Space History Photo: Wright Flyer Test Flights at Fort Myer, VA
Orville Wright developed and tested a plane for the U.S. War Department in 1908.
Credit: Chris Cohen.

In this historical photo from the U.S. space agency, Orville Wright demonstrates the Wright Flyer at Fort Myer, Virginia on September 3, 1908.

In January 1908 the Wright Brothers submitted a bid to the U.S. War Department to design a plane for $25,000. This bid came as a response to a War Department request issued a month earlier for a "Heavier-than-air Flying Machine."

While Wilbur Wright went off to Paris to promote the Wright Flyer, Orville Wright stayed in Dayton, Ohio to design a plane for the Army Signal Corps. By August Orville's plane was ready and he headed to Fort Myer, Virginia, where the air trials were to take place.

From September 3, 1908, to September 17, 1908, Orville performed test flights for the Army. On September 17th a split propeller caused the plane to crash, injuring Orville and killing his passenger, Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge. In spite of the crash the Army believed that the Wright plane would work.

In July 1909, when Orville was able to fly again, he completed the test flights and surpassed all of the Army's requirements for a military plane: to carry a passenger for at least 125 miles at a speed of 40 miles per hour and stay aloft for at least one hour, easily transportable, controllable and steerable at all times and in all directions, and land without damage. On August 2, 1909, the Signal Corps accepted the Wright Flyer as the world's first military aircraft, naming it Signal Corps Airplane No. 1.

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