A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers

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Bellis, Mary. "A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers." ThoughtCo, Oct. 8, 2016, thoughtco.com/a-visual-timeline-4086383. Bellis, Mary. (2016, October 8). A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-visual-timeline-4086383 Bellis, Mary. "A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-visual-timeline-4086383 (accessed October 19, 2017).
01
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Wilbur Wright as a Child

Wilbur Wright
Wilbur Wright as a Child. Mary Bellis from source photo LOC

Orville Wright and Wilbur Wright, the Wright Brothers, were very deliberate in their quest for flight. They spent many years learning about any earlier developments and completed detailed research of what previous inventors had done to conquer flight for humankind. They were convinced that they could build a machine that would allow them to fly like the birds.

Wilbur Wright was born on April 16, 1867, in Millville, Indiana. He was the third child of Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Wright.

Wilbur Wright was ​half of the aviation pioneering duo known as the Wright Brothers. Together with his brother Orville Wright, Wilbur Wright invented the first airplane to make the first manned and powered flight possible.

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Orville Wright as a Child

Orville Wright as a Child
Orville Wright as a Child. Mary Bellis from source photo USAF

Orville Wright was born on August 19, 1871, in Dayton, Ohio. He was the fourth child of Bishop Milton Wright and Susan Wright.

Orville Wright was ​half of the aviation pioneers known as the Wright Brothers. Together with his brother Wilbur Wright, Orville Wright made history with the first-ever heavier than air, manned, powered flight in 1903.

03
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Wright Brothers Home

Wright Brothers home at 7 Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio
7 Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio Wright Brothers home at 7 Hawthorn Street, Dayton, Ohio. LOC
04
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The Newspaper Business

West Side News, 23 March 1889
West Side News, 23 March 1889 West Side News, 23 March 1889. Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress

On March 1, 1889, Orville Wright began to print the weekly West Side News and was the editor and publisher. Orville Wright maintained an active interest in printing and newspaper publishing for several years. In 1886, together with his childhood friend Ed Sines, Orville Wright started The Midget, his high school newspaper, with a press given to him by his brothers and type from his father.

05
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Wilbur Wright in Bicycle Shop

Wilbur Wright working in the bicycle shop circa 1897
1897 Wilbur Wright working in the bicycle shop circa 1897. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress.

In 1897 when this photo of Wilbur working at the lathe was taken, the brothers had expanded their bicycle business beyond sales and repair to the design and manufacture of their own line of hand-built, made-to-order bicycles.

06
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Orville Wright in Bicycle Shop

Orville Wright in Bicycle Shop
Orville Wright (left) and Edwin H. Sines, neighbor and boyhood friend, filing frames in the back of the Wright bicycle shop circa 1897. Prints and Photographs Division, Library of Congress

In 1892, Orville and Wilbur open a bicycle shop, the Wright Cycle Company. They remained in the bicycle manufacturing and repair business until 1907. The business gsve them the funds necessary to carry out their early aeronautical experiments.

07
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What Influenced the Wright Brothers to Study Flight?

Influenced the Wright Brothers to Study Flight
Influenced the Wright Brothers to Study Flight. Mary Bellis from source photos

On August 10, 1894, Otto Lilienthal, German engineer and aviation pioneer, died from injuries suffered in a crash while testing his latest glider. The tragedy hightened the Wright brothers' interest in Lilienthal's work and the problem of human flight.

While still running their bicycle business, Wilbur and Orville studied the problems of mechanical and human flight. The Wright Brothers read everything they could about bird flight, and Otto Lilienthal's work, the brothers became convinced that human flight was possible and decide to conduct some experiments of their own.

On May 30, 1899, Wilbur Wright wrote to the Smithsonian Institution inquiring about any publications on aviation subjects. Needless tosay the Wright Brothers read everything that the Smithsonian Institution sent them. That same year, the Wright Brothers built a biplane kite in to test their "wing-warping" method of controlling a flying machine. This experiment encourages the Wright Brothers to proceed with constructing a flying machine with a pilot.

In 1900, Wilbur Wright first wrote to Octave Chanute, a civil engineer and aviation pioneer. Their correspondence began an important and supportive friendship lasting until Chanute's death in 1910.

08
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Wright Brothers 1900 Glider

1900 Wright Brothers' glider flying as a kite.
Glider flown like a kite. 1900 Wright Brothers' glider flying as a kite. LOC

In 1900 at Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers begin testing their glider (no engine), flying their first 1900 design as both a kite and as a man-carrying glider. About a dozen flights were made although total air time was only two minutes.

1900 Technical Advancements

The Wright Brothers 1900 glider was the first plane flown by the brothers. It demonstrated that roll control could be provided through wing warping. On this aircraft, pitch control was provided by an elevator, called a canard, which was placed at the front of the aircraft. The location was probably chosen for safety reasons; to provide some structure between the pilot and the ground in a crash. There was also a small aerodynamic lift advantage in placing the elevator at the front unlike modern airplanes where the elevator is placed at the rear. Even with the increased the lift, the aircraft did not perform as well as the brothers predicted using available data.

09
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Wright Brothers' 1901 Glider

Orville Wright with the Wright Brothers 1901 glider.
Orville Wright standing by the Wright Brothers' 1901 glider. Orville Wright with the Wright Brothers' 1901 glider. The glider's nose is pointing skyward. LOC

In 1901, the Wright Brothers returned to Kitty Hawk and began experimenting with a larger glider. They conducted about 100 flights during the months of July and August, ranging in distance from twenty to almost four hundred feet.

