A Quick Comparison

The unspoken implication in the Smithsonian's argument that the Langley Aerodrome was the first airplane capable of flight, or in Curtiss's legal stance that the Aerodrome could have flown before the Wrights, was that the Aerodrome was just as scientifically advanced as the Wright Flyer. With that in mind, consider these facts: The Aerodrome could not sustain flight for more than 5 seconds with 35 horsepower and 300 pounds (1335 Newtons) of thrust. (Langley had originally calculated that the Aerdrome would fly with just 24 horsepower.) The Wright Flyer was able to sustain flight for 59 seconds with 12 horsepower and 135 pounds (601 Newtons) of thrust. None of the pilots who flew the Aerodrome in 1914 (when it was equipped with an 80-horsepower engine) were able to make a turn of more than a few degrees. The first Wright Flyer was destroyed by the wind before the Wrights could test its ability to turn, but a close copy ― the Wright Flyer II, equipped with an 18-horsepower engine ― was able to fly for 5 minutes and make 4 complete turns of the field over which it flew. Finally, the Aerodrome (in its 1903 configuration) had no way to safely land the aircraft and insure the survival of its pilot. Had the Aerodrome actually flown and then strayed over land before it ran out of fuel, it's likely the engine and airframe would have come crashing down on top of its pilot, Charles Manly. The Wright Flyer had skids which allowed the Wrights to recover the aircraft and its pilot safely (or with minor damage at most) after each flight.

Comparing the Langley Aerodrome and the Wright Flyer