The Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane
Reading Comprehension Activity

Author: Orville and Wilbur Wright

Chapter I passage: Major moments in history do not always happen flawlessly, nor are they always accompanied with great fanfare. The first flight of a manned airplane certainly proves this. After reading the passage, students will answer questions on the facts and the language.

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In 1903, aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, known as the Wright brothers, completed the first flight of a controlled, heavier than air manned flight. They later wrote a book about the development of their airplane. This passage is about the first flight.


The first flights with the power machine were made on December 17, 1903. Only five persons besides ourselves were present. These were Messrs. John T. Daniels, W. S. Dough, and A. D. Etheridge, of the Kill Devil Life-Saving Station; Mr. W. C. Brinkley, of Manteo; and Mr. John Ward, of Naghead. Although a general invitation had been extended to the people living within five or six miles, not many were willing to face the rigors of a cold December wind in order to see, as they no doubt thought, another flying machine not fly. The first flight lasted only 12 seconds, a flight very modest compared with that of birds, but it was, nevertheless, the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in free flight, had sailed forward on a level course without reduction of speed, and had finally landed without being wrecked. The second and third flights were a little longer, and the fourth lasted 59 seconds, covering a distance of 852 feet over the ground against a 20-mile wind.

After the last flight the machine was carried back to camp and set down in what was thought to be a safe place. But a few minutes later, while we were engaged in conversation about the flights, a sudden gust of wind struck the machine, and started to turn it over. All made a rush to stop it, but we were too late. Mr. Daniels, a giant in stature and strength, was lifted off his feet, and falling inside, between the surfaces, was shaken about like a rattle in a box as the machine rolled over and over. He finally fell out upon the sand with nothing worse than painful bruises, but the damage to the machine caused a discontinuance of experiments.

Comprehension Questions

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