This week’s OBX Airplanes blog will continue our series on the Wright Brothers. In the past weeks, we have written about how Wilbur and Orville Wright came to be fascinated with flight and started to experiment with aviation. If you haven’t seen them already, look back at these blog posts for an interesting read.
The Wright brothers first came to Kitty Hawk in the fall of 1900 to test their prototype glider. The first tests were unmanned; the brothers flew the glider like a kite and tested their patented wing-warping technique with chords attached to the wings.
The Wright brothers conducted the manned flights that year (and for the next three years) on a group of 100-foot-tall sand dunes known as the Kill Devil Hills. The few flights that Wilbur made in 1900 showed the brothers that their glider needed some improvements. The glider had less lift than they had expected, but they were optimistic on their return to Ohio because they hadn’t had any accidents and their forward elevator seemed to work.
The next year they returned with a new and improved glider but were once again disappointed by its lack of lift. Although they were disheartened at first, the Wright brothers redoubled their efforts when they returned to Ohio.
After their disappointing 1901 glider tests in Kitty Hawk the wright brothers began their thorough testing of airfoils. They built their wind tunnel in the bicycle shop and tested over 200 airfoils. The data they collected from these experiments led them to employ a higher aspect ratio on the wings of their next glider. In other words, the wings were longer and narrower, and this provided a much better lift-to-drag ratio. Another Improvement in the design of the 1902 glider was the addition of a vertical tail rudder.
All the testing paid off. From the start, the 1902 glider demonstrated much better lift and was able to fly far greater distances. Between September 19 and October 24, 1902, the Wright brothers made nearly 1,000 glides. During this time, they developed a moveable vertical rudder to replace the glider’s fixed vertical rudder. Their first flight with the moveable rudder was on October 8th. Using the new three-axis control, the Wright brothers made hundreds of well controlled flights and became convinced that they were ready to add power to their glider.
The Wright Brothers “Flying Machine”
The Wright Brothers applied for a patent to their new “Flying Machine” on March 23, 1902. They built it out of spruce and muslin and hand carved the propellers themselves. Their bicycle shop mechanic, Charlie Taylor, built the engine in only six weeks.
On December 17, 1903 the Wright Brothers made history in Kitty Hawk by flying the world’s first successful airplane. With these flights, the Outer Banks became forever tied to the history of aviation.
OBX Airplanes Air Tours
OBX Airplanes encourages visiting the Wright Brothers National Memorial to more fully appreciate the Wright Brothers’ achievements. We also suggest flying over the monument with OBX Airplanes in one of our air tours or biplane rides!
Here you can see the difference between the 1901 and 1902 gliders. Note the improved aspect ratio and the addition of a vertical tail rudder on the 1902 glider (right).
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!