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THE WRIGHT BROTHERS

 

Such information as is given here concerning the Wright Brothers is derived from the two best sources available, namely, the writings of Wilbur Wright himself, and a lecture given by Dr Griffith Brewer to members of the Royal Aeronautical Society. There is no doubt that so far as actual work in connection with aviation accomplished by the two brothers is concerned, Wilbur Wright's own statements are the clearest and best available. Apparently Wilbur was, from the beginning, the historian of the pair, though he himself would have been the last to attempt to detract in any way from the fame that his brother's work also deserves. Throughout all their experiments, the two were inseparable, and their work is one indivisible whole; in fact, in every department of that work, it is impossible to say where Orville leaves off and where Wilbur begins.

 

It is a great story, this of the Wright Brothers, and one worth all the detail that can be spared it. It begins on the 16th April, 1867, when Wilbur Wright was born within eight miles of Newcastle, Indiana. Before Orville's birth on the 19th August, 1871, the Wright family had moved to Dayton, Ohio, and settled on what is known as the 'West Side' of the town. Here the brothers grew up, and, when Orville was still a boy in his teens, he started a printing business, which, as Griffith Brewer remarks, was only limited by the smallness of his machine and small quantity of type at his disposal. This machine was in such a state that pieces of string and wood were incorporated in it by way of repair, but on it, Orville managed to print a boys' paper, which gained considerable popularity in Dayton 'West Side.’ Later, at the age of seventeen, he obtained a more efficient outfit, with which he launched a weekly newspaper, four pages in size, entitled The West Side News. After three

months' running the paper was increased in size and Wilbur came into the enterprise as editor, Orville remaining publisher. In 1894, the two brothers began the publication of a weekly magazine, Snap-Shots, to which Wilbur contributed a series of articles on local affairs that gave evidence of the incisive and often sarcastic manner in which he was able to express himself throughout his life. Dr Griffith Brewer describes him as a fearless critic, who wrote on matters of local interest in a kindly but vigorous manner, which did much to maintain the healthy public municipal life of Dayton.

 

Editorial and publishing enterprise was succeeded by the formation, just across the road from the printing works, of the Wright Cycle Company, where the two brothers launched out as cycle manufacturers with the 'Van Cleve' bicycle, a machine of great local repute for excellence of construction, and one which won for itself a reputation that lasted long after it had ceased to be manufactured. The name of the machine was that of an ancestor of the brothers, Catherine Van Cleve, who was one of the first settlers at Dayton, landing there from the River Miami on April 1st, 1796, when the country was virgin forest.

 

It was not until 1896 that the mechanical genius, which characterized the two brothers, was turned to the consideration of aeronautics. In that year, they took up the problem thoroughly, studying all the aeronautical information then in print. Lilienthal's writings formed one basis for their studies, and the work of Langley assisted in establishing in them a confidence in the possibility of a solution to the problems of mechanical flight. In 1909, at the banquet given by the Royal Aero Club to the Wright Brothers on their return to America, after the series of demonstration flights carried out by Wilbur Wright on the Continent, Wilbur paid tribute to the great pioneer work of String fellow, whose studies and achievements influenced his own and Orville's early work. He pointed out how String fellow devised an aeroplane having two propellers and vertical and horizontal steering, and gave due place to this early pioneer of mechanical flight. Neither of the brothers was content with mere study of the work of others. They collected all the theory available in the books published up to that time, and then built man-carrying gliders with which to test the data of Lilienthal and such other authorities as they had consulted. For two years, they conducted outdoor experiments in order to test the truth or otherwise of what were enunciated as the principles of flight; after this they turned to laboratory experiments, constructing a wind tunnel in which they made thousands of tests with models of various forms of curved planes. From their experiments, they tabulated thousands of readings, which Griffith Brewer remarks as giving results equally efficient with those of the elaborate tables prepared by learned institutions.

 

Wilbur Wright has set down the beginnings of the practical experiments made by the two brothers very clearly. 'The difficulties,' he says, 'which obstruct the pathway to success in flying machine construction are of three general classes:

 

1. Those which relate to the construction of the sustaining wings

2. those which relate to the generation and application of the power required to drive the machine through the air

3. those relating to the balancing and steering of the machine after it is actually in flight.

 

Of these difficulties, two are already to a certain extent solved. Men already know how to construct wings, or aeroplanes, which, when driven through the air at sufficient speed, will not only sustain the weight of the wings themselves, but also that of the engine and the engineer as well. Men also know how to build engines and' screws of sufficient lightness and power to drive these planes at sustaining speed. Inability to balance and steer still confronts students of the flying problem, although nearly ten years have passed (since Lilienthal's success). When this one feature has been worked out, the age of flying machines will have arrived, for all other difficulties are of minor

importance. 

 

'The person who merely watches the flight of a bird gathers the impression that the bird has nothing to think of but the flapping of its wings. As a matter of fact, this is a very small part of its mental labour. Even to mention all the things the bird must constantly keep in mind in order to fly securely through the air would take a considerable time. If I take a piece of paper and, after placing it parallel with the ground, quickly let it fall, it will not settle steadily down as a staid, sensible piece of paper ought to do, but it insists on contravening every recognized rule of decorum, turning over and darting hither and thither in the most erratic manner, much after the style of an untrained horse. Yet this is the style of steed that men must learn to manage before flying can become an everyday sport. The bird has learned this art of equilibrium, and learned it so thoroughly that its skill is not apparent to our sight. We only learn to appreciate it when we can imitate it.

