The wright flyer question

Discussion in '1800-1914' started by Velius, Feb 18, 2008.

  1. Velius

    Velius Member

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    Hello all,

    I've always wondered about this and I finally remembered to put this question on this site:

    The Wright brothers were bicycle makers who designed and flew the first heavier than air aircraft (news flash huh? :) ). Anyway, why do you think they designed the flyer with skids instead of wheels?

    Thanks 8)
     
  2. Evil_Merlin

    Evil_Merlin Member

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    PS: it was the first powered heavier than air aircraft with effective aircraft control (the other aircraft that flew before then could only fly in a straight line and had no or very limited control). And even that is still under debate today with Alberto Santos-Dumont who was claimed to have flown first, mostly because the Wright Brothers were very protective of their trade secrets and of course most people of that age had no want to put any aircraft in a war/military role, but thats exactly how the Wright Brothers envisioned it.

    Because it was being flown off of sand?
     
  3. Marcel

    Marcel Well-Known Member

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    I believe wheels were considered too heavy, the skids was just the lower struds of the aircraft
     
  4. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Merlin,

    >And even that is still under debate today with Alberto Santos-Dumont who was claimed to have flown first

    Oh well ... I've put a lot of effort into that question, and I couldn't really find out what the Santos-Dumont advocates actually claim.

    Their line of reasoning I was confronted with was mainly based on a narrow definition of flight (usually disqualifying the Wrights because "they used a catapult"), along with "subtle" hints that the Wrights' flights before 1905 might have been faked.

    I'm not really interested in re-started such a debate here, but if there's more to Santos-Dumont's claim of priority over the Wrights than listed in my impression above, I'd certainly listen attentively if someone explained it to me.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  5. Evil_Merlin

    Evil_Merlin Member

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    Henning, you won't hear any arguments from me. It was readily apparent that the Wright Flier could do a lot more than Santos-Dumont's aircraft could. Even the French who were very much down on the Wright brothers were in shock when they finally did see the Wrights flying figure 8's, banking turns and such like that which no other aircraft could do.

    Let the Brazilians have Santos-Dumont and his claims nothing wrong with it, the rest of us know the facts.

    :D
     
  6. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Merlin,

    >Henning, you won't hear any arguments from me. It was readily apparent that the Wright Flier could do a lot more than Santos-Dumont's aircraft could. Even the French who were very much down on the Wright brothers were in shock when they finally did see the Wrights flying figure 8's, banking turns and such like that which no other aircraft could do.

    Roger that :)

    For the sake of completeness, I'd like to point out that Santos-Dumont was a highly accomplished aviation pioneer nevertheless, both with lighter-than-air and with heavier-than-air vehicles. His "Demoiselle" was an amazing high-performance aircraft in its time, and he generously released the plans to the general public for everyone to copy the design, so he did not only have the technical genius and the personal courage to build and fly his own aircraft, but also the altruistic spirit to share it in an effort to help the development of aviation.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  7. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

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    Pioneer flight has always fascinated me. I remember well reading lengthy articles about who was the "first". There's no doubt that on a technical basis, the laurels for the first heavier-then-air controlled flight was made by the Wright Brothers.

    The problems with crediting the Wrights at the time with recognition of such was the fact they kept it secret for so long, mostly for patent reasons. They were hoping for a buyer, primarily the US military. They had made the announcement, and shown their pictures, but not everyone was convinced, and who could blame them? There had been many unsuccessful attempts before, with people claiming to have flown, but never being able to prove it (or were unwilling to prove it). They saw the Wrights as two more individuals making claims but unwilling to demonstrate it as soon as they made the announcement. Thus, when Santos Dumont made his semi-controlled flight in 14-bis in Paris of 1906, he was considered the "first" as he had done it in full view of many spectators. His fans also note it was done without the use of a guide rail, catapult, or strong headwind, all of which they argue the Wright Flyer needed, therefore not achieving "true flight".

    Before, there have been a few who actually made "hops" in heavier-than-air machine, all of which were uncontrolled. In France, the title of "First" is Clement Ader, who made a short hop in his bat-like contraptions "Eole" and "Avion".

    On a personal note, I have no problem giving the Wright Brothers credit for the first controlled flight. I do think their decision to keep it a secret was a little foolish on their part. I think their genius was in the fact that they knew a heavier-than-air machine needed controlling surfaces. Their many tests with gliders confirmed this. I also think that by being bicycle men, this helped them understand the necessity of control. The other thing they should be given much credit for, was their use of homemade windtunnels to test their control theories. Using these methods, they demonstrated a truely scientific approach on their behalf, rather than the trial and error approach others were doing.

    What I cannot give them credit for, is their application of the early airfoil, the designs of which were basically taken from other people's research. Lets not forget, that the Wrights had a very important and well connected friend - Octave Chanute. Chanute, who had experimented with gliders of his own, was able to attend meetings between members of the early aeronautical societies which had formed in Paris. Chanute lost no time in sending the Wright Brothers copies of all the information he came across. With this wealth of information from some many other people's research, I'm hardly surprised they were able to fine tune the airfoil.

    Funny enough in 2003, for the 100th anniversary of the Wright's first flight, the scene was recreated in North Carolina at Kitty Hawk with thousands of people in attendance, including President Bush. The attempts were unsucessful as it was determined that the catapult was not adjusted for maximum pull, and the headwind was weak. What was not noted by any the commentaries here (but all over TV news in France), was that around the same time, French engineering students also had their marking of the anniversary with their own replica Wright flyer, launched it from a catapult with a weight that was slightly heavier than the original one, and into a full headwind. By God it flew! :lol:
     
  8. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

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    The Demoiselle was an awesome little design, and is generally considered the first "ultralight". A neat little aircraft, I can remember when I was younger wanting to build a full scale replica. Never happened I'm sad to say, but maybe one day.....
     
  9. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    Just watched a docu on Dumont and he tried forever to get the control problem handled. His plane was impressive until the Wright's brought over their machine and knocked everyone's socks off. The docu recreated Dumont's machine and flew it.
     
  10. wilbur1

    wilbur1 Active Member

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    You have to remember, the brakes they had back then were for big wheels, not for small. a skid will dig into sand and slow the aircraft / vehicle down, thats why they did it in sandthe wing plus prop would, on takeoff lift it out of the drag caused by the sand:D
     
  11. A4K

    A4K Well-Known Member

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    There were a few people who claimed to have built powered heavier than air craft (including the New Zealander Richard Pearse) even before the Wright's. The problem was always too few reliable witnesses - even the Wright's had a battle getting recognition for the accomplishment.
    Not knocking their achievement, but a fairer comment might be that they were the first 'recognized' builders of a powered aircraft.

    Interesting that the Wright's first flight could have taken place inside a C-5 Galaxy!
     
  12. The Basket

    The Basket Well-Known Member

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    Probably lighter to build a skid as wheels need brakes and suspension and stuff.

    Weight would be the killer...not sure why taking off from a skid is a big deal. Maybe the anti-gravity unit wasn't working that day.
     
  13. Graeme

    Graeme Well-Known Member

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    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    I guess one could argue that the Flyer did take off on wheels, two adapted bicycle wheel hubs, that made up the support trolley.

    Why not traditional wheels? Who knows. Some say to reduce weight, as power was a problem and another source says...

    .."but for some unknown reason the Wright brothers did not fit wheels to their aircraft until seven years later, in August 1910".


    To manoeuvre the aircraft on the ground after flights, they used two small wheeled trolleys placed under each wing.

    (Trivial note. The US Army purchased a "Flyer" at a price of $25,000 for the Signal Corps in 1908. The contract called for a minimum speed of 40 mph. The Wrights delivered a "Flyer" 2.5mph faster than this and were therefore paid a bonus of $5,000.)
     
  14. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    It wasn't a question of powered fight. It was a controlled flight. The wing warping they came up with allowed others to expand the discovery. There were others who had achieved powered flight but they could'nt control the plane. The Wrights could do circles and turn the plane when they wanted.
     
  15. Evil_Merlin

    Evil_Merlin Member

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    Exactly, and this is one of the things that awed the French (who were at that time considered the experts in all things flight related) when the Wright Brothers showed up in Le Mans in 1908. The very people who were calling the Wright Brothers liars only 2 years previous were forced to eat their words, and in some instances, they offered the brothers their most humble appologies (including Louis Bleriot himself).
     
  16. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi Arsenal,

    >There's no doubt that on a technical basis, the laurels for the first heavier-then-air controlled flight was made by the Wright Brothers.

