Sunday, January 11, 2015


The idea of flying high like birds and kites was the inspiration of the inventors of Aeroplane. Few decades back, there was a time when travelling was not as easy as it is today and flying in the air looked to be a dream never come true in real sense. One had to spend days for travelling from one part to another. Invention of Aeroplane made it quite easy to cover thousands of kms in very less time. It was a revolutionary invention for travelling across the world.

During 1880, Hiram Maxiam invented steam powered flying machine but the machine was too bulky impossible to fly in air. Samuel Langley also tried the steam powered planes and introduced one in 1894 that covered around 0.8 kms in around 1½ minutes. Then he designed another plane but its flights led to crashing in the lake. 

And finally in 19th century, the heroes- Wilbur Wright and Orville Wright came up and took the first step towards the successful invention of Aeroplane, was research through reading various books on it.

The real breakthrough in this research was the invention of "wing-warping." If the pilot wanted to bank a turn to the left, the wings could be warped to provide more lift on the wings on the right side of the biplane. The brothers worked out a system for 3-axis control that is still used today on fixed-wing aircraft: left and right like a car or boat, up and down and banking a turn as birds do like leaning to one side while riding a bicycle. 

Working with kites in 1899, the brothers figured out and tested their systems for 3-axis control. They chose a remote location at Kitty Hawk in North Carolina as the test site due its sand, wind, hilly terrain and for next two years did experiments with gliders at Kitty Hawk only. They used wind tunnel to find the proper lift. They found that the formula for lift that is "Smeaton coefficient"  in use for over 100 years  was wrong.

In year 1900, the Wright brothers tested the new biplane glider with 17 foot wing warping technique and wingspan, weighing 50 pound at the Kitty Hawk, in piloted as well unmanned flights. Based on the glider’s results, the brothers planned on refining landing gear and controls and designed a larger glider.

In the year 1901, at the Kill Devil Hill in North Corolina, the brothers flew largest glider ever with 100 pound weight and 22 foot wingspan. The wings did not have enough power to lift, forward elevator was not that effective and its wing warping technology caused it to spin out of control occasionally.

Wrights refused to give up in spite of all the problems being faced by them. They keep reviewing the test results till they found out that the calculations used for the mechanism were not up to the mark. Then they thought of building wind tunnel for testing the wing shapes and their effect on the lift. Based on the tests, the inventors understood how airfoil wing worked and calculated how well a wing design could work. Their plan was to design the new glider with around 32 foot wingspan and tail for stabilization.

The 1902 glider was actually the first fully controlled heavier-than-air craft. It was essentially more important invention than the 1903 biplane. On March 23, 1903, Orville and Wilbur Wright filed a patent application for a "Flying Machine." The patent was awarded May 22, 1906. From that point remarkable progress was made in the development of powered flight.

On Monday, December 14, 1903, the brothers decided that Wilbur would take the first turn as pilot for the historic flight by flipping a coin. They and the ground crew (5 lifeguards from the beach) had lugged the plane weighing six hundred pounds 1/4 mile to the big hill, laid out the 60-foot monorail, and were ready to go. 

Because of the slope and the force from the propellers there was a problem getting it unhooked. The plane accelerated down the track so fast that Orville, running alongside to steady the wing by holding on to an upright, couldn't keep up. Wilbur turned the sensitive rudder up too sharply, the flying machine nosed up, slowed, came down in that position, and the left wing hit the sandy hillside and swung the plane around, breaking several parts. It was not a real flight but they become more confident that it would work.

Two days later, repairs had been completed, but the wind wasn't right. The following day, Thursday, December 17, 1903, was the historic day. They realized it would be better to lay the track on flat ground. That and the strong (22-27 m.p.h.) winds meant that Orville (whose turn it was to pilot) was riding the plane along the track, at a speed that allowed Wilbur to keep up easily, steadying the right wing as Orville had done 3 days earlier. 

Just after the Wright flyer lifted off the monorail, the famous picture was taken, possibly the most reproduced photograph ever, which Orville had set up. The flight was just for 12 seconds, 120 feet. But it was the first controlled, sustained flight in a heavier-than-air craft, one of the great moments of the century.

The brothers flew 3 more times that day, covering more distance as they got used to the way the large front "rudder" (the elevator) responded in flight. Orville's second flight was 200 feet, and Wilbur's before it nearly as long. But the final flight of the day carried Wilbur 852 feet in 59 seconds.

The Wright brothers soon realized that their success was not appreciated by all. Many in the press, as well as fellow flight experts, were reluctant to believe the brothers’ claims at all. As a result, Wilbur set out for Europe in 1908, with a hope to have more success convincing the public and selling airplanes.

Wrights began to sell their airplanes in Europe, before returning to the United States in 1909. The brothers became wealthy businessmen, filling contracts for airplanes in Europe and the United States.

Their first powered Aeroplane was named Flyer. It was plane with two wooden wings which were 40 feet wide, covered with the cotton cloth, 12 horse powered engine. This plane demanded pilot to be in lower wing on his stomach for the steering. 

And in year 1908, another plane was introduced by the brothers that stayed in the air for about 1½ hours. In year 1909, the brothers got a contract from US military for building first plane for them. In 1911, Calbriath Rodgers was the one that made first flight across U.S possible.

 Since then, Airplane travel has improved a lot. Airplanes now cover thousands of miles at great altitudes of 7 miles and more, carrying around 300 passengers. Jet engines have now replaced the propellers and they travel with speed of more than 600 miles every hour. 

Not even Wright Brothers would have imagined the way air travel has turned today. Consistent efforts and hardwork of the Brothers and other inventors have offered the comfort of air travel today. The best part is that in innovations never stop, they are ongoing. So, one can look forward to advancements in the field.

Wilbur fell ill on a trip to Boston in April 1912. He was diagnosed with typhoid fever, and died on May 30 at his family home in Dayton, Ohio. Milton Wright wrote in his diary, “A short life, full of consequences. An unfailing intellect, imperturbable temper, great self-reliance and as great modesty.

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