 

'Now, there are only two ways of learning to ride a fractious horse: one is to get on him and learn by actual practice how each motion and trick may be best met; the other is to sit on a fence and watch the beast awhile, and then retire to the house and at leisure figure out the best way of overcoming his jumps and kicks. The latter system is the safer, but the former, on the whole, turns out the larger proportion of good riders. It is very much the same in learning to ride a flying machine; if you are looking for perfect safety you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds, but if you really wish to learn, you must mount a machine and become acquainted with its tricks by actual trial. The balancing of a gliding or flying machine is very simple in theory. It merely consists in causing the center of pressure to coincide with the centre of gravity.' 

 

These comments are taken from a lecture delivered by Wilbur Wright before the Western Society of Engineers in September of 1901, under the presidency of Octave Chanute. In that lecture, Wilbur detailed the way in which he and his brother came to interest themselves in aeronautical problems and constructed their first glider. He speaks of his own notice of the death of Lilienthal in 1896, and of the way in which this fatality roused him to an active interest in aeronautical problems, which was stimulated by reading Professor Marey's Animal Mechanism, not for the first time. 'From this I was led to read more modern works, and as my brother soon became equally interested with myself, we soon passed from the reading to the thinking, and finally to the working stage. It seemed to us that the main reason why the problem had remained so long unsolved was that no one had been able to obtain any adequate practice. We figured that Lilienthal in five years of time had spent only about five hours in actual gliding through the air. The wonder was not that he had done so little, but that he had accomplished so much. It would not be considered at all safe for a bicycle rider to attempt to ride through a crowded city street after only five hours' practice, spread out in bits of ten seconds each over a period of five years; yet Lilienthal with this brief practice was remarkably successful in meeting the fluctuations and eddies of wind-gusts. We thought that if some method could be found by which it would be possible to practice by the hour instead of by the second there would be hope of advancing the solution of a very difficult problem. It seemed feasible to do this by building a machine, which would be sustained at a speed of eighteen miles per hour, and then finding a locality where winds of this velocity were common. With these conditions a rope attached to the machine to keep it from floating backward would answer very nearly the same purpose as a propeller driven by a motor, and it would be possible to practice by the hour, and without any serious danger, as it would not be necessary to rise far from the ground, and the machine would not have any forward motion at all. We found, according to the accepted tables of air pressure on curved surfaces, that a machine spreading 200 square feet of wing surface would be sufficient for our purpose, and that places would easily be found along the Atlantic coast where winds of sixteen to twenty-five miles were not at all uncommon. When the winds were low it was our plan to glide from the tops of sandhills, and when they were sufficiently strong to use a rope for our motor and fly over one spot. Our next work was to draw up the plans for a suitable machine. After much study we finally concluded that tails were a source of trouble rather than of assistance, and therefore we decided to dispense with them altogether. It seemed reasonable that if the body of the operator could be placed in a horizontal position instead of the upright, as in the machines of Lilienthal, Pilcher, and Chanute, the wind resistance could be very materially reduced, since only one square foot instead of five would be exposed. As a full half horse-power would be saved by this change, we arranged to try at least the horizontal position. Then the method of control used by Lilienthal, which consisted in shifting the body, did not seem quite as quick or effective as the case required; so, after long study, we contrived a system consisting of two large surfaces on the Chanute double-deck plan, and a smaller surface placed a short distance in front of the main surfaces in such a position that the action of the wind upon it would counterbalance the effect of the travel of the centre of pressure on the main surfaces. Thus changes in the direction and velocity of the wind would have little disturbing effect, and the operator would be required to attend only to the steering of the machine, which was to be effected by curving the forward surface up or down.

 

The lateral equilibrium and the steering to right or left was to be attained by a peculiar torsion of the main surfaces which was equivalent to presenting one end of the wings at a greater angle than the other. In the main frame a few changes were also made in the details of construction and trussing employed by Mr. Chanute. The most important of these were:

 

(1) The moving of the forward main crosspiece of the frame to the extreme front edge

(2) The encasing in the cloth of all crosspieces and ribs of the surfaces

(3) A rearrangement of the wires used in trussing the two surfaces together, which rendered it possible to tighten all the wires by simply shortening two of them.'

 

The brothers intended originally to get 200 square feet of supporting surface for their glider, but the impossibility of obtaining suitable material compelled them to reduce the area to 165 square feet, which, by the Lilienthal tables, admitted of support in a wind of about twenty-one miles an hour at an angle of three degrees. With this glider they went in the summer of I 1900 to the little settlement of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, situated on the strip of land dividing Albemarle Sound from the Atlantic. Here they reckoned on obtaining steady wind, and here, on the day that they completed the machine, they took it out for trial as a kite with the wind blowing at between twenty-five and thirty miles an hour. They found that in order to support a man on it the glider required an angle nearer twenty degrees than three, and even with the wind at thirty miles an hour they could not get down to the planned angle of three degrees. 'Later, when the wind was too light to support the machine with a man on it, they tested it as a kite, working the rudders by cords. Although they obtained satisfactory results in this way they realized fully that actual gliding experience was necessary before the tests could be considered practical.

