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Free History For Your Report
The Wright Flyer was one of the world’s first successfully powered and flown heavier- than-air aircraft, and was designed, constructed, and flown by The Wright Brothers in 1903. Also known as “Flyer I” and “Kitty Hawk” in some historical aviation circles, the Wright Flyer was created after a series of gliders built in the previous three years by the Wright Brothers, all of which were met with some degree of success and failure. The 1903 Flyer was created with light spruce wood, and utilized a custom-built engine as existing engines had proved too heavy for the task. A sprocket chain drive powered both of the twin propellers from this engine, and in this fashion, the airplane worked on similar technology as a bicycle. The biplane design was flown by a pilot who would lay down and use wires attached to a girder at their hips to turn the rudder and manipulate the wings. Construction of the flyer was completed at the same time that the brothers were still learning from continuing flights on previous gliders they had constructed. The first flight of the flyer was attempted on December 14th, 1903. Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright flipped a coin to decide who would pilot the craft first – the coin landed in Wilbur’s favor, but he quickly lost control of the craft after take off and caused three day’s worth of repairs. On December 17th, Orville Wright took the controls, and flew the glider for its first flight – lasting a grand total of 12 seconds.
Subsequent flights were made the next several days – but in order to learn and avoid damage, the flights were all kept in straight paths and at low altitudes. The brothers had hoped to learn enough during the following week to enable a four-mile flight before Christmas to Kitty Hawk, South Carolina. Issues occurred on each flight, however, with the landing – a bumpy experience that often caused minor damage to the flyer. The longest flight – and the last for that week – occurred on December 17th, 1903, by Wilbur Wright. It lasted 59 seconds and covered 853 feet. Slight damage to the wing supports occurred on the landing, but a heavy gust of wind soon toppled the plane, and caused major damage. In
early 1904, the Wright Brothers utilized the downtime on the flying machine to enhance controls and turning supports. A modified Flyer I made its aviation debut in 1904. By October 1905, the brothers had learned even more through a significant series of trial-and- error flights, resulting in the longest flight of Flyer I, at 39 minutes and covering a distance of 24 miles.
The Wright Brothers’ design never ended up leading to larger-scale productions using the same aviation technology, but rather the Wright Brothers were credited with developing several intellectual, if not practical, ideas regarding flight, which were later successfully employed by other aviators. In addition, controversy abounded (and continues to this day) as to rather or not the Wright Brothers were really the first to achieve heavier-than-air flight. They were credited as being the first mostly in part to their very public demonstrations and media-seeking actions, whereas other aviators in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s worked in private, and claim to have successfully attempted heavier-than-air flight long before the Wrights. In addition, the Wright Brothers had patented the one technological aviation ideal they had gotten right – the use of wing control. The Wrights were challenged in court over the patent on this concept, and even fought with The United States Government over its rights. At the same time, European nations continued to develop flying techniques, whilst American aviators were stuck in litigation with The Wright Brothers. During World War I, the U.S. had no military aircraft due to the Wright Brother’s court fights, and the American government ended up purchasing planes from European nations in order to fight the war effectively.
In 1905, the Wright Brothers concluded their Kitty Hawk flights, and shipped Flyer I to their home in Dayton, Ohio. It remained in storage for nine years, eventually being taken up in 1913 by The Great Dayton Flood. The flyer was rescued by Orville (Wilbur died the year previous) and repaired it for display. After an extensive fight with the Smithsonian over rather or not the Wright Brothers were the true pioneers of aviation history, the Smithsonian debuted Flyer I on the 45th Anniversary of the December 17th flight, in 1948. In 1976, the craft was relocated to the newly-opened National Air and Space Museum, and underwent a massive restoration in 1985. It was quickly returned to the National Air and Space Museum where it remained until October 2006. It is currently in storage.
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