The concept of time, when you really start to think about it, is strange. Take seconds, for instance. How long can you stay underwater without having to come up for air? Twenty seconds? Thirty? Forty? A minute? I’ll bet that those seconds seem really long.
Do you think that 12 seconds is a long time? Let’s find out. Count with me; one, two, three, four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, 10, 11. . .
Now, that didn’t seem that long, did it? So, what’s so cool about 12 seconds?
Twelve seconds is exactly how long the first mechanically powered airplane stayed in the air, on a windy, chilly December day way back in 1903.
As I was visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, last week, I saw a letter composed by either Orville or Wilbur. I don’t have the exact quote, but from what I remember, it said, “In the next several months, I will be pouring almost all of my money into this flying machine, and I may even lose my life.”
Can you remember anyone in recent years who’s said that about their invention or idea? Twelve seconds. Do you think those seconds felt like a long time to the pilot of the first powered flight, Orville Wright?
I’ve been to some pretty historic places before, but my visit to the Wright Brothers National Memorial was especially intense for me. My first thought was about the risks the brothers took. The U.S. park ranger who gave us a brief tour of the grounds and told us stories about the brothers said that the Wright Brothers were not taken very seriously. As a matter of fact, one reason that they chose Kitty Hawk, NC, was that it was a pretty lonely place in the early 1920s. But it had wind. More importantly, it had sand–nice, soft sand that increased their chances of survival in a crash.
They needed wind to do experiments with a glider version of their plane. There’s a huge hill in Kitty Hawk called Kill Devil’s Hill that they glided off of more than a thousand times.
My next thought was an entrepreneurial one: Did the Wright Brothers ever think about the airplane’s commercial possibilities? Or were they just trying to prove something?
According to the State Library of North Carolina, they didn’t consider the commercial possibilities of flight: “The brothers did not take up the problem of flight with the expectation of financial profit, and they had no intention of ruining their bicycle business in pursuit of a dream.”
Airplane companies were formed in France and Germany to manufacture Wright planes, and eventually the Wright Company was organized in the United States to do the same, with Wilbur as president and Orville as vice president. The brothers grew wealthy and famous, but they looked forward to the time when they could retire to devote themselves to scientific research once again.
Their one invention forever changed transportation as we know it–in 12 seconds. Do you think that the Wright brothers’ invention impacted the small-business world?