 

A series of actual measurements of lift and drift of the machine gave astonishing results. 'It appeared that the total horizontal pull of the machine, while sustaining a weight of 52 lbs., was only 8.5 lbs., which was less than had been previously estimated for head resistance of the framing alone. Making allowance for the weight carried, it appeared that the head resistance of the framing was but little more than fifty per cent of the amount, which Mr. Chanute had estimated as the head resistance of the framing of his machine. On the other hand, it appeared sadly deficient in lifting power as compared with the calculated lift of curved surfaces of its size... we decided to arrange our machine for the following year so that the depth of curvature of its surfaces could be varied at will, and its covering air-proofed.'

 

After these experiments the brothers decided to turn to practical gliding, for which they moved four miles to the south, to the Kill Devil sandhills, the principal of which is slightly over a hundred feet in height, with an inclination of nearly ten degrees on its main north-western slope. On the day after their arrival they made about a dozen glides, in which, although the landings were made at a speed of more than twenty miles an hour, no injury was sustained either by the machine or by the operator.

 

'The slope of the hill was 9.5 degrees, or a drop of one foot in six. We found that after attaining a speed of about twenty-five to thirty miles with reference to the wind, or ten to fifteen miles over the ground, the machine not only glided parallel to the slope of the hill, but greatly increased its speed, thus indicating its ability to glide on a somewhat less angle than 9.5 degrees, when we should feel it safe to rise higher from the surface. The control of the machine proved even better than we had dared to expect, responding quickly to the slightest motion of the rudder. With these glides our experiments for the year 1900 closed. Although the hours and hours of practice we had hoped to obtain finally dwindled down to about two minutes, we were very much pleased with the general results of the trip, for, setting out as we did with almost revolutionary theories on many points and an entirely untried form of machine, we considered it quite a point to be able to return without having our pet theories completely knocked on the head by the hard logic of experience, and our own brains dashed out in the bargain. Everything seemed to us to confirm the correctness of our original opinions:

 

(1) That practice is the key to the secret of flying

(2) That it is practicable to assume the horizontal position

(3) That a smaller surface set at a negative angle in front of the main bearing surfaces, or wings, will largely counteract the effect of the fore and aft travel of the centre of pressure

(4) That steering up and down can be attained with a rudder without moving the position of the operator's body

(5) That twisting the wings so as to present their ends to the wind at different angles is a more prompt and efficient way of maintaining lateral equilibrium than shifting the body of the operator.'

 

For the gliding experiments of 1901 it was decided to retain the form of the 1900 glider, but to increase the area to 308 square feet, which, the brothers calculated, would support itself and its operator in a wind of seventeen miles an hour with an angle of incidence of three degrees. Camp was formed at Kitty Hawk in the middle of July, and on July 27th the machine was completed and tried for the first time in a wind of about fourteen miles an hour. The first attempt resulted in landing after a glide of only a few yards, indicating that the centre of gravity was too far in front of the centre of pressure. By shifting his position farther and farther back the operator finally achieved an undulating flight of a little over 300 feet, but to obtain this success he had to use full power of the rudder to prevent both stalling and nose-diving. With the 1900 machine one-fourth of the rudder action had been necessary for far better control.

 

Practically all glides gave the same result, and in one the machine rose higher and higher until it lost all headway. 'This was the position from which Lilienthal had always found difficulty in extricating himself, as his machine then, in spite of his greatest exertions, manifested a tendency to dive downward almost vertically and strike the ground head on with frightful velocity. In this case, a warning cry from the ground caused the operator to turn the rudder to its full extent and also to move his body slightly forward. The machine then settled slowly to the ground, maintaining its horizontal position almost perfectly, and landed without any injury at all. This was very encouraging, as it showed that one of the very greatest dangers in machines with horizontal tails had been overcome by the use of the front rudder. Several glides later, the same experience was repeated with the same result. In the latter case, the machine had even commenced to move backward, but was nevertheless brought safely to the ground in a horizontal position. On the whole this day's experiments were encouraging, for while the action of the rudder did not seem at all like that of our 1900 machine, yet we had escaped without difficulty from positions which had proved very dangerous to preceding experimenters, and after less than one minute's actual practice had made a glide of more than 300 feet, at an angle of descent of ten degrees, and with a machine nearly twice as large as had previously been considered safe. The trouble with its control, which has been mentioned, we believed could be corrected when we should have located its cause.'

 

It was finally ascertained that the defect could be remedied by trussing down the ribs of the whole machine so as to reduce the depth of curvature. When this had been done gliding was resumed, and after a few trials, glides of 366 and 389 feet were made with prompt response on the part of the machine, even to small movements of the rudder. The rest of the story of the gliding experiments of 1901 cannot be better told than in Wilbur Wright's own words, as uttered by him in the lecture from which the foregoing excerpts have been made.

