111 years ago today, The birth of flight


Today is the anniversary of the Wright’s first flight.  When all the commentary on who supposedly flew before them, or some other esoteric angle dies away, there is only one element that matters: They were not professionals, they were determined and persistent homebuilders, committed to the accomplishment no matter what it took.


In 1899, four years before, there were at least 1,000 other competitors on the planet who had a bigger budget, a better education, and more experience. The Wrights beat them all because they were meticulous planers, they were rabid about testing, they felt pressure but never rushed, they didn’t have to hire others to build their ideas, they corresponded with people of experience, they were willing to change their minds in the face of evidence from testing, and the refused to quit. These elements beat out comparatively giant budgets and vastly superior educations.


They were homebuilders, the flyer was homebuilt #1, and the plane in your shop is a direct descendant of the flyer, and when you pick up a tool and work on it, you are directly continuing their work and using their model of success to write your own page in the history of flight. If you walk out to the shop, and you honestly think “who am I kidding, I will never turn this pile of materials into a flying plane”, absolutely know that the Wrights thought this very same thought countless times. To have your own version of their triumph, all you have to do is pick up the tool and remind yourself that you are in the spiritual and philosophical company of the two greatest homebuilders of all time. -ww.




1903 Wright Flyer Fabric Taken to Moon Apollo 11A piece of fabric and wood from the Wright Flyer taken to the surface of the Moon by the crew of Apollo 11, the first lunar landing mission, in July 1969.




If you are an American reading this, know that you have a special legacy and responsibility to honor. Great aviators have come from every corner of the globe, but there is a reason why the Wrights  did it first, why Lindbergh flew the Atlantic, why Yeager broke the speed of sound, and why Armstrong went to the moon. We are not better humans, nor brighter, nor better educated. The unparalleled edge we have is freedom. These men were free of a class system, and aristocracy, free of a society that reserved opportunity to the privileged, and free of a restrictive government drastically limiting their actions.


It is easy to complain, but if you really want to build and fly your own plane, and you are an American, recognize that you have it a lot easier than anyone else on the planet. Wealth, legislation and materials aside, It should be culturally ingrained in you that you have every right to build and fly. recognize that there are many builders outside the US who would kill to have it this easy.


I am very proud to be an American, but I want to remind my fellow countrymen, on this day, that it is now our watch, it is our time to prove that we are willing to do something with the great opportunity that fortune has served us. Not every contribution by our generation of Americans has to be the Rutan Voyager. Your contribution can be any flying plane you build with your own hands, a plane that will not change the world of flight, but will certainly change your world of flight. -ww.





5 Replies to “111 years ago today, The birth of flight”

  1. WW, I have a comment about the public school system as it relates to this statement “We are not better humans, nor brighter, nor better educated. The unparalleled edge we have is freedom.”

    While building my airplane a coworker at the GM Tech Center asked me “who gave you permission to build this airplane?” I replied if he meant my wife. “No” he said, “who from the government gave me permission, you can’t just go out to your garage and build a airplane just because you want to.” I was wondering, and asked him where he went to school, US Public was his reply. I went on to explain to him about the freedoms we have. I’m still surprised when I think about that encounter and wonder how he formed those ideas.

    You aren’t free if you don’t exercise your freedoms.

  2. In years past the notion of not being able to freely build and fly in America would have been laughable. But now? Not so much. Beware the indoctrination mills AKA the public school system.

    1. Ray,
      I understand your point, and agree to this angle: almost any school, public or private, will be an “indoctrination mill” to the student who shows up without a foundation from home, family, faith or love. I attended outstanding schools both public, private and abroad. I attended Millburn HS in NJ, top in the state; My junior high years were at a Private school in Hawaii named Punaho (the President was ’79, I was with ’80), and I spent many years in the International School of Bangkok. I had many strong teachers, but I didn’t adopt their views wholesale because my parents and family were always a stronger influence.

      I have family and friends who teach in the public schools of America. My Cousin John is an brilliant and committed educator. He could have had his pick of six figure incomes in the tech sector, but instead elected to teach in the absolute trenches of Port Elizabeth NJ (the south landing approach to Newark) because that is where he could make the biggest difference. My oldest friend was recently Riverside County CA’s teacher of the year. I am sure that both of these teachers would cite lack of parental involvement as the #1 issue, fully under the control of the family.

      Although I have no children, I also hold myself accountable here. For the last 5 years I have promised myself that I would make the time volunteer to tutor our local HS students in Math in the evenings, but I never have. “Almost” doing something has the exact same effect as doing nothing at all. By the luck of birth and circumstance, I had an outstanding education, and it is ingratitude for this fortune not to try to do something, however small.

      1. I applaud teachers: I could not do what they do. I had a public education with great teachers and some not so good. But even from the later I learned things that later in life were useful, not all bosses are good either. With the introductory education I received from public HS and my parents, I am able to think for myself not just be indoctrinated. The problem as I see it is that some are not willing to help in the cost of education for all and teach all view points so the student has to think for themselves. Even though my children have long since graduated college I have no problem with the taxes that I pay for the public education system. You can not have freedom without an education. If you think the price of education is high take a good look at the price of ignorance.

  3. I was a fourth generation dairy farmer in South Louisiana. I am a third generation pilot and EAA member. My grandparents, parents and my family have been to Oshkosh multiple times. One of the best things that has come from selling our herd is that my dad and I can now travel together to fly-ins and not have to decide who is going and who is working. All of the men in my family have been educated in the public school system, as are my children. Education is what you make of it. When we do homework with our kids, as my parents did with me, we explain things the way we feel they need to be explained, we correct ideas that we find issue with, and every night thank God for the men and women who protect our freedom to go to school.
    Thank you William Wynne for your fierce defense of safety and truth in testing. Thank you for your reminder of how we got here and what was sacrificed by so many to provide us with the freedoms we enjoy, not the least of which is “Learn, Build, Fly.”

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