Next time you take a flight on a multiseat commercial airliner, consider it was only 100 years ago the first flight was made on a little 12-horsepower biplane -- with only one man aboard.
The U.S. Postal Service pays tribute to the centennial of that first controlled, powered, sustained flight in a heavier-than-air flying machine by the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, near Kitty Hawk, N.C., with a 37-cent stamp for issuance May 22.
The central design features the first plane in flight. Beneath the illustration is the inscription "First Flight -- Wright Brothers -- 1903."
From 1900 to 1902, Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) and his brother Orville (1871-1948) tested a series of gliders at Kill Devil Hills, a location near Kitty Hawk, N.C., chosen primarily for its steady winds. On December 17, 1903, they successfully tested a flyer that made history.
Forever changed world
During the first flight, their craft was only airborne for an estimated 12 seconds and traveled only 120 feet, but three more successful flights followed later that day, the remarkable prelude to a century that would see the world forever changed by air travel and aviation achievement.
A 2003 souvenir sheet also will be issued. The sheet includes 10 stamps. Nine appear on a block at the bottom. The header features a tenth stamp alongside a larger rendering of the stamp art showing the plane. The front of the souvenir sheet depicts a detail of a photo of the Wright brothers taken in Pau, France, in 1909.
The Wright brothers owned a printing business and bicycle company in Dayton, Ohio. In the late 1890s, their interest turned to aviation, and from 1900 to 1902 they tested a series of gliders at Kill Devil Hills.
The First Flight stamp and souvenir sheet will be available at your local post office after May 22. The Stamp Fulfillment Services of the USPS offers first-day covers with the official first-day-of-issue postmarks. To obtain your covers, call (800)-STAMP-24. First-flight ceremonies will take place in Dayton and Kill Devil Hills.
In 1953, the Postal Service issued a 6-cent airmail stamp honoring the 50th anniversary of flight. The design features the famed biplane and a photo of the Wright brothers and the dates 1903-1953.
In 1978, a set of three 31-cent stamps honored the Wright brothers and flight pioneers Octave Chanute and Wiley Post.