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Wright, Wilbur

control biplane achieved twisting

(1867–1912) and Orville Wright (1871–1948) US aviators: made and flew the first successful aeroplane.

The Wright brothers were a very remarkable pair indeed. Through the second half of the 19th-c a number of individuals in Europe and the USA had attempted flight with heavier-than-air devices but without real success, at best operating unmanned models. The Wrights, sons of a non-conformist bishop in Dayton, OH, and owners of a small bicycle-making firm, began to experiment in 1896. They recognized that control was as important as stability and that systematic experimentation was needed, and settled down to a programme of wind tunnel experiments on wing sections (aerofoils) and made over 1000 flights with unmanned biplane gliders near Kitty Hawk on the North Carolina coast. One important step was their study of buzzards in 1899, which made it clear to them that three-axis control was needed (to bank, turn, and elevate or descend) and that the bird achieved control over roll by twisting its wings.

By early 1903 they had a biplane with control achieved by warping (twisting) the wings in unison along with a rudder, and with an elevator at the front. They devised an efficient propeller and made a small (12 hp, ie 9 kW) petrol engine, which was fitted to a new biplane, driving two ‘pusher’ propellers; the craft had skids and not wheels and the pilot lay on the lower plane. On a cold windy December morning in 1903 the first controlled, powered and manned flights were made at Kitty Hawk, two by each brother. They made two more aircraft; the last, Flyer III of 1905, could make figures of eight and remain airborne for half an hour. Despite French and British enthusiasm, European results were poor until Wilbur visited Europe and demonstrated their success in the year they ceased to fly, 1908. They deserve great credit; in comparison, the attempts of their predecessors seem inept and those of their successors to be natural developments from the Wright brothers’ work.

Wrigley, William, Jr. - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Social and Economic Impact, Chronology: William Wrigley, Jr. [next] [back] Wright, Orville Wright, Wilbur - Overview, Personal Life, Career Details, Chronology: Orville Wright Wilbur Wright, Social and Economic Impact

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