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conquering the sky1 (2) 

Conquering the Sky: The Secret Flights of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk

by Larry E. Tise

 (tisel@ecu.edu; cell 215.514.5435)

Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History, East Carolina University

New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009 [released on 29 September]


Although Wilbur and Orville Wright learned how to fly by 1902 and discovered how to put a powered controllable airplane in flight by December 1903, the world did not, in fact, discover the Wright brothers until May 1908. And, interestingly, the inventive but elusive brothers were found and exposed to the world for the first time that spring precisely where they had originally learned how to fly--at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

While many a book and thousands of yarns have been spun about how the Wright brothers conquered the air at Kitty Hawk on December 17, 1903, almost nary a tale has included the story of how they literally took the world aloft in 1908, taught a legion of gaping aeronauts how to put a plane in the air and keep it there, and astonished thousands upon thousands of eyewitnesses in both America and in Europe with their amazing feats. When they returned to Kitty Hawk in May 1908 and there unintentionally began to show the world how to fly, they inspired headlines that blazed across hundreds of newspapers around the world and provided grist for almost daily stories of heroic exploits and American grit. They were among the first Americans of the twentieth century--other than rich tycoons and the political heads of state--to attract an international press following.

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            During seven crucial days in the spring of 1908, the Wright brothers prepared for what they thought would be a season of secret flights at Kitty Hawk.  It was to be the culmination of five years after their first powered flight spent in perfecting their flying machine.  However, they were soon discovered by a host of fast-paced reporters and photographers, which forced them to try to outsmart the world press and avoid close scrutiny of their flying machine and its powers.  But within a few days the brothers were catapulted into unwanted worldwide fame as the international press reported their every move through the telegraph and photography.  The comedy-of-errors pursuit of pilots and press resulted in a series of bizarre and far-fetched news stories splashed across front pages around the world by journalists who knew they had just witnessed a milestone in history and who were desperate to be first to get the story.

            In Conquering the Sky, Larry E. Tise tells the fascinating, untold story of how the Wrights finally introduced the world to the power of flight, taught a legion of gaping aeronauts how to put a plane in the air and keep it there, and astonished thousands of eyewitnesses, both in America and in Europe, with their amazing feats.