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The Flyers: In Search of Wilbur & Orville Wright Hardcover – October 7, 2003

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Adams, cohost of NPR's All Things Considered and author of Piano Lessons, sets out to learn about the Wright Brothers, their family and why they loved to fly so much. Adams visits all the spots important to the brothers, from the Outer Banks of North Carolina, where they flew gliders, to France; Dayton, Ohio; and New York. The most appealing part of the book is the look at the close relationship between Orville, Wilbur and their sister Katherine. Following the death of their mother, the three were devoted to one another and planned on living together. In fact, after Wilbur's death, when Katherine announced her plans to marry, at age 50, Orville was devastated and ended up not seeing his sister until she was on her deathbed a few years later. Adams uses letters and diaries to describe the lives of the Wrights; some of these details are not widely included in other books that focus on their inventions and accomplishments. Adams intersperses his personal musings as he re-creates the travels of the Wrights: "Wilbur's Arlington Hotel is gone, replaced by a three-story condominium, the La Casita. I put up at the Comfort Inn, out at the bypass. I had plans for my own boat trip, leaving at first light." In the end, he's a personable guide into the Wright Brothers' world, offering a refreshing look at these aviation pioneers.
Copyright 2003 Reed Business Information, Inc.

From Booklist

This book is more than just another history of the Wright Brothers' first flight. Adams, host of National Public Radio's All Things Considered, retraced Wilbur Wright's first trip--by train and boat--to North Carolina's Outer Banks in 1900 and stopped by the Wright family plot in Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. Adams visited the Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio that had its beginnings as the Huffman Prairie Flying Field. Orville had left a sketch of the field from 1904, designed by the two brothers and their mechanic, Charlie Taylor. Adams also visited the horseracing track in France where the Wright Flyer set records as the European aviation community watched. The author toured Governors Island in New York Harbor, the spot where Wilbur made a 20-mile, roundtrip up the Hudson River, and the parade grounds of Fort Myer, Virginia, where Orville conducted test flights for the U.S. Army. Much of Adams' research was done at the Library of Congress and the archives of Dayton's Wright State University, where he read thousands of letters and examined photo albums, microfilm, notebooks, and ledgers--and even Orville's lifelong collection of business and calling cards left by visitors. This is the closest look yet at the Wright family, including the troubled relationship between Orville and his sister, Katharine. George Cohen
Copyright © American Library Association. All rights reserved

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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 240 pages
  • Publisher: Crown (October 7, 2003)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1400049121
  • ISBN-13: 978-1400049127
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 0.9 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.3 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #3,160,092 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

3.4 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Rick Beyer on November 28, 2003
Format: Hardcover
Noah Adams took a year off from NPR and went in search of the Wright Brothers. He sought out the threads of their story in locations from Dayton Ohio to Paris France, as well as deep inside the many long letters that Orville, Wilbur, their father Milton and their sister Kate shared over the years. The result is a fresh telling of the Wright story that is well worth reading.
Adams' book caught my eye because I have been on my own Wright Brothers quest the last two years, producing a documentary for The History Channel. In reading his book I discovered we had unknowingly crossed paths twice. Once in October 2002 on the dunes of Jockey's Ridge state park, a few miles south of Kitty Hawk, watching military pilots try their hand flying the Wright Brothers 1902 glider, and once at the annual air show in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Having done a substantial amount of research into the Wrights' story, I wondered if I would learn anything new in this book, and was delighted to find that I did. No other book that I've seen details Wilbur Wright's first encounter with alphabet soup at a hotel dining room in France in 1908, which is a wonderful moment. Other little known nuggets also come to light here. The Wrights' sense of humor, hidden from the world and saved only for family and close friends, is also write large on these pages, which helps us see past the starched suits and pinched faces and come face to face with the real men.
Other parts of the story that I was familiar with were told with caring and detail that made them seem brand new. One exquisitely sad chapter deals in detail with Will and Orv's sister Kate. She and Orville were as close as two people could be, and came to rely heavily on each other after Wilbur's death.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on November 4, 2003
Format: Hardcover
I happened on this book at a local shop just after it was released. Having read the superb biography of the Wrights, "The Bishops Boys" by Tom Crouch, I can recommend this book as an excellent companion piece. Noah Adams' narrative has an immediacy to it, and he brings the Wrights alive as only a storyteller can. As he travels around the country, and the world, tracing the footsteps of the Wright brothers and sister, offering observation and insight, Adams brings us face to face with their - and our - history. With the appproaching "centennial of flight", this would make a very appropriate book gift, especially for the holidays.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By DC Dirigo on June 29, 2009
Format: Hardcover
This is a very well-written and well-told story of the human side of the Wright brothers and their pioneering role in aviation. It's not intended as an in-depth biography but rather a first-person, experiential step back in time (from the perspective of today and the then-upcoming 100th anniversary of the first flight at Kitty Hawk) to explore what it would have been like to be with the Wright brothers as they developed their inventions and their subsequent aviation careers.

The author, Noah Adams, goes to all the important sites affiliated with the Wright brothers' development of controlled flight and their later quest for recognition and profit. He interweaves his impressions of the locations where the Wright brothers lived and worked with snippets from the private writings of their father and sister to paint an effective and intimate portrait of the relationships within the Wright family. His narrative conveys the excitement and novelty of the early days of powered flight that leaves the reader with a solid understanding of the Wright brothers' tremendous accomplishments. The wonderful photographs at the beginning of each chapter are used creatively not only to provide a visual reference but also to anchor the storyline in a particularly informative yet subtle manner.

I found this to be a highly readable, well-researched, and enjoyable book, and I would recommend it to anyone who would like a taste of the early days of aviation and the intimate life of its two most important pioneers. For those reading some of the reviews here on Amazon, the ones that are most critical seem to miss the point of this book and the first-person nature of its perspective.
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Format: Audio CD
Wilbur and Orville Wright from Dayton, Ohio translated their bicycle-shop experience into a winning stake in the quest for powered flight. Their names, and the name of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, have a high recognition quotient in popular culture. Author and NPR broadcast journalist Noah Adams took a year to research the Wrights' work and visit the scenes of their milestone achievements, and gave us a combination biography and road trip book in The Flyers: In Search of Wilbur and Orville Wright.

The Wrights' approach to flight was to perfect the art of gliding before adding power, rather than focusing first on the engine. They saw the need for flexing (or warping) the wings for lift and maneuverability, and from the start their gliders were flexed with rope controls on the wings. Most of their accomplishments built on known principles though in 1901 they produced enough data to show that a long-accepted lift coefficient was inaccurate. I'm not sure whether they were visionaries, but they were innovators and businessmen. They waged patent wars over their wing designs and presumably made a lot of money from their work, though this is not covered in enough detail in the book.

Some things work very well in "The Flyers." For example, extensive quotes from family correspondence illuminate the brothers' activities and achievements, as well as those of family members. The technical aspects of the flying machines are described fully enough to be interesting. The key locations are described vividly.
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