The First Airplane

[History ★★★]


(P1) Orville and Wilbur Wright, commonly known as the Wright brothers, are the inventors of the airplane. On December 17, 1903, the two American brothers flew the first airplane. Their story is very interesting.

(P2) The Wright brothers grew up in a large family in the city of Dayton, Ohio. One day, their father brought home a toy helicopter, which he gave to Orville and Wilbur. The two boys played with it until it broke. Afterward, they built their own toy helicopter. Both men later affirmed that it made them interested in flying.

(P3) When they grew up, Wilbur and Orville started a newspaper and a bicycle repair shop.  They used the money to build a flying machine. The Wright brothers’ design was based on kites and hang gliders. It wasn’t flawless but kites and hang gliders were the only reliable flying models available at the time. After many tests, they figured out that their flying machine needed a complex control system. They worked to improve the design and in 1903, the brothers built the “Wright Flyer I”. On December 17th, the brothers took their flying machine to a small town called Kitty Hawk. It took off and climbed to an altitude of 37 meters. The flight was only 12 seconds and the Flyer I’s speed was only about 11 kilometers per hour (km/h).

(P4) After their first successful flight, the brothers kept trying to improve the flying machine. There were many reporters from different newspapers who wanted to talk to the brothers and photograph them. Wilbur and Orville were unhappy with the attention and they were worried that other people might try to steal their airplane blueprints. They secretly tested their airplane and took their own photographs of the test flights. Because of this secrecy, many newspapers did not believe the Wright brothers’ success. Finally, the Wright brothers demonstrated their flying machine both in France and for the United States’ Army and they became famous around the world.

WORDS: 325


VOCABULARY: interesting, affirmed, hang gliders, flawless, blueprints


If you found the passage difficult to read or had problems understanding specific words or idiomatic expressions, please discuss them with your tutor. The following discussion questions should be answered in your own words and with your own arguments.

  1. Briefly, summarize the content of the article in your own words.
  2. What were you interested in when you were growing up?
  3. Would you like to invent something? Why or why not?
  4. What memories do you have as a child growing up?


  1. The Wright brothers were born and raised in __________________.
  2. What toy made the brothers fascinated in flying?
  3. How high did their first flying plane climb to?
  4. Soon after the first flight, the brothers tested their machines hidden from the public. (T or F)
  5. Even though the media didn’t see the actual airplane tests, they still had confidence in the Wright brothers. (T or F)


What do the following expressions or phrases mean?

  • grew up in a large family (P2)
  • flying machine (P3)
  • based on (P3)
  • took off and climb to (P3)

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Image source: Photo Credit: NASA

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