Celebrating the Flight that Changed the World

On this day in 1903, two brothers from Ohio made history with the first powered airplane flight. In the dunes of North Carolina’s Outer Banks, Orville Wright took the controls and, 12 seconds later, changed the world forever. Later that same day, Wilbur Wright took his turn and flew the aircraft for nearly a minute, proving that flight was indeed possible. 

Today, the men and women of ALPA stand on the shoulders of the Wright brothers’ greatness. In the 112 years since these two bicycle mechanics built and piloted the first powered flying machine, their experiment has evolved into the safest and fastest mode of transportation. For airline pilots, our profession was made possible on December 17, 1903. 

The Wright brothers had a passion for flying, and that passion is alive and well in pilots today. Earlier this year, Air Line Pilot sat down with two-time Pulitzer Prize winner and New York Times bestselling author David McCullough to discuss his latest book on these pioneers who essentially created the aviation industry. When asked what pilots today have in common with the Wright brothers, McCullough responded, “Clearly they have the joy of flight. The excitement, the gratification of taking off into the sky—which has mechanized and is now devoid of direct human physical contact with the air rushing by and the smell of the air up above—is still pure magic.”

Magic indeed. What started as a 12-second flight that covered 120 feet has turned into a thriving global industry that connects the world. Airline pilots today safely usher more than three billion passengers and approximately 50 million metric tons of cargo each year to destinations across the globe. 

Today we celebrate the accomplishments of Orville and Wilbur Wright. Their curiosity, teamwork, and determination have been instilled in generations of pilots since 1903.