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the Wright brothers may have been the first to make a sustained,
controlled flight, they were just two among hundreds of brave men and
women who helped to give the world its wings during the earliest days of
aviation. Below are brief biographies of some of the most important
figures and, where available, resources and links where you can find more
information. In some cases, contributors have supplied expanded
biographies. Those are listed at the right and linked below.
Kazuhachi Ninomiya studied crows during his youth in Ehime
Prefecture, Japan and applied his observations to mechanical flight.
He was the first Japanese experimenter to design and build rubber
band-powered models and on 19 August 1891, he demonstrated a model
that made a stable flight of 33 feet (10 meters). This encouraged
him to build a larger model with a wingspan of 10 feet (3.2 meters),
driven by a clock spring. In 1894, after the success of his models,
he offered the plans for a man-carrying aircraft to the Japanese
Army which was then engaged in the Sino-Japanese War. His proposal
was rejected and Ninomiya began to save to build his own airplane.
He gave up this ambition when Japan learned of the Wright brothers
success in 1908 and the Japanese Army imported its first airplane, a
Farman, in 1910. But in 1925 the Army general who rejected
Ninomiya's plans made a public apology. He was given a Medal of
Honor by the Imperial Flying Association as Japan's first aviation
Two of Ninomiya's rubber band-powered models.