 

'The machine, with its new curvature, never failed to respond promptly to even small movements of the rudder. The operator could cause it to almost skim the ground, following the undulations of its surface, or he could cause it to sail out almost on a level with the starting point, and, passing high above the foot of the hill, gradually settle down to the ground. The wind on this day was blowing eleven to fourteen miles per hour. The next day, the conditions being favorable, the machine was again taken out for trial. This time the velocity of the wind was eighteen to twenty-two miles per hour. At first, we felt some doubt as to the safety of attempting free flight in so strong a wind, with a machine of over 300 square feet and a practice of less than five minutes spent in actual flight. But after several preliminary experiments, we decided to try a glide. The control of the machine seemed so good that we then felt no apprehension in sailing boldly forth. And thereafter we made glide after glide, sometimes following the ground closely and sometimes-sailing high in the air. Mr. Chanute had his camera with him and took pictures of some of these glides, several of which are among those shown.

 

'We made glides on subsequent days, whenever the conditions were favorable. The highest wind thus experimented in was a little over twelve meters per second nearly twenty-seven miles per hour.

 

It had been our intention when building the machine to do the larger part of the experimenting in the following manner: --When the wind blew seventeen miles an hour, or more, we would attach a rope to the machine and let it rise as a kite with the operator upon it. When it should reach a proper height, the operator would cast off the rope and glide down to the ground just as from the top of a hill. In this way we would be saved the trouble of carrying the machine uphill after each glide, and could make at least ten glides in the time required for one in the other way. But when we came to try it, we found that a wind of seventeen miles, as measured by Richards' anemometer, instead of sustaining the machine with its operator, a total weight of 240 lbs., at an angle of incidence of three degrees, in reality would not sustain the machine alone 100 lbs. at this angle. Its lifting capacity seemed scarcely one third of the calculated amount. In order to make sure that this was not due to the porosity of the cloth, we constructed two small experimental surfaces of equal size, one of which was air-proofed and the other left in its natural state; but we could detect no difference in their lifting powers. For a time we were led to suspect that the lift of curved surfaces very little exceeded that of planes of the same size, but further investigation and experiment led to the opinion that

(1) The anemometer used by us over-recorded the true velocity of the wind by nearly 15 per cent

(2) That the well-known Smeaton co-efficient of .005 V squared for the wind pressure at 90 degrees is probably too great by at least 20 per cent

(3) That Lilienthal's estimate that the pressure on a curved surface having an angle of incidence of 3 degrees equals .545 of the pressure at go degrees is too large, being nearly 50 per cent greater than very recent experiments of our own with a pressure testing-machine indicate

(4) That the superposition of the surfaces somewhat reduced the lift per square foot, as compared with a single surface of equal area.

 

'In gliding experiments, however, the amount of lift is of less relative importance than the ratio of lift to drift, as this alone decides the angle of gliding descent. In a plane, the pressure is always perpendicular to the surface, and the ratio of lift to drift is therefore the same as that of the cosine to the sine of the angle of incidence. But in curved surfaces, a very remarkable situation is found. The pressure, instead of being uniformly normal to the chord of the arc, is usually inclined considerably in front of the perpendicular. The result is that the lift is greater and the drift less than if the pressure were normal. Lilienthal was the first to discover this exceedingly important fact, which is fully set forth in his book, Bird Flight the Basis of the Flying Art, but owing to some errors in the methods he used in making measurements, question was raised by other investigators not only as to the accuracy of his figures, but even as to the existence of any tangential force at all. Our experiments confirm the existence of this force, though our measurements differ considerably from those of Lilienthal. While at Kitty Hawk we spent much time in measuring the horizontal pressure on our unloaded machine at various angles of incidence. We found that at 13 degrees the horizontal pressure was about 23 lbs. This included not only the drift proper, or horizontal component of the pressure on the side of the surface, but also the head resistance of the framing as well. The weight of the machine at the time of this test was about 108 lbs. Now, if the pressure had been normal to the chord of the surface, the drift proper would have been to the lift (108 lbs.) as the sine of 13 degrees is to the cosine of 13 degrees, or .22 X 108/. 97 = 24+ lbs.; but this slightly exceeds the total pull of 23 pounds on our scales. Therefore it is evident that the average pressure on the surface, instead of being normal to the chord, was so far inclined toward the front that all the head resistance of framing and wires used in the construction was more than overcome. In a wind of fourteen miles per hour, resistance is by no means a negligible factor, so that tangential is evidently a force of considerable value. In a higher wind, which sustained the machine at an angle of 10 degrees the pull on the scales was 18 lbs. With the pressure normal to the chord the drift proper would have been 17 X 98/.98. The travel of the centre of pressure made it necessary to put sand on the front rudder to bring the centres of gravity and pressure into coincidence, consequently the weight of the machine varied from 98 lbs. to 108 lbs. in the different tests)= 17 lbs., so that, although the higher wind velocity must have caused an increase in the head resistance, the tangential force still came within 1 lb. of overcoming it. After our return from Kitty Hawk, we began a series of experiments to accurately determine the amount and direction of the pressure produced on curved surfaces when acted upon by winds at the various angles from zero to 90 degrees. These experiments are not yet concluded, but in general, they support Lilienthal in the claim that the curves give pressures more favorable in amount and direction than planes; but we find marked differences in the exact values, especially at angles below 10 degrees. We were unable to obtain direct measurements of the horizontal pressures of the machine with the operator on board, but by comparing the distance traveled with the vertical fall, it was easily calculated that at a speed of 24 miles per hour the total horizontal resistances of our machine, when bearing the operator, amounted to 40 lbs., which is equivalent to about 2 1/3 horse-power. It must not be supposed, however, that a motor developing this power would be sufficient to drive a man-bearing machine. The extra weight of the motor would require either a larger machine, higher speed, or a greater angle of incidence in order to support it, and therefore more power. It is probable, however, that an engine of 6 horsepower, weighing 100 lbs. would answer the purpose. Such an engine is entirely practicable. Indeed, working motors of one-half this weight per horse-power (9 lbs. per horse-power) have been constructed by several different builders. Increasing the speed of our machine from 24 to 33 miles per hour reduced the total horizontal pressure from 40 to about 35 lbs. This was quite an advantage in gliding, as it made it possible to sail about 15 per cent farther with a given drop. However, it would be of little or no advantage in reducing the size of the motor in a power-driven machine, because the lessened thrust would be counterbalanced by the increased speed per minute. Some years ago Professor Langley called attention to the great economy of thrust, which might be obtained by using very high speeds, and from this many were led to suppose that high speed was essential to success in a motor-driven machine. But the economy to which Professor Langley called attention was in foot pounds per mile of travel, not in foot pounds per minute. It is the foot pounds per minute that fixes the size of the motor. The probability is

that the first flying machines will have a relatively low speed, perhaps not much exceeding 20 miles per hour, but the problem of increasing the speed will be much simpler in some respects than that of increasing the speed of a steamboat; for, whereas in the latter case the size of the engine must increase as the cube of the speed, in the flying machine, until extremely high speeds are reached, the capacity of the motor increases in less than simple ratio; and there is even a decrease in the fuel per mile of travel. In other words, to double the speed of a steamship (and the same is true of the balloon type of airship) eight times the engine and boiler capacity would be required, and four times the fuel consumption per mile of travel: while a flying machine would require engines of less than double the size, and there would be an actual decrease in the fuel consumption per mile of travel. But looking at the matter conversely, the great disadvantage of the flying machine is apparent; for in the latter no flight at all is possible unless the proportion of horse-power to flying capacity is very high; but on the other hand a steamship is a mechanical success if its ratio of horse-power to tonnage is insignificant. A flying machine that would fly at a speed of 50 miles per hour with engines of 1,000 horse-power would not be upheld by its wings at all at a speed of less than 25 miles an hour, and nothing less than 500 horse-power could drive it at this speed. But a boat which could make 40 miles an hour with engines of 1,000 horse-power would still move 4 miles an hour even if the engines were reduced to 1 horse-power. The problems of land and water travel were solved in the nineteenth century, because it was possible to begin with small achievements, and gradually work up to our present success. The flying problem was left over to the twentieth century, because in this case the art must be highly developed before any flight of any considerable duration at all can be obtained.

 

'However, there is another way of flying which requires no artificial motor, and many workers believe that success will come first by this road. I refer to the soaring flight, by which the machine is permanently sustained in the air by the same means that are employed by soaring birds. They spread their wings to the wind, and sail by the hour, with no perceptible exertion beyond that required to balance and steer themselves. What sustains them is not definitely known, though it is almost certain that it is a rising current of air. But whether it be a rising current or something else, it is as well able to support a flying machine as a bird, if man once learns the art of utilizing it. In gliding experiments it has long been known that the rate of vertical descent is very much retarded, and the duration of the flight greatly prolonged, if a strong wind blows UP the face of the hill parallel to its surface. Our machine, when gliding in still air, has a rate of vertical descent of nearly 6 feet per second, while in a wind blowing 26 miles per hour up a steep hill we made glides in which the rate of descent was less than 2 feet per second. And during the larger part of this time, while the machine remained exactly in the rising current, THERE WAS NO DESCENT AT ALL, BUT EVEN A SLIGHT RISE. If the operator had had sufficient skill to keep himself from passing beyond the rising current, he would have been sustained indefinitely at a higher point than that from which he started. The illustration shows one of these very slow glides at a time when the machine was practically at a standstill. The failure to advance more rapidly caused the photographer some trouble in aiming, as you will perceive. In looking at this picture, you will readily understand that the excitement of gliding experiments does not entirely cease with the breaking up of camp. In the photographic dark-room at home we pass moments of as thrilling interest as any in the field, when the image begins to appear on the plate and it is yet an open question whether we have a picture of a flying machine or merely a patch of open sky. These slow glides in rising current probably hold out greater hope of extensive practice than any other method within man's reach, but they have the disadvantage of requiring rather strong winds or very large supporting surfaces. However, when gliding operators have attained greater skill, they can with comparative safety maintain themselves in the air for hours at a time in this way, and thus by constant practice so increase their knowledge and skill that they can rise into the higher air and search out the currents which enable the soaring birds to transport themselves to any desired point by first rising in a circle and then sailing off at a descending angle. This illustration shows the machine, alone, flying in a wind of 35 miles per hour on the face of a steep hill, 100 feet high. It will be seen that the machine not only pulls upward, but also pulls forward in the direction from which the wind blows, thus overcoming both gravity and the speed of the wind. We tried the same experiment with a man on it, but found danger that the forward pull would become so strong, that the men holding the ropes would be dragged from their insecure foothold on the slope of the hill. So, this form of experimenting was discontinued after four or five minutes' trial.

