Wrights Experiment with Gliders, 1911

A Wright Brothers glider. Image from the State Archives.

A Wright Brothers glider. Image from the State Archives

On October 24, 1911, Orville Wright set a world soaring record of nine minutes and 45 seconds of unpowered flight on the Outer Banks. Famous for the first powered flight in a heavier-than-air craft with his brother Wilbur in 1903, Orville Wright returned to Kitty Hawk after nearly eight years to conduct more experiments with flight. This time he was accompanied by one of his other brothers, Lorin; his nephew, Horace; and a friend who also served as the pilot during the experiments.

The 1911 attempts were different from the more famous 1903 ones in that they were with a non-powered glider. Since the Wrights had already shown that powered flight was possible, the tests were more focused on safety and were designed to try out new equipment; the new equipment ultimately had to stay under wraps because newspaper reporters came out to watch the experiments every day they were conducted.

Between October 16 and 26, Wright made nearly 100 glides. Most of them were made into winds 35 miles per hour or faster. The record-breaking, nearly 10-minute glide was into 50 mile-per-hour winds and did not reach the 120-foot distance that the powered flight had made earlier. The record would stand internationally until 1921.

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