Great Wright Brothers Book

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by davparlr, Aug 10, 2016.

  1. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Wright Brothers

    I just finished reading an excellent book, the recently released “The Wright Brothers” by David McCullough, a Pulitzer Prize winning author. It is a highly recommended book by the NY Times, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, and many others. For information, the book mostly uses letters written by various personalities and newspaper articles.

    My interest in the Wright brothers started in 2003 during the centennial celebration of the first flight. Years earlier I was working on a very strange, very secret aircraft called Tacit Blue, (see pix). I was the responsible engineer for controls and displays, fuel measurement system, and air data computer. It was because of this last role that I was requested by a program aerodynamist to help map wind tunnel results in order to determine air data sensor locations, an interesting and educational (I was primarily involved in aviation electronics, now called avionics), and successful, effort. I came to be familiar with engineering analysis associated with wind tunnel testing. When I realized that the Wright brothers built their own wind tunnel, I became intrigued. When I found some of the test sheets the Wright brothers generated, I realize that they were doing the same type of testing and analysis in 1901-2 as we were doing in the late 1970s. (see reference) The results of their data was a realization that previous known airfoil data was incorrect and once identified, they were able to correct the flaw in their 1901 glider and make a very successful 1902 glider, which led to their 1903 Flyer. Some believe the 1902 glider was the true invention of the airplane, solving the three axis control, after that, adding an engine was no big deal. The two “bicycle repairmen” did not just invent the airplane, but actually engineered the invention using procedures we still use in designing aircraft today. A few things I learned from the book

    1. While committed to applied science to solve engineering problems, they were also intuitive like coming upon the idea that connecting a movable vertical stabilizer to the wing warp mechanism could solve their adverse yaw problem, a concept well beyond any contemporary aircraft designer as they had not even encountered adverse yaw.

    2. The wind tunnel was ingenious in that it did not generate data like CL, which would have been difficult, but rather tested one airfoil verses another, allowing a large amount of testing to be completed.

    3. Contrary to my original opinion of a “garage built gizmo”, the flyer, including its engine, especially the plane taken to Europe, seems to have been very reliable with little problems.

    4. The Flyer flew many 100s of times with many passengers. Interestingly, the flight in which Selfridge became the first person to die in airplane crash was supposed to carry Theodore Roosevelt, who had to back out.

    5. The Wright brothers were rock stars of the day and were almost universally acclaimed as solving the flight problem, even by just about all the leading aviation pioneers. They also met many famous people including the King of England and the King of Spain, who wanted to ride only his wife cancelled that idea

    Other things of interest, their propeller design was well engineered and they are considered the inventor of the modern propeller. When tested using modern methods, it approached modern propeller efficiencies.

    While it is no doubt others would have eventually solved the problem, there is also no doubt the Wright brothers were the ones with the knowledge, engineering talent, and determination to break in the door.

    Read the book and follow the two brothers and their friends and family as they successfully made the invention that revolutionized the world.


    Wright Notebooks | The Franklin Institute
     

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  2. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    Funnily enough, we just finished listening to that book as we drove down to Kill Devil Hills on our family vacation. Good book but misses some crucial activities and details. The National Wright Brothers Memorial and the small museum there are pretty cool.
     
  3. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Could you expand? I would be interested.
     
  4. Capt. Vick

    Capt. Vick Well-Known Member

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    I would read a phone book if it was written by David McCullough!
     
  5. buffnut453

    buffnut453 Well-Known Member

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    The biggest for me was the omission of their later soaring work at Kill Devil Hills. It gets a very brief mention but no description of why they went back or what they were seeking to achieve. Their brother Lorin's involvement in the early trips to North Carolina also gets scant mention when, in fact, it's down to him that we have some of the most incredible photographs of Wright aeroplanes actually flying.

    I'm probably being too picky - it certainly is a fantastic book, and very digestible. It just seems that McCullough viewed their later soaring flights as not worthy of mention, which is a bit of a shame.
     
  6. Gnomey

    Gnomey World Travelling Doctor
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    I'll have to look out for it.
     
  7. nuuumannn

    nuuumannn Well-Known Member

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    I haven't read that book, thanks for the reference Dave. The Wright books I turn to for reference are usually The Bishop's Boys by Tom Crouch (of the NASM) or The Wright Brothers by Ian Mackersey. Both very insightful. My copy of the Bishop's Boys accompanied me around the USA in December 2003 during the Centenary of Flight celebrations and so the cover is coming off and the pages are all dog eared.
     
  8. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    You're right, these were not included. I would have also like to have read more about the technical analysis that they performed. My impression is that the book was mostly based on printed documentation and the information we were looking for may not have been in a letter, or newspaper, or other documentation at that time.
     
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