"They were considered cranks because everyone knew that flying was impossible."
Untrue. This fiction is based on the turn-of-the-century writings of several skeptics, principally Simon Newcomb, a prominent astronomer, who noted the difficulty of scaling up the power needed for working models to full-size aircraft. The reality is that people had been flying since 1783, thanks to the invention in France of a practical hot-air balloon by brothers Joseph-Michel and Jacques-¿tienne Montgolfier. By 1903 powered balloon flights and glider soaring were commonplace, and engines were becoming lighter and producing more horsepower. Fitting the elements together was acknowledged as tricky, risky and expensive, but few people thought that airplane flying would always be "impossible." It was the Wrights' secretiveness that made this magazine (and many others) skeptical about their accomplishment.
This article was originally published with the title The Equivocal Success of the Wright Brothers.