When the first manned flight took place on 17 December 1903, lasting 12 seconds and covering 120 feet, only five of all innumerable newspapers in America thought the news fit to publish. The rest dismissed it as some kind of hoax. This was because the two brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright, who had successfully got their ‘heavier-than-air’ aircraft off the ground, had carried out their experiments in complete privacy, with no glare of publicity for their attempts.

The Wright brothers were bicycle makers from Ohio, who set out to construct a flying machine, and starting with the most primitive structures, they persevered until they had developed a craft which was to usher in a new era for mankind.

The way they set about their now famous work, on a 600 acre farm in Kitty Hawk, a secluded spot on the North Carolina coast, was in great contrast to the methods of Samuel P. Langley, who was then America’s most distinguished aeronautical scientist. The latter had the advantage of funds, expert know-how, and a great deal of publicity. The site of his experiments was just thirty miles south of Washington D.C. and the eyes of the nation were on his project. In spite of these advantages, his endeavours ended in failure.

The Wrights had achieved by quiet endeavour what others could not achieve by substantial funding and much-publicized preparation. They kept their sights firmly on the goal ahead of them, shunning publicity until they actually had a positive contribution to make to modern technology. When Orville Wright was asked after World War II whether he had ever imagined the terrible destruction which would be wrought by subsequent aeroplanes, he simply said that on “that day at Kitty Hawk, we thought only of getting off the ground.”