Did Samuel Pierpont Langley Invent the Airplane?

It was only sixteen feet long and was shaped like a needle or, better still, a dragonfly. On board, it had a tiny steam engine that could deliver one horsepower to the wooden propeller.

It was a lazy day in the month of May, 1896, when it was launched by catapult from the deck of a houseboat on the Potomac River. The little craft circled round and round, rose to an altitiude of more than 100 feet, and then landed in the water after a flight that had lasted for ninety seconds.

It was a major victory. A heavier-than-air craft had made a smooth, perfect flight. Its inventor was Samuel Pierpont Langley. Had the steam-powered plane been big and powerful enough to carry a man aloft, Langley would have been known as the inventor of the airplane.

As it was, Langley built a much larger version of the plane, which was launched on December 8, 1903. Sadly for Langley, the craft flew only a moment before it crashed into the river.

Nine days later, the Wright brothers made four short but perfectly controlled flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

About Karen Hill

Karen Hill is a freelance writer, editor, and columnist. Born in New York, her work has appeared in the Examiner, Yahoo News, Buzzfeed, among others.

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