The Birth of the Airline Industry
Frameworks for America's Past
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The Wright brothers can fly!

first successful airplane flight took place at Kitty Hawk, along the sea shore of North Carolina, in 1903.  The Wright brothers - Orville and Wilbur - built the airplane after years of study and experiments.  They owned a very successful bicycle making and repair business in Ohio.  They did much of their airplane testing at Kitty Hawk, however, because of the steady winds along the beaches there.

A famous photo of the first airplane

   This photo shows the Wright brothers' first successful powered airplane flight in 1903.  Orville Wright was at the controls as the airplane covered 120 feet in 12 seconds.

By 1909, an even better airplane

The Wright brothers demonstrated an improved version of their airplane for U.S. military leaders at a field in Virginia in 1909.  By that time, the airplane could carry the pilot and a passenger.  Airplanes continued to be improved over the next ten years, mainly because of their use in World War I.

Airplanes began carrying mail

By the end of World War I in 1917, airplanes were much faster, stronger, and safer than the early models.  This airplane was one of the first to be used to carry air mail for the U.S. Postal Service.

Airports were built across the nation

Long distance flights of air mail on planes like this one helped develop a network of airports across the nation in the early 1920s.  Pilots soon developed better methods of navigation so they could fly at night and in bad weather conditions.

Air passenger service was started

Regular air passenger service began on a small scale in the mid-1920s.  The Ford Tri-Motor airplane was introduced in 1926.  It could carry eight or nine passengers.  The photo shows an old Tri-Motor on display at an airport.

All photos except the Ford Tri-Motor are from the Library of Congress.
Ford Tri-Motor photo is a public domain image from Wikipedia.
Some have been edited or resized for this page.
Some of the photos show damage on the
original glass negatives.

Copyright Notice

   Copyright 2009, 2016 by David Burns.  All rights reserved.  As a guide to the Virginia Standards of Learning, some pages necessarily include phrases or sentences from that document, which is available online from the Virginia Department of Education.  The author's copyright extends to the original text and graphics, unique design and layout, and related material.