 

'In looking over our experiments of the past two years, with models and full-size machines, the following points stand out with clearness:--

 

(1) That the lifting power of a large machine, held stationary in a wind at a small distance from the earth, is much less than the Lilienthal table and our own laboratory experiments would lead us to expect. When the machine is moved through the air, as in gliding, the discrepancy seems much less marked.

(2) That the ratio of drift to lift in well-shaped surfaces is less at angles of incidence of 5 degrees to 12 degrees than at an angle of 3 degrees.

(3) That in arched surfaces the centre of pressure at 90 degrees is near the centre of the surface, but moves slowly forward as the angle becomes less, till a critical angle varying with the shape and depth of the curve is reached, after which it moves rapidly toward the rear till the angle of no lift is found.

(4) That with similar conditions large surfaces may be controlled with not much greater difficulty than small ones, if the control is effected by manipulation of the surfaces themselves, rather than by a movement of the body of the operator.

(5) That the head resistances of the framing can be brought to a point much below that usually estimated as necessary.

(6) That tails, both vertical and horizontal, may with safety be eliminated in gliding and other flying experiments.

(7) That a horizontal position of the operator's body may be assumed without excessive danger, and thus the head resistance reduced to about one-fifth that of the upright position.

(8) That a pair of superposed, or tandem surfaces, has less lift in proportion to drift than either surface separately, even after making allowance for weight and head resistance of the connections.'

 

Thus, to the end of the 1901 experiments, Wilbur Wright provided a fairly full account of what was accomplished; the record shows an amount of patient and painstaking work almost beyond belief it was no question of making a plane and launching it, but a business of trial and error, investigation and tabulation of detail, and the rejection time after time of previously accepted theories, till the brothers must have felt the solid earth was no longer secure, at times. Though it was Wilbur who set down this and other records of the work done, yet the actual work was so much Orville's as his brother's that no analysis could separate any set of experiments and say that Orville did this and Wilbur that the two were inseparable. On this point Griffith Brewer remarked that 'in the arguments, if one brother took one view, the other brother took the opposite view as a matter of course, and the subject was thrashed to pieces until a mutually acceptable result remained. I have often been asked since these pioneer days, "Tell me, Brewer, who was really the originator of those two?" In reply, I used first to say, "I think it was mostly Wilbur”, and later, when I came to know Orville better, I said, "The thing could not have been without Orville”. Now, when asked, I have to say, " I don't know," and I feel the more I think of it that it was only the wonderful combination of these two brothers, who devoted their lives together or this common object, that made the discovery of the art of flying possible.'

 

Beyond the 1901 experiments in gliding, the record grows more scrappy, less detailed. It appears that once power-driven flight had been achieved, the brothers were not so willing to talk as before; considering the amount of work that they put in, there could have been little time for verbal description of that work--as already remarked, their tables still stand for the designer and experimenter. The end of the 1901 experiments left both brothers somewhat discouraged, though they had accomplished more than any others. 'Having set out with absolute faith in the existing scientific data, we ere driven to doubt one thing after another, finally, after two years of experiment, we cast it all aside, and decided to rely entirely on our own investigations. Truth and error were everywhere so intimately mixed as to be indistinguishable.... We had taken up aeronautics as a sport. We reluctantly entered upon the scientific side of it.'

 

Yet, driven thus to the more serious aspect of the work, they found in the step its own reward, for the work of itself drew them on and on, to the construction of measuring machines for the avoidance of error, and to the making of series after series of measurements, concerning which Wilbur wrote in 1908 (in the Century Magazine) that 'after making preliminary measurements on a great number of different shaped surfaces, to secure a general understanding of the subject, we began systematic measurements of standard surfaces, so varied in design as to bring out the underlying causes of differences noted in their pressures. Measurements were tabulated on nearly fifty of these at all angles from zero to 45 degrees, at intervals of 2 1/2 degrees. Measurements were also secured showing the effects on each other when surfaces are superposed, or when they follow one another.

 

'Some strange results were obtained. One surface, with a heavy roll at the front edge, showed the same lift for all angles from 7 1/2 to 45 degrees. This seemed so anomalous that we were almost ready to doubt our own measurements, when a simple test was suggested. A weather vane, with two planes attached to the pointer at an angle of 80 degrees with each other, was made. According to our table, such a vane would be in unstable equilibrium when pointing directly into the wind, for if by chance the wind should happen to strike one plane at 39 degrees and the other at 41 degrees, the plane with the smaller angle would have the greater pressure and the pointer would be turned still farther out of the course of the wind until the two vanes again secured equal pressures, which would be at approximately 30 and 50 degrees. But the vane performed in this very manner. Further corroboration of the tables was obtained in experiments with the new glider at Kill Devil Hill the next season.

