Column: ‘We Know That The Sky Is The Limit’

December 17, 2017 | 1 Comment

[Opinion column written by Glenn Fubler]

December 17th 1903 marked the day that members of the Human Family achieved the “First Flight” in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, one of the closest points to Bermuda.

A team, led by Wilbur & Orville Wright achieved an iconic breakthrough that had been a goal for centuries, just a week before Christmas Eve of that year, providing a Gift to the Human Family, that just keeps on giving.

Their achievement was put into sharp relief by Simon Sinek – author & motivational speaker, when he compared the effort of the Wright Brothers with that of one of their closest competitors for that ultimate goal – Samuel Pierpoint Langley.

First_flight2

Contrasting these two teams seeking manned-flight, speaks to something fundamental. Langley seemed to ‘have it all’ in his pursuit of that “1st Flight”:

  • Langley held positions at Harvard University and the Smithsonian Institute.
  • He received $50,000 from the ‘U.S. War Department’ to build the first airplane.
  • His money ensured he had the ‘best’ minds in related science available for his efforts.
  • The New York Times was Langley’s booster – followed him everywhere.

The Wright Brothers team had quite different circumstances:

  • While the Wrights and their team had a passion for learning, none of them had a university education.
  • The only money that they had was money earned from the Wright Bros. Bicycle shop. [less than $1,000]
  • They had no formal ‘connections’ with the scientific community.
  • The Media completely ignored them – in fact the ‘1st Flight’ was not reported anywhere for a few days.

Simon Sinek’s analysis of why the Wrights, with little or no resources were able to achieve that 1st Flight over their competitors concludes that it came done to ‘having a sense of purpose’.

Upon review, it is evident that Langley was pursuing the goal for ‘money and fame’ – in fact once the 1st Flight was reported, he quit the quest immediately, rather than joining in building on that first step. The Wrights, on the other-hand, had a passion to learn, wanted to serve humankind and courageously moved ‘outside the box’.

That December day in 1903 had come after a long journey. As youngsters, the Wright Brothers confidently acted ‘outside the box’.

At Central High School in Dayton, Ohio, one of their best friends was Paul Lawrence Dunbar, an African-American who subsequently became an internationally-acclaimed author.

Dunbar- who Maya Angelou considered her ‘hero’- and the Wrights started a newspaper in their late teens; a move that would have been revolutionary in the post-slavery America of the 1880’s.

This tendency to follow their hearts, rather than going ‘with the crowd’, guided the Wright Brothers towards their dream. This armed them with resiliency so that they were literally prepared to take the falls and the danger involved in experimenting through more than 1,000 gliding attempts.

They became the authors of their own story – so that when they saw that the accepted air-pressure Tables used by the engineers of the day, didn’t match the reality, they ‘re-wrote the book’.

Even after the success of December 17, 1903, the Wrights had an up-hill climb. It took a number of years to overcome the naysayers and move the human family forward into the age of flying.

The basic principles of aeronautical engineering developed by the Wrights, still apply today. Our whole planet continues to benefit from their Gift. So on our next flight, let’s reflect on their contribution.

The example of the Wright Brothers shows us that limited circumstances can be trumped by ‘heart’. They showed that when we appreciate our purpose, we are prepared to put in the perspiration and overcome the inevitable challenges and failures, because we know that “the Sky’s the Limit”.

- Glenn Fubler

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  1. Triangle Drifter says:

    At Kitty Hawk on Cape Hatteras is a small museum at the location of those first flights. It is a very busy touristy area now but back in 1903 it would have taken quite some doing to get there before the bridges & not being close to much of anything.

    For anyone anyone with the slightest interest in aviation to stand on the spot where those first flights struggled into the air is quite a moving experience. The distance of each of those first few flights is marked out, the first one being less than the wingspan of one of todays wide bodied jets.

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