Thursday December 17, 2020 Smile of the Day: The First Airplane Flight

On this Day:

The Wright brothers—Orville (August 19, 1871 – January 30, 1948) and Wilbur (April 16, 1867 – May 30, 1912) made the first controlled, sustained flight of a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft with the Wright Flyer on Dec. 17, 1903, 4 mi (6 km) south of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

Orville and Wilbur were two American aviation pioneers generally credited with inventing, building, and flying the world’s first successful motor-operated airplane.  In 1904–05, the brothers developed their flying machine to make longer-running and more aerodynamic flights with the Wright Flyer II, followed by the first truly practical fixed-wing aircraft, the Wright Flyer III. The Wright brothers were also the first to invent aircraft controls that made fixed-wing powered flight possible.

The brothers’ breakthrough was their creation of a three-axis control system, which enabled the pilot to steer the aircraft effectively and to maintain its equilibrium. This method remains standard on fixed-wing aircraft of all kinds. From the beginning of their aeronautical work, the Wright brothers focused on developing a reliable method of pilot control as the key to solving “the flying problem”. This approach differed significantly from other experimenters of the time who put more emphasis on developing powerful engines. Using a small home-built wind tunnel, the Wrights also collected more accurate data than any before, enabling them to design more efficient wings and propellers. Their first U.S. patent did not claim invention of a flying machine, but rather a system of aerodynamic control that manipulated a flying machine’s surfaces.

The brothers gained the mechanical skills essential to their success by working for years in their Dayton, Ohio-based shop with printing presses, bicycles, motors, and other machinery. Their work with bicycles, in particular, influenced their belief that an unstable vehicle such as a flying machine could be controlled and balanced with practice.  From 1900 until their first powered flights in late 1903, they conducted extensive glider tests that also developed their skills as pilots. Their shop employee Charlie Taylor became an important part of the team, building their first airplane engine in close collaboration with the brothers.

The Wright brothers’ status as inventors of the airplane has been subject to counter-claims by various parties. Much controversy persists over the many competing claims of early aviators (per Wikipedia).

First, a Story:

One thing is for certain about the men who invented, built, and flew the world’s first successful airplane at Kitty Hawk…They were the Wright brothers for the job.

Second, a Song:

There have been many many songs written about airplanes and flying.  Perhaps (other than Jefferson Airplane and that is because of their name) there is no other group associated with flying than The Royal Guardsmen.  

“Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” is a novelty song written by Phil Gernhard and Dick Holler and recorded in 1966 by the Florida-based pop group The Royal Guardsmen. The song was recorded at the Charles Fuller Productions studio in Tampa, Florida, and was released as a single on Laurie Records. Bowing at #122 on the Bubbling Under the Hot 100 on December 10, 1966, the single skyrocketed to #30 on December 17, 1966, shot up again to #7 on December 24, 1966, and peaked at #2 on the Hot 100 during the week of December 31, 1966 (behind the Monkees’ “I’m a Believer”); made number 6 on the Record Retailer (UK) chart in February 1967; and was number one in Australia for five weeks from February 1967. On the Hot 100, “Believer” at #1 kept “Snoopy” at #2 from reaching the Hot 100 summit from December 31, 1966 through January 21, 1967, after which “Snoopy” fell off while “Believer” stayed at the top for another three weeks.

The Royal Guardsmen went on to record several other Snoopy-themed songs, including two follow-ups to “Snoopy vs. the Red Baron” – “The Return of the Red Baron” and “Snoopy’s Christmas” – together with other tunes such as “Snoopy for President”. In 2006 they released “Snoopy vs Osama. They also recorded the Airplane Song. (per Wikipedia).

The song draws on an historical event: The Christmas Truce of 1914.

Starting on Christmas Eve, many German and British troops fighting in World War I sang Christmas carols to each other across the lines, and at certain points the Allied soldiers even heard brass bands joining the Germans in their joyous singing.

At the first light of dawn on Christmas Day, some German soldiers emerged from their trenches and approached the Allied lines across no-man’s-land, calling out “Merry Christmas” in their enemies’ native tongues. At first, the Allied soldiers feared it was a trick, but seeing the Germans unarmed they climbed out of their trenches and shook hands with the enemy soldiers. The men exchanged presents of cigarettes and plum puddings and sang carols and songs. Some Germans lit Christmas trees around their trenches, and there was even a documented case of soldiers from opposing sides playing a good-natured game of soccer. 

German Lieutenant Kurt Zehmisch recalled: “How marvelously wonderful, yet how strange it was. The English officers felt the same way about it. Thus Christmas, the celebration of Love, managed to bring mortal enemies together as friends for a time.” (per History.com).

Here are the Royal Guardsmen performing a “Snoopy’s Christmas”. I hope you enjoy this!

(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-hWZGIWe_U)

Thought for the Day:

“The Wright brothers flew right through the smoke screen of impossibility.” – Charles Kettering

Cheers!

Have a great day!

Dave & Colleen

© 2020 David J. Bilinsky and Colleen E. Bilinsky

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