They gave man wings; Kill Devil Hill: Discovering the Secret of the Wright Brothers, by Harry Combs, with Martin Caidin. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company. $16.95.

Those of us who think flying means walking down a long tunnel into a plush-seated, pressurized jet and watching the clouds through multipaned windows sometimes need to be reminded that it wasn't always so.

Mention the Wright brothers, and the usual response is: "Oh, yes, they invented the airplane." But Harry Combs, dissatisfied with that answer, has put his more than half-century of aviation experience to use to tell how Orville and Wilbur Wright managed in less than 10 years to solve the problem of flight that had eluded men for centuries.

Using the brothers' letters, diaries, and other papers, and his own interviews with people who knew them and saw the flights, Mr. Combs explains the Wrights' problem-solving clearly enough for us nonpilots and conveys a genuine sense of admiration for their accomplishments.

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