Journalists Predicting the Future

When the Wrights began to research flying in 1899, they were well behind Samuel Langley,
the head of the Smithsonian Institution, who had been developing light model airplanes since
1887. In December 1898, Langley received a $50,000 contract from the War Department to
design an airplane for military use. Langley tested his airplane on Oct. 7, 1903. Fifty-four feet
long, with two 48-foot wings, the "Aerodrome" resembled a mammoth dragonfly. When
launched from atop a houseboat on the Potomac River, it "simply slid into the water like a
handful of mortar," as one news report put it.
Taking note of this dismal effort, the New York
Times editorialized that it would take one million to 10 million years for man to develop
an airplane.