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The Wright Flyers 1899-1916

The Wright Flyers 1899-1916 Book Review

By David L. Veres

Date of Review December 2019 Title The Wright Flyers 1899-1916
Author Richard P. Hallion Publisher Osprey Publishing
Published 2019 ISBN 9781472837776
Format 80 pages, softbound MSRP (USD) $22.00


Richard P. Hallion recaps the spellbinding story of the airplane’s invention in The Wright Flyers 1899-1916 – 13th in Osprey’s growing “X-Planes” range.

And what a brilliant little book it is.

Subtitled “The kites, gliders, and aircraft that launched the ‘Air Age’”, coverage consumes eight chapters over 80 pages:

  • Flying Toys and Warping Kites
  • On to Kitty Hawk
  • “Damned If They Ain’t Flew!”
  • Evolving the Practical Airplane
  • “Fliers or Liars”
  • Birthing Military Aeronautics
  • Dénouement
  • The Wrights in Retrospect

And, yes, that’s correct: “kites”. Beginning with the very basics, the brothers methodically sought to achieve their momentous goal.

Learning from pioneers like Otto Lilienthal and Octave Chanute, the Wrights adeptly explored “the four fields of aircraft design”: “aerodynamics, structures, propulsion, and controls”. The last included critical innovations to govern aircraft attitude in three dimensions: yaw, pitch, and roll.

They also achieved a number of technical breakthroughs – like “the first to apply wind tunnel research to the design of actual aircraft” and “the world’s first controllable aircraft”.

All that led to humanity’s first successful heavier-than-air flight, 17 December 1903.

Hallion subsequently – and succinctly – surveys evolving Wright designs, international demonstrations, 1908-09 “apogee of Wright fortunes”, military use, foreign partners, and patent fights.

His concluding retrospective recaps the Wrights’ undeniable successes, “descent into irrelevancy”, and arguably ambiguous legacy in making “transportation three-dimensional, liberating the world from the constraints of two-dimensional surface travel”.

Period photos, color multi-views, and action paintings illustrate the account. And sidebars, extended captions, and anecdotes further supplement the study.

Seeking further information? Hallion’s admirably indexed effort also includes three pages of books and articles for further reference. But don’t expect annotations.

I thoroughly enjoyed Hallion’s terrific little tome. Make it your introduction to the Wright brothers’ impact on human history.

Roundly recommended!

My sincere thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review sample!