7/31/2019 0 Comments
OBX Airplanes: Octave Chanute the Father of Aviation and the heavier -than-flying Machine
“So may it be; let us hope that the advent of a successful flying machine, now only dimly foreseen and
nevertheless thought to be possible, will bring nothing but good into the world; that it shall abridge
distance, make all parts of the globe accessible, bring men into closer relation with each other, advance
civilization, and hasten the promised era in which there shall be nothing but peace and good-will among
-From the Conclusion of Progress in Flying Machines by Octave Chanute
Octave Chanute: Aviation Pioneer
At his death, Octave Chanute was hailed as the “father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying
machine.” Chanute was a French-born American civil engineer. He was widely considered brilliant and
innovative in the engineering profession. During his career he designed and constructed the United
States' two biggest stock yards, Chicago Stock Yards (1865) and Kansas City Stockyards (1871). He
designed and built the Hannibal Bridge which was the first bridge to cross the Missouri River in Kansas
City, Missouri, in 1869 and established Kansas City as the dominant city in the region. After retiring from
his career in railroad engineering, Chanute decided to devote his time to the advancement of aviation.
Chanute compiled all the data he could find from flight experiments around the world and published his
findings in a series of articles in The Railroad and Engineering Journal between 1891 and 1893. He then
compiled all his findings and published Progress in Flying Machines in 1894. His work was the most
systematic global survey of fixed-wing heavier-than-air aviation research published up to that time and
was influential on budding aviators across the world, including the Wright Brothers.
Although Chanute was too old to fly himself, he was able to partner with younger aviators to help them
with their experiments. In 1896 Chanute, Augustus M. Herring, and William Avery tested a design based
on the work of German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal, as well as hang gliders of their own design in the
dunes along the shore of Lake Michigan. These experiments convinced Chanute that the best way to
achieve extra lift without a prohibitive increase in weight was to stack several wings one above the
other. Chanute introduced the "strut-wire" braced wing structure that would be used in powered
biplanes of the future. Chanute based his "interplane" concept on the Pratt truss, which was
familiar to him from his bridge-building work. The Wright brothers based their glider designs on the
Chanute "double-decker" as they called it.
Chanute and the Wright Brothers
The Friendship between the Wright Brothers and Octave Chanute began in 1900 when Wilbur wrote to
Chanute after reading Progress in Flying Machines. Between 1900 and 1910, Chanute and the Wright
Brothers exchanged hundreds of letters. Chanute provided encouragement to the Wright Brothers
through his correspondence, visited their camp in Kitty Hawk in 1901, 1902, and 1903, and was
instrumental in publicizing their work.
Their friendship became strained when Chanute criticized the Wright Brothers’ patenting of their
‘warped-wing’ concept. Chanute did not believe that the Wright flying machine patent, premised on
wing warping, could be enforced and said so publicly, including a newspaper interview in which he said,
"I admire the Wrights. I feel friendly toward them for the marvels they have achieved; but you can easily
gauge how I feel concerning their attitude at present by the remark I made to Wilbur Wright recently. I
told him I was sorry to see they were suing other experimenters and abstaining from entering the
contests and competitions in which other men are brilliantly winning laurels. I told him that in my
opinion they are wasting valuable time over lawsuits which they ought to concentrate in their work.
Personally, I do not think that the courts will hold that the principle underlying the warping tips can be
The friction between the Wright Brothers and Octave Chanute lasted until Chanute’s death. However,
Wilbur did attend the memorial service at Chanute’s home and wrote a eulogy which he delivered at the
Aero Club meeting in January of 1911. Despite their different opinions, the Wright Brothers understood
the debt they owed to Octave Chanute and his work.
A Short History of Biplanes
A biplane is defined simply as a fixed wing aircraft with two main wings stacked one above the other. The configuration of the biplane was derived from the box kite, an invention of the Australian explorer, inventor, engineer, and aeronautical pioneer, Laurence Hargrave.
By the mid-1890s there had been enough success with manned biplane gliders in the United States and Europe for Octave Chanute, “father of aviation and the heavier-than-air flying machine,” to conclude that the externally braced biplane provided the best prospects for manned powered flight. The first manned, powered flight, of course, occurred right here in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina on the Wright Flyer biplane in 1903.
During the pioneer years of aviation biplanes were much more popular than monoplanes. With the low engine powers and air speeds available, the wings of a monoplane needed to be large in order to create enough lift while a biplane could have two smaller wings and so be made smaller and lighter. Just prior to World War I the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) implemented a “monoplane ban” and grounded all monoplanes after several structural failures occurred. By the end of the war, however, biplanes were reaching their limits of performance. Between World War I and World War II technological advances allowed a shift primarily to monoplane development.
