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Wings of Change

Shape-shifting aircraft may ply future skyways

4:50pm, November 30, 2003

Like a bird, the world's very first airplane had flexible wings. The lightweight wood, cloth, and wire flyer, built by Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright and first flown on Dec. 17, 1903, was steered and stabilized by pulleys and cables that twist the wingtips. Some aviation historians say that this bird-inspired control mechanism was the pivotal innovation that enabled the Wright brothers to achieve heavier-than-air flight whereas others pursuing that same goal had failed.

Although the Wright brothers' control strategy worked, it vanished quickly from aviatio

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