Book Review

Conquering the Sky: The Secret Flights of the Wright Brothers at Kitty Hawk

by Larry E. Tise

(;; cell 215.514.5435)
Wilbur and Orville Wright Distinguished Professor of History
East Carolina University
New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2009 [29 September release]

What’s New?

  • First detailed narrative of the futile efforts of the Wright brothers to conduct secret flights at Kitty Hawk in 1908 in a world enthralled with path-breaking developments in speed, power, and flight
  • First attempt to explain how the Wright brothers faced the second greatest challenge of their careers—the first was to invent the world’s first powered flying machine; the second was what they would do with their remarkable invention and when to go public with it
  • First depiction of how Wilbur and Orville Wright operated when they were apart and on separate shores—the fundamental differences in their personalities and their occasional conflicts come into sharp contrast
  • First telling of a classic early news gathering comedy of errors—when three irreconcilable forces met on the sands at Kitty Hawk: (1) a cutthroat and competitive world press bent on getting one of the world’s greatest news stories; (2) the perennially secretive Wright brothers who were not ready to have their story told; and (3) a cadre of swaggering lifesavers who loved to tell and to embellish stories
  • First thorough description of how the Wright brothers operated in the strange society and environment of the Outer Banks of North Carolina—the sand, the wind, the lifesavers, the local characters
  • First exploration into to the personalities, character, and values of the Wright brothers as they weighed their almost unquenchable—and sometimes incompatible—ambitions to achieve fame, wealth, power, and a historical legacy
  • First explanation of the earliest history of one of the most famous photographs in history (the first powered flight of 17 December 1903)—how the Wright brothers withheld or blocked the publication of any photographs of their planes or flights until they had gone public in 1908
  • First analysis of the how the Wright brothers dealt with the sudden realization that they were about to be surpassed in the technology of flight and thus possibly also supplanted in history as the originators of the world’s first flying machine
  • First detailed analysis of how the Wright brothers attempted to broker their superior knowledge, innovations, and skills in flight between the competing military powers of the early 20th century—Britain, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Russia, and the United States
World Aloft Book Review