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First Flight: The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Airplane Hardcover – January 31, 2003

ISBN-13: 978-0471401247 ISBN-10: 0471401242 Edition: 1st

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 400 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (January 31, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471401242
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471401247
  • Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1.3 x 9.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,401,884 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Aviation writer Heppenheimer (A Brief History of Flight) delivers a thorough look at the Wright brothers. Debunking the standard view that the brothers more or less invented their flying machine by luck and persistence, Heppenheimer definitively establishes a number of crucial facts about Orville and Wilbur that challenge current assumptions. He shows that the brothers were both driven, visionary individuals: Orville built his boyhood kites to help him "appreciate the importance of light weight in aeronautics"; their attempt at printing a newspaper failed financially but "showed them that they could measure up to the demands of challenging tasks by using their hands and their wits." He shows that the brothers were careful students of early pioneers in flight technology such as Otto Liliental and Octave Chanute, as well as contemporary rivals such as Samuel Langle and Glenn Curtiss, against whom the litigious brothers brought a legendarily tenacious patent lawsuit. Most important, Heppenheimer not only presents a detailed portrait of the brothers' groundbreaking and painstaking work in the workshop that "was the focus of their lives," but also reintroduces to the historical record their many technological and business adventures after the famous flight at Kitty Hawk.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

Review

A detailed, well-researched chronicle of the Wright brothers' three-year struggle to achieve the impossible and fly&' -- City to Cities, July/August 2003

"...will appeal to aviation scholars and enthusiasts." -- Library Journal, February 15, 2003

"Aviation writer Heppenheimer (A Brief History of Flight) delivers a thorough look at the Wright brothers...." -- Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003

Aviation writer Heppenheimer (A Brief History of Flight) delivers a thorough look at the Wright brothers. Debunking the standard view that the brothers more or less invented their flying machine by luck and persistence, Heppenheimer definitively establishes a number of crucial facts about Orville and Wilbur that challenge current assumptions. He shows that the brothers were both driven, visionary individuals: Orville built his boyhood kites to help him "appreciate the importance of light weight in aeronautics"; their attempt at printing a newspaper failed financially but "showed them that they could measure up to the demands of challenging tasks by using their hands and their wits." He shows that the brothers were careful students of early pioneers in flight technology such as Otto Liliental and Octave Chanute, as well as contemporary rivals such as Samuel Langle and Glenn Curtiss, against whom the litigious brothers brought a legendarily tenacious patent lawsuit. Most important, Heppenheimer not only presents a detailed portrait of the brothers' groundbreaking and painstaking work in the workshop that "was the focus of their lives," but also reintroduces to the historica l rec ord their many technological and business adventures after the famous flight at Kitty Hawk. (Feb.) (Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003)

Aviation writer Heppenheimer (A Brief History of Flight) here dismisses the popular notion that the Wrights were lowly bicycle mechanics who overcame their limitations through hard work and perserverance. Instead, he shows that the brothers enjoyed the advantages of upper-middle-class family life, an accessible home library, loving parents, and proper home schooling. The book examines the teenagers' various entrepreneurships prior to their self-introduction to the subject of flight, carefully demonstrating their potential for genius in each endeavor. Also covered are the early experiments with lighter-than-air flying contraptions, reminding the reader that not one of the Wright forerunners had mastered the issue of control of the airplane in flight. The first men to investigate the issue of controlled flight became the men who invented the airplane-the Wrights. Following their successful powered flights on December 17, 1903, Heppenheimer traces in detail the Wrights' continued work in Dayton, their adulatory reception by the public, their bitter patent suits against Glenn Curtiss and others. Wilbur's tragic death, and Orville's protracted feud with the Smithsonian Institute over its refusal to accept the Wrights as the Fathers of Flight. This somewhat specialized study runs counter to recent anti-Wright historiography (Herbert A. Johnson's Wingless Eagle and Seth Shulman's Unlocking The Sky) and will appeal to aviation scholars and enthusiasts.
Recommended for all aeronautical collections and libraries. (Library Journal, February 15, 2003)

“…excellent a ratteling good read, a most thorough account…” (General Aviation, August 2003)

"Aviation writer Heppenheimer (A Brief History of Flight) delivers a thorough look at the Wright brothers...." (Publishers Weekly, January 6, 2003)

"...will appeal to aviation scholars and enthusiasts." (Library Journal, February 15, 2003)

‘A detailed, well-researched chronicle of the Wright brothers’ three-year struggle to achieve the impossible and fly…’(City to Cities, July/August 2003)

“…excellent a ratteling good read, a most thorough account…” (General Aviation, August 2003)

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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Bill Marsano on February 17, 2003
Format: Hardcover
By Bill Marsano. The centennial of flight has given us a spate of Wrighteous books this year, but few can match this one for expert knowledge and for pleasurable reading. Heppenheimer is an aviation expert and writer who has covered the ground exceedingly well. Most important, he avoids the folkloric view of the Wrights as a couple of plucky, red-cheeked mechanics who somehow kicked an airplane into being for a lark. They were, in fact, a pair of solid and serious young Midwestern businessmen who looked the part: Even in the workshop they customarily wore jacket and tie. They flew with their hats on. Generally they resembled a couple of bankers who are about to turn down a loan application. Beyond that, they were not merely mechanics but natural-born engineers and self-taught scientists who observed, studied, tested--and learned from their mistakes as well as their successes. Most of us have heard the 'story' of the Wright Brothers--this book helps us comprehend the astonishing magnitude of their achievement, which took them less than five years, working part-time and paying their own way.
Heppenheimer brings a lot of color into his story--the Wrights and others are revealed to us as human beings rather than icons--and he goes far afield, too, bringing us the stories of those others who preceded and competed with the Wrights. The result is a nicely rounded saga of man's long struggle to progress from wishes to wings. He also answers a question people often forget to ask: The Wrights produced the first man-carrying powered airplane in 1903; they set the world on its heels when, in 1908, they went to France for their first large-scale public demonstrations (before an extremely skeptical audience)--so how was it that they faded so quickly from the scene? I won't reveal the answer here (though I will suggest that the facts seem to pre-figure the later struggle between the Apple and the PC). And I will strongly urge you to read this book.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Frank J. Konopka VINE VOICE on May 27, 2003
Format: Hardcover
This was a very interesting book concerning the early history of man's efforts to conquor the sky. Unfortunately for the lay reader, of which I am one, there was a lot of technical writing involved, and it lost me a lot of the time, particularly when the author was speaking about dihedrals and things of that ilk. When it came to the straight history of the flight efforts, and the Wright brothers, the story really moved along, but it did bog down for me in the scientific aspects. I don't want to take anything away from the expertise of the author, which is extensive, so I do encourage folks to read this book. Just be warned about the technical aspects of it. Gloss over them, and there is still a good read.
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