December 14, 1903 marked a milestone in the Wright brothers quest for powered human flight.

Actually putting an engine with a propeller on their flyer turned out to be more troublesome than the brothers had expected. After much debate and wind tunnel testing they settled on a dual propeller pusher design.

Attempts to purchase a suitable lightweight engine from several manufacturers proved unsuccessful and they ultimately ended up designing their own engine. Their shop mechanic, Charlie Taylor built a lightweight engine made from aluminum. Using aluminum for an engine was very unusual for the time period but Charlie created it in just six weeks.

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Wright brothers engine, serial number 17, on display at the New England Air Museum, Connecticut, USA

After many engine test failures due to broken propeller shafts the brothers were finally ready for the first attempt. Wilbur won a coin toss for the honor of piloting the first powered flight.

At Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina Wilbur took off and just three seconds later the aircraft stalled and gently crashed after traveling about 105 feet. There was minor damage to the airplane and Wilbur was not hurt.

In a message to their family, Wilbur referred to the trial as having “only partial success”, stating “the power is ample, and but for a trifling error due to lack of experience with this machine and this method of starting, the machine would undoubtedly have flown beautifully.” – Wikipedia

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Photo Prior to the December 14th trial via [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
The brothers immediately began repairs on the flyer and prepared for their next attempt which would take place on December 17.

Featured Image Attributed to Wilbur Wright (1867–1912) and/or Orville Wright (1871–1948). Most likely taken by Orville Wright. [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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