Before they learned to fly, the Wright brothers learned to glide. A life-size reproduction of one of the aviation pioneers' early gliders has undergone wind tunnel tests at NASA's Langley Research Center's Full Scale Tunnel in Hampton, Va.
During the experiment, which is being underwritten by the Langley Research Center, engineers took a number of different measurements to determine how the Wright 1901 glider performed. The 22-foot wingspan aircraft was the second glider designed by Orville and Wilbur Wright as they worked to create the first human-powered flying machine.
"It's fitting that we invest in wind tunnel tests to document the Wrights' discoveries. Orville Wright was on the advisory committee that established Langley Research Center in 1917, just fourteen years after that first historic flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C. Wright also visited Langley a number of times," said Mike Finneran, head of Langley's Office of External Affairs. "Our first engineers built on the Wright brothers' early successes and helped advance aeronautics into a modern science."
The wind tunnel tests are part of ongoing research being done by Old Dominion University (ODU) of Norfolk, Va., and The Wright Experience of Warrenton, Va. The Discovery of Flight Foundation, a non-profit organization also in Warrenton, has contracted with The Wright Experience to uncover and document how the Wright brothers, neither of whom finished high school, managed to conquer the principles of flight in five short years.
None of the Wrights' first prototype aircraft were saved, nor were their early construction documents and drawings. To try to retrace the brothers' ground-breaking steps to flight, Wright Experience founder Ken Hyde and his team are researching, reconstructing, testing, analyzing and documenting authentic full-scale reproductions of many of the Wright brothers' aircraft and engines.
"Rediscovering the secrets of the Wright brothers to inspire a new generation is what motivates The Wright Experience," said Hyde. "Our journey will continue through December 17, 2003, with the flight of a reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer at Kitty Hawk. Our ultimate goal is to build and test all the Wrights' aircraft. It is The Wright Experience's mission to keep the Wright brothers' dream alive."
The 1901 glider was an important step in the Wrights' development of the Flyer, not because it was successful, but because it wasn't.
"The 1901 glider was extremely difficult to control and it didn't demonstrate flight-handling characteristics consistent with theories used by the Wright brothers," said Professor Robert Ash, Wright tunnel-test program manager for ODU. "So Wilbur and Orville decided they needed a different approach. They built a small-scale wind tunnel to evaluate nearly 200 airfoil and wing models. They started the world's first successful wind tunnel-based aircraft design program, a precursor to the systems engineering approach used by the aviation industry today."
The Wright Experience and ODU have already built and tested a number of reproductions of Wright propellers in their quest to "reverse engineer" the 1903 Wright Flyer and other early Wright aircraft. The reproduction of the Flyer is under construction at The Wright Experience workshop.
More information on the Wright Experience is available at: http://www.wrightexperience.com
More information on the Langley Full Scale Tunnel is available at: http://www.lfst.com
The US Centennial of Flight Commission was set up by Congress to provide recommendations and advice to the President, Congress and Federal agencies on the most effective ways to encourage and promote national and international commemoration of the centennial of powered flight. More information on the centennial, the history and future of powered flight, and events planned to celebrate the upcoming anniversary is available at: http//www.centennialofflight.gov
Cite This Page: