National Aviation Hall of Fame enshrinees Orville and Wilbur Wright were inspired to pursue powered flight when in 1878, their father gifted them a helicopter-like toy (known as Penaud’s Helicopter). They referred to it as “the flying bat.” Both brothers were mechanically minded and were deeply interested in how and why things work. The brothers began a bicycle company in 1892 known as the Wright Cycle Company; this company would be the basis of their inventing endeavors. In 1895, both were inspired by Otto Lilienthal’s glider experiments. The brothers quickly researched all they could about gliders and, shortly after, made their own and tested them in homemade wind tunnels. Using what they had learned from homemade tests in their bicycle shop, in December of 1903, the brothers achieved the first controlled and powered flight in Kittyhawk, North Carolina—performing several flights that faithful day. The brothers returned to Dayton as heroes and continued to test their flying machines at Huffman Prairie in Dayton.
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