Wouldn't today be the 110th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight?
Beat me! I'm bad at history anymore.
It's the anniversary of their first POWERED flight. They'd been experimenting with gliders for at least the two prior years. Those experiments proved they had the right idea about lateral control - namely, that you turn a plane by banking it, not by trying to drive it around a corner with the rudder. Once their glider was successful, they could add an engine.
Sustained, heavier than air, manned, powered flight to be precise.
You forgot "Controlled".
Dang Hal, you're right! In fact, there's no excuse for me leaving that out. I just watched a History Channel program about the Wright brothers today and one of the things stressed in the material presented was that at the time there were lots of folks working on powered heavier than air manned flight. What made the Wright bothers different and what made them successful was the fact (at least presented as fact) that they assumed flight was possible and spent most of their creative juices on the control problem which lead to "warping" the wings for control. It was really interesting.
How did we let the bicycle guys get to it first? It seems like the auto pioneers would have been more adept, and could definitely have come up with a better powerplant than the Wright's make-or-brake flat 4.
Why were they allowed to fly the plane without FAA certification?
I'm just going from memory here, so I may be wrong, but it seems like the Wrights' 4 cyl inline was actually a good bit better than they even estimated. Seems like it was rated at 8 hp, but more modern estimates put it at 12 hp. I'm thinking that no one offered an engine with the power to weight ratio they needed, so they made one themselves.