For thousands and thousands of years, men and women watched the birds and dreamed that they, too, could lift themselves into the air. Some tried. Back in ancient days, the mythical character Icarus took bird feathers and a frame and made something like a hang glider. But when he soared into the air, the sun melted the wax that held the feathers, and Icarus fell into the sea . Real people built gliders, or hot-air balloons that floated on the wind. Yet no one could figure out how to build a craft that would follow the commands of a human pilot. People tried and failed again and again. And then on December 17, 1903, two brothers did it. They were from Dayton, Ohio, and they owned a bicycle shop. Neither had graduated from high school. Their names were Wilbur and Orville Wright . Wilbur, the older one, later recalled why the two brothers were so close. "From the time we were little children my brother Orville and myself lived together, played together, worked together, and, in fact, thought together. We usually owned all of our toys in common, talked over our thoughts and aspirations so that nearly everything that was done in our lives has been the result of conversations, suggestions, and discussions between us."
It was not luck that made the Wright brothers the first people in all of history to build and fly an airplane that lifted off the ground with its own power. It was hard work and determination. Before they built that plane they studied all that was known about flying. They made a wind tunnel and tested two hundred differently shaped wings. Then they drew plans and built carefully. When they flew, it was from Kill Devil Hill at Kitty Hawk, on North Carolina's Outer Banks. Wilbur later explained why they selected that spot. He said, "I chose Kitty Hawk because there are neither hills nor trees, so that it offers a safe place for practice. Also the wind there is stronger than any place nearer home and is almost constant ."