Wright Brothers 1899 Kite
n 1899, the Wright brothers built an experimental kite to test their wing warping theory. They built the kite of pine and shellacked fabric. There was a horizontal stabilizer at the rear of the kite and the 5-foot wings had a curved profile. Wilbur Wright flew the kite in Dayton, Ohio during the summer of 1899. The Wrights were pleased with the kite's performance, and they decided to build a full-size glider. The original kite hung in their workshop for several years and was burned with other trash in 1905.
Orville described Wilbur's test with words: "This model consisted of superposed planes [i.e., a biplane] measuring five feet from tip to tip and about thirteen inches from front to rear. The model was built and, as I remember it, was tested in the latter part of July 1899 ... I was not myself present."
The Virginia Aviation Museumís reproduction 1899 Wright kite was built by, and is on generous loan from, Rick Young.Wright Brothers 1900 Glider
Wilbur and Orville Wright designed and constructed their first man-carrying glider in Dayton, Ohio in the spring of 1900. The glider incorporated control concepts developed in their 1899 five-foot bi-wing kite and used lift data from tables prepared by German glider pilot Otto Lilienthal in the 1890's. Their bi-wing glider had a wing span of 17 Ĺ feet, cord of 5 feet, length of 11 feet, and weighted 52 lbs. without a pilot. The glider incorporated "wing warping" to control roll and a forward mounted elevator to control pitch; there was no rudder. The 1900 glider was flown mostly as a tethered kite when early tests showed it would only carry half the load earlier calculations had predicted. The glider was flown on several occasions by Wilbur who discovered pitch control was surprisingly easy and glides were made at an angle of less than one-in-six. The original flyer was left on a sand dune and destroyed by a hurricane on July 10, 1901 No drawings and only two photographs of this important aircraft exist. This prototype reproduction was constructed by The Wright Experience using high-resolution scans of original Wright photographs now located at Wright State University in Dayton. On generous loan from the Wright Experience.Wright Brothers 1901 Glider
The Wrights' second bi-wing glider was built in 1901 and had a wing span of 22 feet, chord of 7 feet, length of 14 feet, and weighed 98 lbs. without a pilot. The glider incorporated the front elevator for pitch control and wing warping system for roll control, but did not have roll control. It was nearly twice as large as Lilienthal's weight shift gliders. Designed according to the best available flight data the Wrights were perplexed to discover its performance was worse than the 1900 glider. A series of kite tests of the upper surface confirmed existing aeronautical theory was wrong in areas such as the movement of center of pressure, lift and drag. They modified their glider and made a series of flight tests, some over 300 feet and in winds as high as 27 MPH. Uncertainty with current lift and drag calculations, and a tendency to occasionally "spin" during turns led to the use of the wind tunnel and vertical rudder in their next glider. The Wrights used parts of this glider for the 1902 machine and burned the rest. This prototype reproduction was built by The Wright Experience and flown in October 1997 for a NOVA documentary in production. On generous loan from the Wright Experience.
Wilbur Wright in 1901 glider
Wright Brothers 1902 Glider
The Wrights' 1902 bi-wing glider had a wing span of 32 feet, cord of 5 feet, length of 16' 1", weighed 112 lbs., and was the first aircraft to have three-axis control. This glider was fitted with an elevator in front for pitch control, wing warping system for roll control, and a vertical rudder in the rear for yaw control. Designed using data confirmed in their wind tunnel tests, its performance soon broke world soaring records for the longest time in the air (26 sec.), smallest angle of descent (5 degrees) and flight in the highest winds (30 mph). These long flights allowed Wilbur and Orville to discover that a movable vertical rudder was necessary to fully control their glider. The steadiness and control the Wrights experienced in this glider's over 600 flights convinced the brothers the time had come to attempt powered flight. While assembling their first powered flying machine in the fall of 1903 the Wrights practiced often with this glider modified with a new double vertical rudder. They continued their record-breaking performances with flights of over 1 minute and distances in excess of 600 feet. As usual, the Wrights did not preserve this important aviation relic and it was left at Kitty Hawk in an old camp building. On generous loan from the Wright Experience. Sue and Rick Young built this reproduction in 1980 and The Wright Experience restored it in 1997. This glider was flown in the IMAX film On The Wing and the PBS television program The Wright Stuff, and is currently being used in a NOVA documentary currently in production.
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