Ground Support Equipment’s Birthday

Sure, Orville flew the first airplane, but Wilbur was the first ramp agent.


Yesterday and 109 years before, Orville Wright took off from the sand at Kill Devil Hills aboard the Wright Flyer into a freezing headwind of 27 miles per hour and flew about 35 yards. It doesn’t look like Orville checked a bag and the plane’s 12-horse power engine didn’t need much gas, but brother Wilbur is part of this milestone all the same.

You can see Wilbur on the ground offering support to the Wright Flyer on its maiden voyage in the famous photograph accompanying today’s blog. It’s not too hard to imagine that Wilbur may have a wrench or two in his pockets on that cold day that a manned, heavier-than-air machine left the ground by its own power, moved forward under control without losing speed and landed on a point as high as the point it started from.

The picture also shows a work bench and a jumble of something to the right of the bench. That turns out to be world’s first GPU. We found this out and more details at this Web site.

And let’s not forget history’s other ramp agent, John Daniels Jr., a 30-year-old amateur photographer who took the shot. The Wright Brothers made four flights that day with Wilbur at the controls for the second and last flight. After the fourth flight, Daniels grabbed a strut to hold down the plane as a gust of wind caught it. Daniels was caught between the wings as the plane flipped end over end. Daniels escaped harm, but the flying machine was destroyed.