were rusty, as it were. Wilbur went back to their original base at Kitty Hawk (NC), and it was in shambles; everything had either been damaged, vandalized, or stolen. By the time Wilbur and others were able to get things ready to go at Kitty Hawk, Orville had arrived with their most recent Flyer, which was now able to have two upright pilots (mostly to better control the "Wing Warping").
On 6 May 1908, test flights began at Kitty Hawk, with Orville going first, flying 1000 feet.
But by then the Wright Brothers had to deal with the press being around them most of the time, something that they would need to deal with for many years to come. Finally, the curiosity levels of the U.S./European populations was such that they wanted to know what the Wright Brothers were doing. The Wright Brothers decided that they would never fly together in the two-seat Flyer, for obvious reasons.
The Flyer was designed in a fashion to make it possible for one pilot to fly the plane, and Wilbur did so, but in the hot and windy (gusts up to 50 mph) conditions, Wilbur lost control and crashed in the sand . . . Wilbur was battered and bruised, but he didn't suffer any broken bones. However the Flyer was damaged beyond any immediate repair . . . the tests at Kitty Hawk were over.
It would take a lot of time to re-construct the Flyer, and Wilbur wouldn't have Orville or Charlie Taylor to help. Wilbur had to do almost all the work himself since the French mechanics were not his equal, and he didn't have any schematics for the French to use as a guide for them to learn-on-the-job. Staying late one night, a radiator exploded, and Wilbur was hit with boiling water on his left forearm and chest. Leon Bollee, the Frenchman that was the most helpful to Wilbur (e.g. arranging the testing grounds) was there, and immediately applied picric acid, which minimized the extent to the burns.
Another month would go by before Wilbur could use his left arm . . . all the while Wilbur's stress level increased. By August 1908, Wilbur's reconstructed plane was different than that of any other Wilbur (or Orville) had flown, so it would be dangerous to even test the Flyer . . . and it had been only 3 months since Wilbur's nasty crash at Kitty Hawk.
On "Game Day", Wilbur showed no visible signs of nervousness; he took his time getting the Flyer ready. Hart Berg, one of Wilbur's powerful patrons, announced that no photographs would be permitted, the press freaked-out, but when Wilbur agreed to allow photos soon on another day, the reporters calmed down. At 3 pm the Flyer was wheeled out of the work shed into the sunshine, with Wilbur fussing further over his plane. Wilbur then "walked the field", making sure the catapult, track, and wind were all in order.
At that point, Berg, Bollee, and others helped mount temporary wheels on the Flyer, and the plane was positioned on the wooden track. At 6:30 pm, Wilbur announced to Berg, Bollee, et al that "I'm going to fly", and took the left seat on his Flyer. After getting out of his seat to double-check on an engine adjustment, Wilbur released the trigger, the weight of the catapult dropped, and he advanced down the rail and into the air.
Wilbur, much to his dismay, experienced a mini Lindbergh-like reception by many in the crowd, but even Wilbur was swept up in the post-flight euphoria. After a bit, Wilbur, very calmly, but with a beaming smile, put his hands in his pockets and walked off whistling. In less than 24 hours, Wilbur's flight was headline news everywhere. Even Archdeacon, the vocal critic in the crowd before the flight, publicly admitted that he was wrong. Despite the clamoring requests, Wilbur refused to fly the next day, which was a Sunday.
On 13 August 1908, Wilbur circled the field several times in his longest flight yet at Le Mans. And, before the largest crowd assembled to that point, Wilbur flew at 100 feet altitude to lessen distractions for himself. Ironically, Wilbur then made a mistake (basically he was showing-off) and flew far too low, and the left wing hit the ground. The result was a pretty nasty smash-up, but Wilbur was uninjured. The crowd screamed in delight all the same; one French aircraft designer told a New York Herald reporter that Wilbur was as superb in his accidents as he was in his flights.
Wilbur was Lindbergh-before-Lindbergh, a hero to all. With demonstrations delayed due to repairs, Wilbur had a chance to appreciate his situation, and enjoy some of the attention. Wilbur accepted an offer from the French army for a larger demonstration field which was also much safer. Wilbur would be able to fly up to four miles in a straight line without crossing anything worse than bushes . . . on 21 August 1908, crowds arrived by special train, and were in much greater number than at Le Mans.