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France, the news of Orville's accident hit Wilbur like a ton of bricks.
For a short time, it seemed to paralyze him. He canceled all flights for a
week and pedaled his bicycle to Le Mans where he could be closer to a
telegraph as he waited for further details of Orville's accident.
Only when he was told that Orville was out of danger did Wilbur begin
to fly again. And he flew higher, farther, and faster than he ever had
before. It was up to him now to prove to the World that the Wrights were
not "bleuffers," that they had indeed discovered the secret of
No more namby-pamby two-minute flights. Wilbur began to push himself
and his airplane, shattering records and collecting prizes.
- September 21, 1908 — A new record for distance and duration, $1000
from the Aero Club de France.
- October 7, 1908 — First flight with a woman passenger, Mrs. Hart
- October 10, 1908 — Distance and duration record for flight with a
- November 18, 1908 — Set an altitude record of 90 meters, collected
1000 francs from the Aero Club de Saitte.
- November 23, 1908 — 2500 francs from the Aero Club de France for
yet another altitude record.
There were also testimonial dinners, gold medals, and commendations.
When Wilbur happened to visit the French Senate on a sight-seeing jaunt,
the Senators stopped their deliberations and gave him a standing ovation.
As 1908 drew to a close, Wilbur planned to capture the Coupe de
Michelin, an impressive trophy and a 20,000 franc award for the
longest flight of the year. Actually, Wilbur had already won the trophy
— he had set an endurance record several times over. But he wanted to
secure it with one last, best flight. On December 31, 1908 he flew through
a freezing mist for as long as he could stand it — 2 hours, 18 minutes,
and 33 seconds.
Wilbur flying over Le Mans.
Wilbur and a passenger on the ground at Le Mans.
A close up of Wilbur's cockpit. Compare his controls to
those in the 1908 Military Flyer on the previous page -- they're not the
same! Orville and Wilbur developed two different sets of controls while
they were apart.
Mrs. Hart O. Berg, the first woman to fly in an
airplane. The dog is "Flyer," a stray that Wilbur adopted while
At the end of 1908, Wilbur
had Europe at his feet, as this political cartoon insinuates.