Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Wright Way to Develop a Vision

On December 17, 1903 at 10.35am Orville Wright secured his place in history by executing the first powered and sustained flight from ground level. For twelve gravity-defying seconds he flew 120 feet along the dunes of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

In the field of aviation, this historic event represented a beginning. But for Orville and Wilbur Wright, it was the end of a long and tedious journey. A journey initiated by a dream common to every little boy. The desire to fly. But what most children abandon to the domain of fantasy, Orville and Wilbur Wright seized upon as a potential reality. They believed they would fly. More than that they believed they should fly.

Wilbur described the birth of their vision in this way:

“Our personal interest in it [aviation] dates from our childhood days. Late in the autumn of 1878, our father came into the house one evening with some object partly concealed in his hands, and before we could see what it was, he tossed it into the air.”

“Instead of falling to the ground, as we expected, it flew across the room until it struck the ceiling where it fluttered for a while and finally sank to the floor. It was a little toy, known to scientists as a ‘hélicoptère’ but which we with sublime disregard for science, at once dubbed a ‘bat’.”

“It was a light frame of cork and bamboo, covered with paper, which formed two screws, driven in opposite directions by rubber bands under torsion. A toy so delicate lasted only a short time in the hands of small boys, but its memory was abiding.”

(Orville and Wilbur Wright, “The Wright Brothers Aèroplane,” Century Magazine, September 1908.)

This childhood experience sparked in the boys an insatiable desire to fly. The only thing they lacked was the means. So they immediately went to work removing the obstacles that stood between them and their dream and they began building their own helicopters. In doing so they stumbled upon the principles of physics that could pave the way to their first successful manned flight. In short they began to engineer their vision. They took the necessary steps to ensure that what they believed could be, would be..

Andy Stanley, Visioneering (Sisters Oregon: Multnomah Publishers, 1999), 7-8

Image: Orville (left) and Wilbur Wright.