National Geographic : 1953 Dec
742 I'hiotograpihI 1 ('arl II. ('la ly. St. "Are They Flyers or Liars?" The Wrights Prove Their Case at Fort Myer While a cynical press and public scoffed at their claims, the Wrights quietly gave up bicycle manufacture and spent full time building improved planes and making experimental flights in a cow pasture near Dayton. Attempted exhibitions in 1904 came a cropper when wind and engine re fused to cooperate. Thereafter, an noyed by public skepticism, the Wrights concealed their activities as much as possible, although by 1905 they had flown 24 miles nonstop. At first the United States Govern ment ignored the invention, although there was interest abroad. By 1907, however, the War Department agreed to buy a plane for $25,000 if it could fly for an hour at an average speed of 40 miles, carrying two men and enough fuel for 125 miles, and be transportable on Army wagons. Above: In August, 1908, while Wilbur was giving triumphal per formances in Europe, Orville hauled his plane to Fort Myer, Virginia. There he astounded a throng of offi cials by his skillful flights. A crash (opposite, top) interrupted the tests, but they were completed a year later (opposite, lower). After six years the Wrights' struggle for recognition had brought results. In the eyes of the American public the Air Age had dawned at last. -< -Orville flies at Fort Myer in the 1909 demonstrations. His brother and their mechanic, Charles Taylor, stand by a pylon whose falling weight catapulted the plane.