Wright Brothers1


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The Wright Brothers’ 1902 glider represents some of the most important aerodynamic work ever done. With this glider, the Wrights proved out their theories on flight and solved the problems of mechanical flight. I built a full-size replica of the Wright 1902 glider and successfully flew it at Lake El Mirage, California, in November, 1972. Later, I donated it to the California Science Center. In year 2000 it was badly damaged during remodeling there and returned for repair. Instead of repairing it, I completely rebuilt it. If you have MS PowerPoint, download the file for better viewing. The file contains Speaker Notes. This new replica is now on permanent display at the California Science Center in Los Angeles. Story at http://www.rqriley.com/1902_glider.htm

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  • By transcending human limitations, the Wright Brothers opened the door to new capabilities and ushered in new ways of thinking and new ways of being for all the world's inhabitants. When the powered Flyer took to the air on December 17 1903, it also gave flight to human possibilities that had been out of reach throughout history. It sparked a revolution that would change the world. Only 66 years after mankind's first powered flight, Neil Armstrong and Buz Aldrin touched down on the surface of the moon.
  • The Wright Brothers interest in flying began when, as young boys, their father brought home a toy Penaud helicopter. The toy sparked a fascination with flight that would ultimately change the world. Their pursuit of flying did not begin in earnest, however, until 1899 when Wilbur Wright wrote to the Smithsonian Institute requesting “ …all that is already known ” about flying. Based on what they learned from prior work, the Wright Brothers concluded that the correct way to design wings was already known, and only a system of controlling a machine in the air was still missing. Previous experimenters had been so focused on simply getting off the ground that they had largely ignored the problem of how to control a machine once it was in the air. This shortfall led to Otto Lilienthal’s fate, a German glider pilot who plunged out of control to his death in 1896. A gust had upset the glider, and simply shifting his body weight, as was the practice with early gliders, was not enough to bring the machine back to level flight. A system of control, the Wrights believed, would be their contribution to mankind’s quest for the air.
  • These photos were taken at Lake El Mirage California during the first flights – November, 1972. Building and flying the Wright glider was an adventure beyond measure, and it was the closest anyone could come to experiencing what it must have been like to invent the airplane – to work alongside the Wrights and see what they saw, touch want they touched, and feel the machine lift into the air for the first time. That photo on the top/right was snapped just as it lifted from the ground on the first short flight. The wings are slightly warped in the picture, and the machine is appropriately responding by banking to the left (the right, looking at the photo). The highest flight was to about the height of a telephone pole, which happened by accident. The intention was to hold the craft to about six feet or so. In other words, as soon as the machine broke ground, the intention was to immediately switch to a landing mode. The idea was to gain experience with briefs periods in the air. The Wright glider is inherent unstable, especially in the pitch direction. The wing-warping system is counter-intuitive and provides no feedback. But the feel was quite pleasant and it was not difficult to control the pitch, as long as one stayed focused on it. That bank to the left (in the photo) was unintended. But the only way to determine that the wings were warped was to see that the machine was rolling to one side or the other. That fellow on the left is Eugene M. Gluhareff, inventor of the pressure jet engine, plans for which are sold on the Robert Q. Riley Enterprises website. He sat on the tailgate of an Oldsmobile station wagon and held onto the tow rope. Gene’s father, Michael Gluhareff, was Sikorsky’s right-hand man during the development of the helicopter. Gene also worked at Sikorsky for several years where he developed a number of small military helicopters. Robert Q. Riley is in the center, and the fellow on the right, “Duke”, was a friend of Gene’s - a jet fighter pilot during the Korean War.
  • The Wrights steam-bent Ash strips to make the curved wings ribs and elevator parts. On the replica, these parts are made by ripping Ash into 1/8 inch-thick strips and then laminating them in jigs as shown in the images. The lamination method is more accurate and less time-consuming. If the Wrights had modern glues, they probably would have used the lamination method too.
  • This is the lower elevator stay assembly – the outrigger that extends forward to the elevator. The left image shows the rear section of the stay, which ends up near the pilot. That piece of wood extending across between the two pulleys (left image) serves the purpose of a stick in a modern “stick and rudder” aircraft control system. In other words, the pilot grabs that board and twists it, and that moves the elevator up and down through a series of linkages at the front. I don’t know why they didn’t screw a stick to the face of the board to provide a hand-hold and some extra leverage. But that’s the way they did it. Notice the bicycle chain wrapped around wooden pulleys at the front and rear. This is exactly how the Wright did it. The Wrights were bicycle mechanics and they used bicycle parts in the construction of their flying machines. Another interesting point is the twine that wrapped around the doubler that’s placed underneath the control at the rear (near the pilot). You can see it in the image on the left. The Wrights used this method of attaching components in several places, and it’s actually a very good method. It makes an extremely strong bond between parts, and there’s also a little give that keeps things from breaking under a shock load. If a part is absolutely rigid, then it’s likely to break when subjected to a shock load. But if there’s a little give in the part, then it’ll flex instead of breaking. You’ll see this method elsewhere in the presentation.
  • The front and rear spars are held in alignment with “spreaders”, which are visible in the photos. Ribs are located on 12-inch centers. Ribs are also made by laminating thin strips of Ash in a jig, similar to the way the other curved members are made.
  • Here, a wing panel is ready for the fabric. Because each rib is in its own pocket, the wing covering is sewn separately and then slipped onto the wings from the trailing edge, forward. So the rear spare ties have to be cut, the fabric installed, and then the ribs are permanently tied to the rear spar again.
  • A wire goes through the trailing edge and is tied to the rear of each rib. Fabric wraps over the front and is then sewn to itself to encapsulate the front spar. A separate strip covers the rear spar.
  • Due to the hot summer in Phoenix, the glider was assembled in a large air-conditioned family room, stretching from the entertainment center and a kitchen island with only one inch to spare. It had to be disassembled in order to get it out of the home.
  • When the Wright Brothers arrived at Kitty Hawk in 1903 with parts for their powered “Flyer”, they were almost certain of success. The new machine was based on their highly successful 1902 glider, and power requirements had been determined by equations derived from their wind tunnel tests. So the Brothers were confident they would succeed. The 1903 Flyer was a large 605-pound (274 kg) machine with a wingspan of 40.3 feet (12.28 meters). Except for the 7,000-pound (3175 kg) steam-powered monster built by Hiram Maxim (inventor of the machine gun) in England in 1894, it was the largest machine anyone had ever attempted to fly.
  • Wright Brothers1

