Tag Archives: Wright Brothers

Wilbur Wright (16 April 1867–30 May 1912)

Wilbur Wright, 1905. (Library of Congress Prints and Photographs Division)

30 May 1912: Wilbur Wright, co-inventor with his brother Orville of the Wright Flyer, the first powered, controllable, heavier-than-air vehicle, died at the family home in Dayton, Ohio, of typhoid fever.

His father wrote:

May 30, 1912

This morning at 3:15, Wilbur passed away, aged 45 years, 1 month, and 14 days.

A short life, full of consequences.

An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty, seeing the right clearly, pursuing it steadfastly, he lived and died.

— Bishop Milton Wright

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes

31 December 1908

Wilbur Wright at Camp d'Avours, 1 January 1909. (Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries)
Wilbur Wright at Camp d’Avours, 1 January 1909. (Special Collections and Archives, Wright State University Libraries)

31 December 1908: At Camp d’Auvours, 11 kilometers (6.8 miles) east of Le Mans, France, Wilbur Wright flew a 1907 Wright Flyer a distance of 124.7 kilometers (77.48 miles) over a triangular course in 2 hours, 20 minutes, 23 seconds, setting a record for duration and distance. He won the first Michelin Trophy and a 20,000 prize.

1908 Michelin Trophy. (Le Mans-Sarthe Wright, 1906–2008)
1908 Michelin Trophy. (Le Mans-Sarthe Wright, 1906–2008)

The International Michelin Trophy was a prize given over eight years by Michelin et Cie, the French  tire company, to the Aéro-Club de France, to award on behalf of the Fédération Aéronautique Internationale. The winner would be the pilot who by sunset, 31 December of each year, held the record which had been established by the Aéro-Club. The actual trophy would be given the aeronautical club whose members had won the most times during the eight year period. 160,000 was to be divided and presented to each winning pilot.

The Wright Model A, produced from 1907 to 1909, was the world’s first series production airplane. It was slightly larger and heavier than the Wright Flyer III which had preceded it. It was a two-place, single-engine canard biplane built of a wooden framework braced with wires and covered with muslin fabric. A new system of flight controls allowed the pilot to sit upright rather than lying prone on the lower wing.

The dual horizontal elevators were placed forward and the dual vertical rudders aft. The biplane was 31 feet (9.449 meters) long with a wingspan of 41 feet (12.497 meters). The wings had a chord of 6.6 feet, and vertical separation of 6 feet. The airplane had an empty weight of approximately 800 pounds (363 kilograms).

The Model A was powered by a single water-cooled, fuel-injected, 240.528 cubic-inch-displacement (3.942 liter) Wright vertical overhead-valve inline four-cylinder gasoline engine with 2 valves per cylinder and a compression ratio of 4.165:1. It produced 32 horsepower at 1,310 r.p.m. During three years of production (1908–1911) Wright “4-40” engines were built that operated from 1,325 to 1,500 r.p.m. Power output ranged from 28 to 40 horsepower. These engines weighed from 160 to 180 pounds (72.6–81.6 kilograms).

Two 8½ foot (2.591 meters) diameter, two-bladed, counter-rotating propellers, driven by a chain drive, are mounted behind the wings in pusher configuration. They turned 445 r.p.m.

The Wright Model A could fly 37 miles per hour (60 kilometers per hour).

Wilber Wright's Model A Flyer in France, 1909. The derrick supporst a weight, which, when dropped, pulls the airplane across the ground until it reaches flying speed. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company)
Wilber Wright’s Model A Flyer in France, 1909. The derrick supports a weight, which, when dropped, pulls the airplane across the ground with a cable and puller arrangement until it reaches flying speed. (Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company)

© 2018, Bryan R. Swopes

20 September 1904

Wilbur Wright, 1867–1912. (Library of Congress)

20 September 1904: In an effort to improve their airplane, the Wright Brothers moved their test flights from the windy Kill Devil Hills of North Carolina to Huffman Prairie, near Dayton, Ohio. Without the winds, however, they needed to achieve greater speed for the airplane to take off, so they devised a catapult which used a 1,200 pound (544 kilogram) weight dropped from a 20 foot (6.1 meter) wooden derrick to pull the Wright Flyer II down a wooden track.

The Wright Flyer II was very similar to the original Flyer. Some parts of the airframe were strengthened, which slightly increased the new airplane’s weight.

Wilbur Wright was at the controls of the Flyer II on 20 September 1904, when it made the first-ever complete circular turn by an airplane. This was witnessed by Ames I. Root, who wrote about it in his magazine, Gleanings in Bee Culture:

“When it turned that circle, and came near the starting-point, I was right in front of it, and I said then and I believe still, it was. . . the grandest sight of my life. Imagine a locomotive that has left its track, and is climbing right toward you – a locomotive without any wheels. . . but with white wings instead. . . Well, now, imagine that locomotive with wings that spread 20 feet each way, coming right toward you with the tremendous flap of its propellers, and you have something like what I saw.”

The 30th flight of Flyer II at Huffman Prairie, August 1904. (Wright State University)

The Wright Brothers flew the Flyer II 105 times that summer. Next would come the Flyer III.

Wilbur Wright and the Flyer II on Flight 85 at Huffman Prairie. (Wright State University)

© 2015, Bryan R. Swopes