 

'In September and October, 1902 nearly 1,000 gliding flights were made, several of which covered distances of over 600 feet. Some, made against a wind of 36 miles an hour, gave proof of the effectiveness of the devices for control. With this machine, in the autumn of 1903, we made a number of flights in which we remained in the air for over a minute, often soaring for a considerable time in one spot, without any descent at all. Little wonder that our unscientific assistant should think the only thing needed to keep it indefinitely in the air would be a coat of feathers to make it light! '

 

It was at the conclusion of these experiments of 1903 that the brothers concluded they had obtained sufficient data from their thousands of glides and multitude of calculations to permit of their constructing and making trial of a power-driven machine. The first designs got out provided for a total weight of 600 lbs., which was to include the weight of the motor and the pilot; but on completion it was found that there was a surplus of power from the motor, and thus they had 150 lbs. weight to allow for strengthening wings and other parts.

 

They came up against the problem to which Riach has since devoted so much attention that of propeller design. 'We had thought of getting the theory of the screw-propeller from the marine engineers, and then, by applying our table of air-pressures to their formulae, of designing air-propellers suitable for our uses. But, so far as we could learn, the marine engineers possessed only empirical formulae, and the exact action of the screw propeller, after a century of use, was still very obscure. As we were not in a position to undertake a long series of practical experiments to discover a propeller suitable for our machine, it seemed necessary to obtain such a thorough understanding of the theory of its reactions as would enable us to design them from calculation alone. What at first seemed a simple problem became more complex the longer we

studied it. With the machine moving forward, the air flying backward, the propellers turning sidewise, and nothing standing still, it seemed impossible to find a starting point from which to trace the various simultaneous reactions. Contemplation of it was confusing. After long arguments, we often found ourselves in the ludicrous position of each having been converted to the other's side, with no more agreement than when the discussion began.

 

'It was not till several months had passed, and every phase of the problem had been thrashed over and over, that the various reactions began to untangle themselves. When once a clear understanding had been obtained there was no difficulty in designing a suitable propeller, with proper diameter, pitch, and area of blade, to meet the requirements of the flier. High efficiency in a screw-propeller is not dependent upon any particular or peculiar shape, and there is no such thing as a "best" screw. A propeller giving a high dynamic efficiency when used upon one machine may be almost worthless when used upon another. The propeller should in every case be designed to meet the particular conditions of the machine to which it is to be applied. Our first propellers, built entirely from calculation, gave in useful work 66 per cent of the power expended. This was about one-third more than had been secured by Maxim or Langley.'

 

Langley had made his last attempt with the 'aerodrome,' and his splendid failure but a few days before the brothers made their first attempt at power-driven aeroplane flight. On December 17th, 1903, the machine was taken out; in addition to Wilbur and Orville Wright, there were present five spectators: Mr. A. D. Etheridge, of the Kil1 Devil life-saving station; Mr. W. S.Dough, Mr. W. C. Brinkley, of Manteo; Mr. John Ward, of Naghead, and Mr. John T. Daniels. A general invitation had been given to practically all the residents in the vicinity, but the Kill Devil district is a cold area in December, and history had recorded so many experiments in which machines had failed to leave the ground that between temperature and scepticism only these five risked a waste of their time.

 

And these five were in at the greatest conquest man had made since James Watt evolved the steam engine perhaps even a greater conquest than that of Watt. Four flights in all were made; the first lasted only twelve seconds, 'the first in the history of the world in which a machine carrying a man had raised itself into the air by its own power in free flight, had sailed forward on a level course without reduction of speed, and had finally landed without being wrecked,' said Wilbur Wright concerning the achievement. The next two flights were slightly longer, and the fourth and last of the day was one second short of the complete minute; it was made into the teeth of a 20 mile an hour wind, and the distance traveled was 852 feet.

 

This bald statement of the day's doings is as Wilbur Wright himself has given it, and there is in truth nothing more to say; no amount of statement could add to the importance of the achievement, and no more than the bare record is necessary. The faith that had inspired the long roll of pioneers, from da Vinci onward, was justified at last. 

 

Having made their conquest, the brothers took the machine back to camp, and, as they thought, placed it in safety. Talking with the little group of spectators about the flights, they forgot about the machine, and then a sudden gust of wind struck it. Seeing that it was being overturned, all made a rush toward it to save it, and Mr. Daniels, a man of large proportions, was in some way lifted off his feet, falling between the planes. The machine overturned fully, and Daniels was shaken like a die in a cup as the wind rolled the machine over and over he came out at the end of his experience with a series of bad bruises, and no more, but the damage done to the machine by the accident was sufficient to render it useless for further experiment that season.

 

A new machine, stronger and heavier, was constructed by the brothers, and in the spring of 1904 they began experiments again at Sims Station, eight miles to the east of Dayton, their home town. Press representatives were invited for the first trial, and about a dozen came the whole gathering did not number more than fifty people. 'When preparations had been concluded,' Wilbur Wright wrote of this trial, 'a wind of only three or four miles an hour was blowing insufficient for starting on so short a track but since many had come a long way to see the machine in action, an attempt was made. To add to the other difficulty, the engine refused to work properly. The machine, after running the length of the track, slid off the end without rising into the air at all. Several of the newspaper men returned next day but were again disappointed. The engine performed badly, and after a glide of only sixty feet the machine again came to the ground. Further trial was postponed till the motor could be put in better running condition. The reporters had now, no doubt, lost confidence in the machine, though their reports, in kindness, concealed it. Later, when they heard that we were making flights of several minutes' duration, knowing that longer flights had been made with airships, and not knowing any essential difference between airships and flying machines, they were but little interested.

