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"We are the protagonists of our stories called life, and there is no limit to how high we can fly."

PHD. MBA. MHS. Type rated on A350, A330, B777, B747-400, B747-200, B757, B767, B737, B727. International Airline Pilot / Author / Speaker. Dedicated to giving the gift of wings to anyone following their dreams. Supporting Aviation Safety through training, writing, and inspiration. Fighting for Aviation Safety and Airline Employee Advocacy. Safety Culture and SMS change agent.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

The Plane that Don Built

Part of a Historic Debate

 Don Gagnon

"What A Thrill Building A Model Of The 
Historic Wright Brothers’ Airplane" 

Don Gagnon is one of the hosts each Monday night on the Eastern Airlines Broadcast. He also built an incredible plane and wrote about it. Don, continues to celebrate his love aviation whether building planes or discussing aviation topics. You can chat with him each Monday night on a live broadcast by calling 213-816-1611 at 7 pm Eastern time. Don wrote today's article and I am privileged to share it. 

Don Gagnon: 

"Much controversy has been discussed over time, as to who was the first in manned flight. According to Brazilian history, aviation pioneer Alberto Santos-Dumont was the first individual to ever successfully pilot an airplane. Even before the Wright Brothers! He flew a kite-like contraption with boxy wings called the “14-Bis” some 722 feet outside the city of Paris, France and then was hailed as the inventor of the first airplane all over Europe.

It was only later that the secretive Orville and Wilbur Wright flight that proved they had beaten Dumont at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina three years earlier on December 17, 1903. The conditions on that morning were prefect for flight-high; constant winds blowing from the North. At about 10:30 A.M. that morning, Orville lay down on the plane’s wing surface and brought the engine to life in preparation of launching it and himself into history.

Orville Wright piloted the first powered airplane 20 feet above a windswept beach in North Carolina. The flight lasted 12 seconds and covered 120 feet. Three more flights were made that day. The Wright 4 Cylinder Engine weighed 170 pounds, including the radiator, water and 1.5 gallons of gasoline. They also developed their own propeller which was 8.13 feet, and was 66% efficient. 

The wing span was 40 feet 4 inches, length 21 feet, and height 8 feet tall. The total weight of the machine was 605 pounds. The estimated speed of that flight was approximately 31 MPH. That mid-morning flight, December 17, 1903 at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, was the start of an awesome era, a powered flight as we know it that was the beginning of flying. The Wright brothers (Orville & Wilbur) flew for the first time in history; a gas powered manned flying machine. 

When I assembled this model airplane, my memory immediately reflected on my 35 years in the airline business (30-year tenure at Eastern Airlines, and 5 years more at American Trans Air).

Looking back today at this phenomenon that happened 115 years later, we marvel at how far the industry has come, not to mention the millions of jobs created worldwide. The Wright brothers were groundbreakers, record-setters, and history-makers of what led to our future today; unmanned airplanes and helicopters; driverless autos; no steering bicycles…all powered without a person handling the controls inside. Awesome!

I can only close by saying, “Thank you, Orville & Wilbur.”


  1. Absolutely fascinating article.I had no idea anyone else came close to the Wright Brothers flight at Kittyhawk.My knowledge of the history of flight is a C- at best!

    1. John, I had no idea either. I loved this story too!!

  2. I guess Orville's idea of AUTOPILOT was... Wilbur!!!!!!! :)

    Just think... 44 years later - MACH 1....

    1. Dan, it's hard to believe how much has changed, and it continues to change so rapidly!

  3. I'm surprised Boeing or Airbus have not,so far,tried to find an adequate,fly by wire,larger capacity replacement for the sadly missed BAC -Sud Concorde.

    1. I know. I think development is all about making money and that means how many can they sell. Until there are potential sales for large numbers... not sure they will. But.. they could be developing without out us I wish!


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