    Lilienthal had achieved heavier-than-air *controlled* flight before the Wrights even began to look into aviation. Sad to see you've been brainwashed by the misleading "Centennial of Flight" slogan! ;)

    *Powered* controlled flight - that's what the Wrights accomplished (and it admittedly was a great advance over Lilienthal's achievements).

    >His fans also note it was done without the use of a guide rail, catapult, or strong headwind, all of which they argue the Wright Flyer needed, therefore not achieving "true flight".

    Hm, I don't mean to start a discussion here, but since some readers might not be aware of this: The Wrights did not use any catapult for their first flights in 1903.

    >I do think their decision to keep it a secret was a little foolish on their part.

    At least it made them rich in the end. The big difference between the Wrights and Santos-Dumont is that the former meant to make a fortune in aviation, while the latter was rich enough to that he could afford to lose a fortune (or two) in aviation :)

    >Using these methods, they demonstrated a truely scientific approach on their behalf, rather than the trial and error approach others were doing.

    Absolutely! I believe their thinking was greatly influenced by Lilienthal's example ... not in the solution they found, but really in the rational and methodical approach to the problems of flight.

    >With this wealth of information from some many other people's research, I'm hardly surprised they were able to fine tune the airfoil.

    >What was not noted by any the commentaries here (but all over TV news in France), was that around the same time, French engineering students also had their marking of the anniversary with their own replica Wright flyer, launched it from a catapult with a weight that was slightly heavier than the original one, and into a full headwind. By God it flew! :lol:

    Great! Do you know of any site with details on this effort? I'm quite impressed with the French accomplishments in experimental aercheology ... L'Hermione, a medieval castle, and now the Wright Flyer :)

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  17. HoHun

    HoHun Active Member

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    Hi A4K,

    >There were a few people who claimed to have built powered heavier than air craft (including the New Zealander Richard Pearse) even before the Wright's. The problem was always too few reliable witnesses

    Roger that. Germany has two contenders: Weißkopf, who apparently built a credible flying machine that as a modern replica demonstrated some degree of flightworthiness (despite the absence of a vertical tail - I'm still wondering about that), and Karl Jatho, who without any doubt lifted off for powered flight before the Wrights did.

    However, I'd characterize Weißkopf's reports on his flights as sea stories (and he didn't ever manage to demonstrate a proven flight, though he kept building aircraft until at least 1908), and Jatho did not accomplish more than an uncontrolled hop, like many of the other "unsuccessful" pioneers.

    >Interesting that the Wright's first flight could have taken place inside a C-5 Galaxy!

    The short distances the Wrights flew don't look too impressive today, but it's important to remember that they were flying into a stiff headwind - I think the relation was something like 30 mph airspeed into a 20 mph wind :) If you multiply the distance by three, you get a better picture of their "range" - the headwind was a safety feature as a crash at 10 mph groundspeed was a lot more survivable than a crash at 30 mph groundspeed.

    Regards,

    Henning (HoHun)
     
  18. davparlr

    davparlr Well-Known Member

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    Glad you pointed this out. Look at the most famous photo in aviation history. Catapult, what catapult?
     

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  19. Arsenal VG-33

    Arsenal VG-33 Member

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    davparlr - The Wright Flyer storage shed and workshop were located to the left of this photo. Is it your conclusion that as these structures do not appear in the photo, there was no storage shed and workshop?

    The catapult was used at Huffman Prairie near Dayton Ohio, since the 20 mph wind they experienced by the sea wasn't there in the Midwest. Point being, the main arguement of the Santos Dumont supporters is that while the Wright Flyer's takeoff was assisted with the use of either, and/or high winds, guide rail, catapult, the 14-bis used none. Technical semantics really.

    I'm not really take either sides here, as i think both contributed both to the world of pioneer aviation. I already stated my case for the Wright Bros. I just feel it's important to present both sides of the story, especially when issues of technical and scientifical importance are at hand.
     
  20. Njaco

    Njaco The Pop-Tart Whisperer
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    I think the question about a powered, controlled flight still rests with the Wrights.

    There were some who had powered flight before the Wrights.

    There were some who had a semblence of controlled flight before the Wrights.

    But it was the Wrights who pioneered wing warping and solved the problem of turning and direction and lift with this application. Others of controlled flight did not discover this to their advantage. The Wrights solved the mystery of flight for man.
     
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