FLYING HISTORY

Le Mans Inside the great auto racing course of the 24 hour race of Le Mans, there is hidden away a horse racing track, les' Hunadaires. Just past the rising curve at the top of The Mulsanne straight, a small road cuts off to the right and below the sign which notes the horse track is a very small sign . . . almost seems like an afterthought . . . which has the name Wilbur Wright. In 1908 the thunderclap of history was heard here. The world as we know it became a reality. Here is where Wilbur Wright demonstrated to a small but very skeptical audience that he and his brother Orville had solved the age old quest for flight. Until that day August 8, 1908 the Wrights has been quietly inventing the aerial age. The new Flyer had been shipped to France at the end of 1907, and unknown to Wilbur until he opened the crates after arriving, the French customs had nearly destroyed the precise pieces of the Flyer, and to assemble the machine would require months of repair and new construction. The Wrights were confident in their invention and their abilities, and made no secret of it. The rebuilding time was met with derision from the French press and aviators who had already claimed that they had solved the questions of flight. They had been able to put craft into the air for short hops and a complete turn could take more than 10 miles to accomplish. They called Wilbur a liar and a “bluffeur” and expected him to publicly and spectacularly fail on such a short and small flying field, which was actually larger than Huffman Prairie in Ohio where they had proved their airplane would work. Around 6pm that day, Wilbur announce that he would fly. There were about 60 French aviators and press in the grandstand as he started the engine and climbed into the seat. He released the catapult and the Flyer climbed into the sky. As he approached the 1st turn, he deftly banked into a climbing turn and followed the track, made 2 circuits and landed right where he had taken off. No one had ever seen a flying machine turn so gracefully and under total control. The French aviators were humbled and the Press raced to the telegraph office, the next day The Wrights and Dayton Ohio were on the front page of every newspaper on the globe. Two days later the 60 who had been present were replaced by thousands. The Aerial Age had become public.