 

'We had not been flying long in 1904 before we found that the problem of equilibrium had not as yet been entirely solved. Sometimes, in making a circle, the machine would turn over sidewise despite anything the operator could do, although, under the same conditions in ordinary straight flight it could have been righted in an instant. In one flight, in 1905, while circling round a honey locust-tree at a height of about 50 feet, the machine suddenly began to turn up on one wing, and took a course toward the tree. The operator, not relishing the idea of landing in a thorn tree, attempted to reach the ground. The left wing, however, struck the tree at a height of 10 or 12 feet from the ground and carried away several branches; but the flight, which had already covered a distance of six miles, was continued to the starting point.

 

'The causes of these troubles too technical for explanation here were not entirely overcome till the end of September, 1905. The flights then rapidly increased in length, till experiments were discontinued after October 5 on account of the number of people attracted to the field. Although made on a ground open on every side, and bordered on two sides by much-traveled thoroughfares, with electric cars passing every hour, and seen by all the people living in the neighborhood for miles around, and by several hundred others, yet these flights have been made by some newspapers the subject of a great "mystery”. '

 

Viewing their work from the financial side, the two brothers incurred but little expense in the earlier gliding experiments, and, indeed, viewed these only as recreation, limiting their expenditure to that which two men might spend on any hobby. When they had once achieved successful power-driven flight, they saw the possibilities of their work, and abandoned such other business as had engaged their energies, sinking all their capital in the development of a practical flying machine. Having, in 1905, improved their designs to such an extent that they could consider their machine a practical aeroplane, they devoted the years 1906 and 1907 to business negotiations and to the construction of new machines, resuming flying experiments in May of 1908 in order to test the ability of their machine to meet the requirements of a contract they had made with the United States Government, which required an aeroplane capable of carrying two men, together with sufficient fuel supplies for a flight of 125 miles at 40 miles per hour. Practically similar to the machine used in the experiments of 1905, the contract aeroplane was fitted with a larger motor, and provision was made for seating a passenger and also for allowing of the operator assuming a sitting position, instead of lying prone.

 

Before leaving the work of the brothers to consider contemporary events, it may be noted that they claimed with justice that they were first to construct wings adjustable to different angles of incidence on the right and left side in order to control the balance of an aeroplane; the first to attain lateral balance by adjusting wing-tips to respectively different angles of incidence on the right and left sides, and the first to use a vertical vane in combination with wing-tips, adjustable to respectively different angles of incidence, in balancing and steering an aeroplane. They were first, too, to use a movable vertical tail, in combination with wings adjustable to different angles of incidence, in controlling the balance and direction of an aeroplane.

 

A certain Henry M. Weaver, who went to see the work of the brothers, writing in a letter which was subsequently read before the Aero Club de France records that he had a talk in 1905 with the farmer who rented the field in which the Wrights made their flights.' On October 5th (1905) he was cutting corn in the next field east, which is higher ground. When he noticed the aeroplane had started on its flight he remarked to his helper: "Well, the boys are at it again," and kept on cutting corn, at the same time keeping an eye on the great white form rushing about its course. "I just kept on shocking corn," he continued, "until I got down to the fence, and the durned thing was still going round. I thought it would never stop." ' He was right. The brothers started it, and it will never stop.

 

Mr. Weaver also notes briefly the construction of the 1905 Wright flier. 'The frame was made of larch wood-from tip to tip of the wings the dimension was 40 feet. The gasoline motor a special construction made by them much the same, though, as the motor on the Pope-Toledo automobile was of from 12 to 15 horsepower. The motor weighed 240 lbs. The frame was covered with ordinary muslin of good quality. No attempt was made to lighten the machine; they simply built it strong enough to stand the shocks. The structure stood on skids or runners, like a sleigh. These held the frame high enough from the ground in alighting to protect the blades of the propeller. Complete with motor, the machine weighed 925 lbs.

 

 

 
 
Section 1
The Period of Legend | Early Experiments | Sir George-Thomas | The Middle 19 Century | Wenham Bris & Others | The Age of Giants | Lili & Pilcher | American Gliding Experiments | Not Proven | Samuel Langley | The Wright Brothers | First Year of Conquest | First Flier in England | Rhems and After | The Channel Crossing | London to Manchester | Summary to 1911 | Summa to 1914 | The War Period-I | The War Period-II | Reconstruction | 1919-1920

 

 
Section 2
The Beginnings | Multiplicity of Ideas | Progress on Standardized Lines | The War Period
 

 
Section 3
The Beginning | The First Dirigibles | Santos Dumont | The Military Dirigible | British Airship Design | The Airship Commercially | Kite Balloons
 

 
Section4
The Vertical Type | The Vee Type | The Radial Type | The Rotatory Type | The Horizontal Opposed Engine | The Two Stroke Cycle Engine | Engines of the War Period
 
 
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