Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Aeroplane history

Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright - Inventors of the First Engined Airplane

Wilbur and Orville were born to Milton and Susan Wright. It was their father who initiated and encouraged the brothers’ interest in airplanes. In 1878 Milton Wright returned from a work related trip with a rubber band powered helicopter. The Wright brothers even at a young age immediately studied the model helicopter and started building replicas.

To start their venture, Wilbur wrote a letter to the Smithsonian Institution requesting for all the information on flight experiments that they had. Subsequently, in 1899 the brothers developed a simple system to warp the wings of a biplane. Warping meant that the plane could be controlled and rolled left or right as required. They tested this system on a series of gliders they developed.

The Wright brothers used Kitty Hawk, North Carolina to test the various models they built. They launched two gliders in 1900 and 1901 but were disappointed with the performance due to lack of lift and control. The brothers went back to the drawing board and spent the winter of 1901-1902 designing a wind tunnel and conducting experiments to figure out the best wing shape. This allowed them to build a glider with plenty of lift. Towards the end of 1902 they launched their third glider with roll, pitch and yaw controls.

The next winter was spent in designing a gasoline engine small and powerful enough to propel an aircraft. Their mechanic Charlie Taylor was a great help in designing the engine. They also designed the first ever airplane propellers and finally built a new, powered aircraft.

However, the road to success was not so easy. They suddenly found themselves competing with Samuel Langley, Secretary of the Smithsonian Institution. He had also built a powered aircraft and had investment funding to help his ventures. Luckily for the Wright brothers, Langley’s two attempts at launching his airplane failed miserably and put him out of competition.

Other problems were not quite so easily resolved. The weather misbehaved and there was nothing much they could do about it. Something in their control however, was the propeller. The propeller shafts broke on the first attempt and the drive sprockets were too loose on the second try. On the third try one of the propeller shafts cracked. Orville finally resolved the problem by using spring steel to make a new set of shafts. The aircraft was ready and they called it the Flyer.

After two unsuccessful attempts, the Wright brothers made aeronautical history on December 17th, 1903. Orville Wright took the Flyer for a 12 second sustained flight covering 120 feet. In the next few hours the brothers made 4 flights the longest of which was 852 feet.

Orville Wright (1871-1948) and Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) requested a patent application for a "flying machine" nine months before their successful flight in December 1903, which Orville Wright recorded in his diary. As part of the Wright Brothers' systematic practice of photographing every prototype and test of their various flying machines, they had persuaded an attendant from a nearby lifesaving station to snap Orville Wright in full flight. The craft soared to an altitude of 10 feet, traveled 120 feet, and landed 12 seconds after takeoff. After making two longer flights that day, Orville and Wilbur Wright sent this telegram to their father, instructing him to "inform press."

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