The Wright Brothers’ First Flight and Today’s Runways

Two Ohio brothers with a fascination for bicycles changed the world on December 17th, 1903. The Wright Brothers toppled the first domino that led to the fastest expansion of the human population around the globe.

Most of us have heard of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Some of us may have made the journey down to First Flight (KFFA) in Kittyhawk, North Carolina. To the untrained eye, it’s not that impressive of a location. But their 12 second flight on that chilly, windy day on the grassy dunes kicked off a chain of historical events, including eventual travel beyond our solar system.

I sometimes wonder what the Wright Brothers would think of the progress we’ve made since their monumental flight. Within a few decades, Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic and Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier. Later that century, Rutan and Yeager would fly non-stop around the world.

And a Qantas 787 just flew the longest commercial flight in history: 19 hours and 16 minutes over a whopping 8,646nm. As the Dreamliner lined up for takeoff, its pilots may not have noticed a tiny detail that connects them to the Wright Brothers 116 years prior. In fact, most who fly may not realize the history in front of them every time they line up on centerline.

Did you know? Those centerline stripes are white paint, often mixed with a bit of powdered glass to make it reflective. They also happen to be 120 feet long. It’s no coincidence Orville was able to fight through pitch oscillations to keep their machine aloft for that exact distance.

The next time you’re rolling down the runway, appreciate how far we’ve come, and how fast 120 feet goes by.

Fly safe.