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    209: The Wright Brothers

The Wright Brothers & The Invention of the Aerial Age (Gallery 209)

The world’s first airplane, the 1903 Wright Flyer, gets its own gallery here on the second floor. Before you see the plane, however, you’re introduced to its inventors, Orville and Wilbur Wright, via a short biographical scenes. The gallery does a good job of pointing out how the brothers’ bicycle shop helped them build the airplane. The gallery also explains well the Wrights’ original ideas about propellers, and their extensive research program (they wrote to the Smithsonian for information!), including the use of wind tunnel testing, for their first flights.

Also on display are reproductions of several of the Wrights’ pre-1903 gliders, used to develop the design for their first powered airplane. At the end of the gallery is The Airplane and the Arts – a presentation on the impact the Wrights’ flights had on popular culture.

Touring Tips

Because of its popularity, the gallery’s two walkways are set up as an entrance and an exit. Enter from the side closest to the middle of the gallery, and exit on the far side, closest to the food court. On very busy days, waits can exceed 30 minutes to enter the room, so see this gallery first thing in the morning, or wait until the hour before the museum closes.

Other Lands at Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum