In 1939, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt chose August 19, Orville Wright’s birthdate, as the day on which we honor the development of aviation and related sciences in the United States. Orville was still alive at the time, though his brother Wilbur had died of typhoid fever in 1912. Orville piloted a plane for the last time in 1918, but he went on to lead a life dedicated to aviation, and sat on the board of the National Committee for Aeronautics, the predecessor of NASA, for 28 years. His last flight was on board a Lockheed Constellation piloted by Howard Hughes. During the flight, Orville commented that the wingspan of the Connie was longer than his first flight just 45 years earlier. Orville Wright died in 1948 at the age of 76, just three months after Chuck Yeager broke the sound barrier flying the Bell X-1. The airplane had gone from 6.8 mph in 1903 to beyond the speed of sound in one man’s lifetime.

Advertisement

Advertisement


For more stories about aviation, aviation history, aviators and airplane oddities, visit Wingspan.