The Wright Brothers Invent the Airplane

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  • Topic: Wright brothers, Wright Flyer, Wright Glider
  • Pages : 6 (2257 words )
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  • Published : March 17, 2002
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About one hundred years ago the planet earth was a much smaller place. On December 17, 1903 the Wright brothers, Wilbur and Orville, made history when they took off in flight and invented the first airplane. This is how the planet earth began shrinking geographically making it easier and quicker to travel over long distances.

Wilbur was the older of the two brothers by four years. Wilbur was born in 1867 on a farm near Millville, Indiana and Orville was born in 1871 near Dayton, Indiana. As youngsters, Wilbur and Orville looked to their mother for mechanical expertise and their father for intellectual challenge. Milton, their father, brought them various souvenirs and trinkets he found during his travels for the church. One such trinket, a toy helicopter-like top, sparked the boys' interest in flying. In school, Wilbur excelled, and would have graduated from high school if his family had not moved during his senior year. A skating accident and his mother's illness and subsequent death kept him from attending college. Orville was an average student, known for his mischievous behavior. He quit school before his senior year to start a printing business. The two brothers were very intellectual and smart, but both did not ever get their high school diplomas. It just goes to show that even two of the best minds in our history didn't have to go to college or even finish high school to become these great minds.

The first time Wilbur and Orville referred to themselves as "The Wright Brothers" was when they started their own printing firm at the ages of 22 and 18. Using a damaged tombstone and buggy parts, they built a press and printed odd jobs as well as their own newspaper. In 1892, the brothers bought bicycles. They began repairing bicycles for friends, then started their own repair business. They opened up a bicycle shop in 1893, and three years later, made their own bicycles called Van Cleves and St. Clairs. While nursing Orville, who was sick with typhoid in 1896, Wilbur read about the death of a famous German glider pilot. The news led him to take an interest in flying. On May 30, 1899, he wrote to the Smithsonian Institution for information on aeronautical research. Within a few months after writing to the Smithsonian, Wilbur had read all that was written about flying. He then defined the elements of a flying machine: wings to provide lift, a power source for propulsion, and a system of control. Of all the early aviators, Wilbur alone recognized the need to control a flying machine in its three axes of motion: pitch, roll, and yaw. His solution to the problem of control was 'wing warping.' He came up with the revolutionary system by twisting an empty bicycle tube box with the ends removed. Twisting the surface of each 'wing' changed its position in relation to oncoming wind. Such changes in position would result in changes in the direction of flight. Wilbur tested his theory using a small kite, and it worked.

In August of 1900, Wilbur built his first glider. He then contacted the U.S. Weather Bureau for information on windy regions of the country. Reviewing the list, he chose a remote sandy area off the coast of North Carolina named Kitty Hawk, where winds averaged 13 m.p.h. He and Orville then journeyed to Kitty Hawk where they tested the 1900 glider. The following year, they tested a new and improved glider with a 22-foot wingspan. A disappointing performance by the 1901 glider prompted the Wright brothers to construct a wind tunnel to test the effectiveness of a variety of wing shapes. Using the results of the wind tunnel experiments, they constructed their 1902 glider. Testing it at Kitty Hawk in October, they met with success, gliding a record 620 feet. Once again they returned to Dayton and began work on developing a propeller and an engine for their next effort, a flying machine.

Immediately upon their return to Dayton, they wrote to a number of automobile and motor builders, stating the purpose...
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