Wright Flyer I (1903)

Wright Flyer I (1903)

The Wright Flyer was the first successful powered, heavier-than-air aircraft, designed and built by the Wright brothers.

Technology

Keywords

airplane, Wright flier, aircraft, aviation, Wright, biplane, elevator, rudder, propeller, hip cradle, inventor, invention, technology

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Questions

  • Is it true that the airfoil (the shape of the wing) of the Flyer I was asymmetrical?
  • Is it true that the net forces acting on a fast-moving airplane and an airplane at rest are equal?
  • Is it true that the direction of the net force acting on an airplane during takeoff is downwards?

Scenes

Pioneers of manned flight

Growing up in Ohio, United States, the Wright brothers first opened a bicycle shop and factory.
They started aeronautical experimentation in 1899, initially testing gliders. The main areas of their interest during the development of flying technology were lift, propulsion and controllability. They also built a wind tunnel to test wing shapes.
After 1900 they continued their experiments in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They built their Flyer I in 1903, which they later nicknamed after that town.
The first flight of the aircraft on December 17, 1903 was a pioneering event in the history of aviation: it was the first successful controlled flight with a powered, heavier-than air aircraft. Five people witnessed the flights: members of a lifesaving crew, a businessman and a local boy.
In the following years the Wright brothers further developed their aircraft (1904: Flyer II, 1905: Flyer III). In 1905 they were able to maneuver their airplane into a loop. Their longest flight covered 39 km (24.2 mi) in 39 minutes.

Wilbur and Orville Wright

First flight

During the first flight on December 17, 1903, Orville Wright flew 39 m (128 ft) in 12 seconds. The flight was recorded on a famous photograph. The fourth flight that day was the only actual controlled flight, Wilbur covered 279 m (915 ft) in 59 seconds. This was the Brothers´ first public flight, with 5 witnesses: members of a lifesaving crew, a businessman and a local boy.

The famous photo of the Wright brothers’ first flight

Construction of the flyer I

The Wright flyer I was a biplane aircraft with a wooden framework. Its wingspan was 12 m (39.4 ft) and it weighed 340 kg (749.6 lb). Its construction cost nearly $2,000.
The engine was placed on the right of the pilot lying on his stomach on the lower wing. The engine was connected to the two horizontal axles by bicycle chains. The airplane was driven by propellers fixed to the end of the axles. The efficiency of the propeller was 80%.
The Wright flyer I was also a very important technical innovation with regard to control. It was equipped with separate elevators and rudders for the best control possible. The pilot controlled the airplane with a lever (located on his front left and connected to the rudder and elevators by wires) and the movement of his own body: he steered by moving a cradle attached to his hips.
The test site was a yielding sandy area on the seaside, therefore they built a runway for the plane. The flyer accelerated to the necessary speed and took off from this launching track. The first flight took 12 seconds and covered 39 meters (128 ft).
The Wright brothers, and their helper, Charlie Taylor built an engine for their flyer, as they did not find any commercially available engines suitable.
The engine manufactured in Taylor’s Dayton workshop was light and powerful enough to provide propulsion for their aircraft. The 12 horsepower, 77 kg (169.8 lb) engine was attached to the most optimal place, the middle of the lower wing. It was connected to the axles of the propellers by bicycle chains.
The fuel and water necessary for the operation of the engine was carried in tanks attached to the framework.

The Wright flyer then...

... and now

Narration

Wilbur and Orville Wright, two American brothers from Dayton, Ohio, started experimenting with aircraft in 1899.
The main areas of their concern were lift, thrust and control. They also built a wind tunnel to test wing shapes.
After 1900, they continued their experiments in the hills near the small town of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. They built their flyer I in 1903, which they later nicknamed after that town.
The aircraft’s first flight on December 17, 1903 was a pioneering event in the history of aviation: it was the first successful controlled flight with a powered, heavier-than-air aircraft.
It was piloted by Orville Wright, who covered a distance of 39 m (128 ft) during his 12-second flight. Besides his brother, there were five witnesses: members of a lifesaving crew, a businessman and a local boy.
The Wright flyer I was a biplane with a wooden framework. It was 6.4 m (21 ft) long, its wingspan was 12 m (39.4 ft), and it had a maximum take-off weight of nearly 340 kg (749.6 lb). Its propellers were powered by a 4-cylinder water-cooled engine.
The airplane was equipped with separate elevators and rudders for the best control possible. The pilot controlled it with a lever and the movement of his own body.
Over the following two years, the Wright brothers further developed their aircraft (with the Flyer II in 1904 and the Flyer III in 1905). In 1905, they were able to maneuver their airplane into a loop. Their longest flight covered 39 km (24.2 mi) in 39 minutes.

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