1901 Technical Advancements

The Wright Brothers 1901 glider had the same basic design as the 1900 glider, but was larger to provide more lift to carry a pilot in lighter winds. But the aircraft did not perform as well as the brothers had originally expected. The aircraft only developed 1/3 of the lift they estimated they would get. The brothers modified the curvature of the wing but this only slightly improved the flying characteristics. During their test flights, ​the brothers first encountered wing stalls in which the lift would suddenly decrease and the aircraft would settle back to earth. They also encountered an effect known as adverse yaw. On some flights, when the wings were warped to produce a roll which should result in a curving flight path in the direction of the lower wing, the drag increased on the upper wing and the aircraft would twist in the opposite direction. The air speed decreased and the plane settled back to the ground. At the end of 1901, the brothers were frustrated and Wilbur remarked that humans would never learn to fly in his lifetime.

10
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Wright Brothers - Wind Tunnel

Wright Brothers - Wind Tunnel
The Wright Brothers built a wind tunnel to improve their gligers, by testing a variety of wing shapes and their effect on lift. LOC

In the winter of 1901, the Wright Brothers reviewed the problems with their last attempts at flight, and reviewed their test results and determined that the calculations they had used were not reliable. They decided to build an artificial wind tunnel to test a variety of wing shapes and their effect on lift. The results, gave the Wright Brothers a greater understanding of how an airfoil (wing) works and could calculate with greater accuracy how well a particular wing design would fly. They planned to design a new glider with a 32-foot wingspan and a tail to help stabilize it.

11
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1902 Wright Brothers Glider

1902 Wright Brothers Glider Flown by Wilbur Wright
This photo depicts the glider being flown by Wilbur Wright 1902 Wright Brothers Glider Flown by Wilbur Wright. LOC

In 1902, the Wright Brothers conducted about 1,000 glides with their newest glider, and increased their in-air distance to 622 1/2 feet for nearly 30 seconds.

Technical Advancements

The Wright Brothers 1902 glider had a new movable rudder at the rear which was installed to improve yaw. The movable rudder was coordinated with the wing warping to keep the nose of the aircraft pointed into the curved flight path. This machine was the first aircraft in the world that had active controls for all three axis; roll, pitch and yaw.

12
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First Flight of a True Airplane

First successful flight of the 1903 Wright Flyer
1903 Wright Brothers' Flyer First successful flight of the 1903 Wright Flyer. LOC

The "Flyer" lifted from level ground to the north of Big Kill Devil Hill, at 10:35 a.m., on December 17, 1903. Orville Wright piloted the plane which weighed six hundred and five pounds. The first heavier-than-air flight traveled one hundred twenty feet in twelve seconds. The two brothers took turns during the test flights. It was Orville Wright's turn first to test the plane, so he is the brother that is credited with the first flight.

Technical Advancements

The Wright Brothers 1903 Flyer was similar to their 1902 glider with twin wings, twin rudders, and canard elevators. The plane also carried twin counter-rotating pusher propellers connected by bicycle chains to the 12 horsepower motor. The pilot would lie beside the motor on the lower wing. However, the 1903 Flyers had ​a problem in pitch; and the nose, and consequently the entire aircraft, would slowly bounce up and down. On the last test flight, hard contact with the ground broke the front elevator support and ended the season's flying.

13
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Wright Brothers' 1904 Flyer II

Wright Brothers - Flyer II
The first flight lasting more than five minutes took place on November 9, 1911. The Flyer II was flown by Wilbur Wright. LOC

The first flight lasting more than five minutes took place on November 9, 1904. The Flyer II was flown by Wilbur Wright.

Technical Advancements

In their 1904 Flyer, the Wright Brothers built a new engine similar to the 1903 Flyer engine but with increased horse power by slightly increasing the bore (diameter of the piston). They also built a new airframe which was very similar to the 1903 aFlyer but with redesigned rudders. In an effort to improve pitch, the brothers moved the radiator and fuel tank from the front struts to the rear struts and moved the engine aft to move the aircraft center of gravity aft.

14
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Wright Brothers - First Fatal Airplane Crash in 1908

The first fatal airplane crash occurred on September 17, 1908.
The first fatal airplane crash occurred on September 17, 1908. LOC

The first fatal airplane crash occurred on September 17, 1908. Orville Wright was piloting the plane. Wright survived the crash, but his passenger, Signal Corps Lieutenant Thomas Selfridge, did not. The Wrights had been allowing passengers to fly with them since May 14, 1908.

15
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1911 - Vin Fiz

Wright Brothers Plane - Vin Fiz
Wright Brothers Plane - Vin Fiz. LOC

The 1911 Wright Brothers plane, the Vin Fiz was the first airplane to cross the United States. The flight took 84 days with the plane landing 70 times. It crash-landed so many times that little of its original building materials were still on the plane when it arrived in California. The Vin Fiz was named after a grape soda made by the Armour Packing Company.

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Wright Brothers 1911 Glider

Wright Brothers 1911 Glider
Wright Brothers 1911 Glider. LOC
Format
mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Bellis, Mary. "A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers." ThoughtCo, Oct. 8, 2016, thoughtco.com/a-visual-timeline-4086383. Bellis, Mary. (2016, October 8). A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/a-visual-timeline-4086383 Bellis, Mary. "A Visual Timeline of What Inspired the Wright Brothers." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/a-visual-timeline-4086383 (accessed October 19, 2017).