    1. 1. WRIGHT BROTHERS’ 1902 GLIDER By Robert Q. Riley Celebrating More Than a Century of Powered Fight First powered flight by Orville Wright December 17, 1903.For some years, I have been afflicted with the belief that flight is possible toman. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost mean increased amount of money, if not my life… Wilbur Wright – 1900 The 1902 glider preceded the 1903 Flyer, and validated the theories necessary for the conquest of the air. www.rqriley.com
    2. 2. A Few PREDESSORS Toy helicopter that first sparked the Wrights’ Interest in flying. Otto Lilienthal’s experiments provided the greatest inspiration to the Wright Brothers. Early Wright designs were based on his work. Samuel P. Langley, Director of the Smithsonian Institute, made an unsuccessful attempt to fly only days before theHiram Maxim, inventor of the machine gun, Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kitty Hawk.attempted to fly this 7,000-lb machine in 1894. www.rqriley.com
    3. 3. WRIGHT BROTHERS DISCOVERED OR INVENTED… How to Correctly Design Wings How to Correctly Design Propellers Which Shapes Result in the LowestDrag The Amount of Power Needed forFlight How to Control a Machine in the Air Wright Brothers’ wing warping system. Animation Courtesy Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company. Their Theories Were Validated With the 1902 Glider If you are looking for perfect safety, you will do well to sit on a fence and watch the birds….. Wilbur Wright - 1901 www.rqriley.com
    4. 4. FIRST REPLICA OF THE 1902 WRIGHT GLIDER Flown at Lake El Mirage, California, November 1972Left to Right, Eugene M. Gluhareff, Robert Q. Riley, and “Duke”,discuss handling details after first flight (top, right). www.rqriley.com
    5. 5. BUILT OF ASH & SPRUCE Wrights steam-bent their curved components. They are laminated on the replica. Wing-warping control cradle in laminating jig.Elevator leading and trailing edge members in jig www.rqriley.com
    6. 6. ELEVATOR CONTROL SYSTEM Front half of the elevator control system mounted to lower elevator stay. Notice the bicycle chain wrapped around wooden pulleys.Rear half of elevator control system mounted tolower elevator stay. Elevator is controlled bytwisting the one by two inch board. Noticecotton twine wrapped around elevator stayalong reinforced area. www.rqriley.com
    7. 7. WING ASSEMBLY Laminated rib sections are lined up then moved cordwise for the best match of curvature. They are trimmed to length at the front for installation. The trailing edge is trimmed later. Ribs lined up for correct trim at leading edge Front spar goes through front of skidSpars are first assembled with “spreaders”to hold the correct spacing and angle. www.rqriley.com
    8. 8. WING PANEL READY FOR FABRIC Screwed & glued to front spar. Ribs are tied to the rear spar. Finished upper right-hand wing panel. www.rqriley.com
    9. 9. INSTALLING THE FABRIC Each Rib is in its Own Pocket Fabric is Sewn on the Bias Over 200 Feet of Hand-Stitching www.rqriley.com
    10. 10. A S IPIN A B H OTTLEInstalling the rigging. rigging The 32-foot wingspan would not have fit between a kitchen island and the entertainment center if the wingspan had been only one inch longer. During a celebration party, the tail extended out through a patio door on the left. www.rqriley.com
    11. 11. In the CALIFORNIA SCIENCE CENTER Final display in the California Science Center Being Hoisted into Place www.rqriley.com
    12. 12. Wright Snippets• Neither Orville nor Wilbur had graduatedHigh School.• Wilbur died in 1912 from typhoid fever atage 45.• Orville died in 1948 at age 75. Fouryears earlier he had briefly taken thecontrols of a Lockheed Constellation.• The Smithsonian Institute did notrecognize the Wright Brothers as the firstto fly until 1942. In dismay, the WrightBrothers shipped the 1903 Flyer toLondon where it was on display as theworld’s first powered airplane. Shortlybefore his death, after an apology from theSmithsonian Institute, Orville gave hispermission to have the Flyer returned tothe U.S. for display in the Smithsonian.• The Wrights believed that throughaerial surveillance the airplane wouldbring an end to war. “We thoughtgovernments would recognize the impossibility ofwinning through a surprise attack… But weunderestimated man’s capacity to hate andcorrupt good means for an evil end”. www.rqriley.com