Posted by Jason Kaplan on

Orville Wright on the left; Wilbur Wright on the right.

FDR (left) with Orville Wright (center).

Today, it’s easy to take things for granted. Like ordering something off Amazon with “next-day delivery.” Or taking a weekend trip to an exotic island. Or walking confidently around a new city using a GPS app.

We don’t need to tell you how “none of that existed 150 years ago.” But we find it interesting how all of these conveniences trace their roots to one key innovation.


Since our origin as a species, we’ve always looked up. But on December 17, 1903, we started looking down (and forward, too). This was the day of the first controlled flight of a heavier-than-air machine rising under its own power.

The craft was called the Wright Flyer I, and at the helm—brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright.

With Orville at the controls, the Wright Flyer took off at 10:35am and flew a distance of 120 feet—10 feet off the ground—at a top speed of 6.8 mph.

Three more flights followed that day, with Wilbur and Orville taking turns.

In recognition of Orville making the first flight, President Franklin Roosevelt declared August 19, Orville’s birthday, National Aviation Day – an annual celebration of the importance of aviation.

FDR realized that the first flight was more than a science experiment that worked. It was a catalyst to the golden age of American innovation. (Just 65.5 years after the first flight, we walked on the moon.) 

As a result, other industries thrived. Efficient manufacturing. International trade. Resource exploration. Data transmission. Shipping logistics. Just to name a few.

The United States took off long with the Wright Flyer—and hasn’t landed since.

Here’s 10 Ways To Celebrate National Aviation Day, courtesy of NASA.

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