Just five years after their successful flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, Orville and Wilbur Wright had begun demonstrating their Wright Flyers in both the United States and Europe. Today we shine a spotlight on a photograph taken during one of the darkest days of the brothers’ testing.
While Wilbur was in Europe negotiating contracts with the French, Orville made the trip to Fort Myer, Virginia, to demonstrate the flying machine to the United States military. On September 17, 1908, Orville and passenger Army Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge took to the skies. The flyer had made three uneventful passes over the field before disaster struck. A propeller disconnected from the machine, and with Orville unable to regain control, the Wright Flyer crashed.
In the picture, bystanders pull Lieutenant Selfridge and Orville away from the wreckage. The Wright brother, though severely injured, survived the accident. Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge never regained consciousness; he was buried with honors at Arlington National Cemetery, and is noted as being the first powered aircraft fatality.
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