The Experience of Flying a Biplane
When you fly in an open cockpit biplane you feel like you are experiencing a part of aviation history. The premier issue of Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine featured a biplane for that specific reason. In May 2011, the editors of Air & Space/Smithsonian magazine justified putting an image of a biplane on their first issue:
“One reason is history. Dozens of biplane types stand out in the history of aviation—as military trainers for both world wars, corporate aircraft, barnstormers, transports, crop dusters, and show planes. Most of the biplane owners we’ve hopped rides with say they regard themselves as caretakers, preserving a bit of aviation heritage until the next owner can take over the job. In recent years, more and more airplane fans have been spending their money and time restoring vintage aircraft—biplanes among them—and reaping more financial reward for doing it. ‘There are more Classic restorations being completed, many for the second or third time on a particular airplane,’ says H.G. Frautschy, executive director of the Experimental Aircraft Association’s vintage group, referring to the EAA category of airplanes built before 1955. ‘I’m also seeing a trend that as their value increases, fewer aircraft are being discarded, and are being restored. The increase is not dramatic, but it’s heartening to see the numbers hold steady or climb’
“Biplanes are not only still being restored, they’re also still being manufactured. Since 1991, WACO Classic Aircraft Corporation of Battle Creek, Michigan, has been producing Waco YMF models under the original type certificate and has sold more than 125. The company recently announced that this year it will begin to manufacture the biplane that was on our cover 25 years ago, the Great Lakes. Even these newly manufactured biplanes teach their pilots and passengers something about flight in its youth. But anyone who has ever had the good fortune to look over the side from an open cockpit at the country gliding by below knows that history can’t fully explain why biplanes are treasured. And utility doesn’t explain it either. Though a biplane can get you from here to there, that seems to be just an excuse to fly it. The biplane’s real purpose is to entertain.”
OBX Airplanes is proud to own a beautiful red Waco biplane, and we think that flying in our open-cockpit biplane is the most exciting thing you can do on the Outer Banks! Call us today to book your biplane ride!
The Citabria is a light single-engine, two-seat airplane that was designed for utility, flight training, and
personal use. It is capable of sustaining aerobatic stresses of +5g to -2g. When the 7ECA Citabria was
first introduced in 1964 it was the only commercially produced aircraft in the United States that was
certified for aerobatic flight. The aircraft derives its name from its aerobatic abilities: Citabria spelled in
reverse is “Airbatic.”
The Design of the Citabria can be traced back to the Aeronca Model 7 Champion, more commonly
known as the “Champ.” In 1954, Champion Aircraft bought the Champ design from Aeronca Aircraft
Corporation and continued production of the more advanced models of the aircraft. Over the course of
the next decade, Champion Aircraft gradually modified these advanced Champ models into the
aerobatic Champion Citabria. Like the Champ, the Citabria features tandem seating, strut-braced wings,
and conventional landing gear. The Citabria does have some very noticeable external changes to the
design including the squared-off rudder surface, wingtips, and rear windows.
The first Citabria model was the 7ECA, which began production in 1964 and utilized a 100 horsepower
Continental O-200-A engine. At first, the 7ECA featured wood-spar wings and oleo-shock main gear.
Within a year of the start of production, the manufacturer began offering an upgrade to a 115
horsepower Lycoming O-235-C1 engine as an alternative to the Continental. The Lycoming engine
became the standard within two years, and in 1967, Champion Aircraft switched to spring steel main
gear legs on the Citabria.
In 1965, Champion Aircraft introduced the 7GCAA Citabria 150 which featured a 150 horsepower
Lycoming O-320-A2B engine. Another 150 horsepower model was introduced that same year: the
7GCBC Citabria 150S. The 150S carries the same Lycoming O-320-A2B engine as the Citabria 150 but has
a wingspan of 34.5 feet which is 1-foot wider than the wingspan of 7GCAA Citabria 150 and the 7ECA
Citabria. The wings of the Citabria 150S also feature flaps, unlike the Citabria 150 and 7ECA Citabria.
In 1970, Champion Aircraft was acquired by Bellanca Aircraft Corporation, which produced the Citabria
until 1980. The Citabria designs then changed hands multiple times during the 1980s before being
purchased by the current manufacturer, American Champion Aircraft Corporation.
American Champion Aircraft Corporation reintroduced the 7ECA as the Citabria “Aurora” in 1995. The
new Citabria Aurora featured metal spar wings, and, in 2004, changed to aluminum main gear legs.
OBX Airplanes Banner Towing
OBX Airplanes uses American Champion Citabria Aircraft for our arial advertising services. We have
found that the Citabria is the perfect airplane for banner towing.
Call OBX Airplanes today to see how we can help promote your local business by marketing to the
crowds of people that visit our beautiful Outer Banks beaches during the summer.
As a Certified Flight Instructor on the Outer Banks of North Carolina I am pleased to say that when you fly with me you will be sure to have fun, be safe and learn to fly!