charlie Furnas

Before the day passes, applause to Orville and Wilbur, 105 years after their historic flight at Kitty Haw. By Act of Congress and Presidential Proclamation, today is Wright Brothers Day.

President Bush’s proclamation also notes that this year marks the centennial of passenger flight. From the National Park Service:

In the spring of 1908, after repeated trips to Europe and protracted negotiations with the U.S. government, the Wrights were at last ready for the first public demonstrations of their airplane. That summer, Wilbur would travel to France to show the Europeans what their craft could do, while Orville demonstrated the machine to U.S. Army officials at Ft. Myer, Virginia.

The brothers had not flown since the fall of 1905. Before they faced the public, they had to brush up their flying skills, accustom themselves to a new upright seating arrangement and new controls, and try flying with a passenger for the first time, something both their American and French contracts required. They rebuilt their 1905 airplane with upright seats and the new controls and traveled back to the North Carolina dunes, where the flying conditions were ideal.

The brothers made the first flight from their old campsite near Kitty Hawk on May 1, 1908. By May 14, they were at last ready to venture aloft with a passenger. At 8 a.m., Wilbur took Charlie Furnas (photo) up for a hop that covered only 656 feet. Orville kept him aloft longer on the second try. The world’s first passenger flight lasted just over four minutes. Not a very impressive performance by modern standards, but it was enough. The age of air transport was underway.

We understand Mr. Furnas was allowed to keep his shoes on before boarding.

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