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Wilbur Wright Essay

957 words - 4 pages

Wilbur Wright (1867-1912), American aeronautical engineer who worked with his brother, Orville Wright, to build and fly the first airplane.

Wilbur, the elder of the two brothers, was born in Millville, Indiana. He was the third of five Wright children. Their father was a bishop of the United Brethren Church. Wilbur went to high school in Dayton, Ohio, with his brother Orville. The boys shared an interest in mechanical things and learned as much about mathematics and engineering as they could. Wilbur left high school before finishing his courses, and neither brother formally graduated. After leaving school, the brothers made several attempts at editing and printing small local newspapers. ...view middle of the document...

They decided to begin their test flights near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, because the steady winds provided power for their flights and the sandy banks made crashing safer for machines and pilots. The kite flew well and even carried Wilbur for a few seconds of piloted flight.

In July 1901 they returned to Kitty Hawk and built a wooden glider that had sledlike runners. They worked at Kill Devil Hills, where there were large sand dunes over which the runners could glide. Their new machine was longer than the previous model and its wings were arched differently. It also had a hand-operated elevator—a flap on the horizontal stabilizer on the tail that could control up-and-down movement. The brothers again achieved encouraging results, particularly after they experimented with other wing arches. However, there were still problems with stability and control.

During late 1901 and early 1902 the Wrights built a small wind tunnel and tested various wing designs and wing arches. In the course of these tests, they compiled the first accurate tables of lift and drag, the important parameters that govern flight and stability. They constructed a new glider with a 10 m (32 ft) wingspan in mid-1902. At first the glider had two vertical fins mounted behind the wings. The brothers still found it difficult to turn with this design, so they transformed the double fin to a single moveable rudder at the rear of the glider. This configuration proved so successful that they decided to attempt powered flight the following summer.

During late 1902 and early 1903 they searched in vain for a suitable engine for their craft and for knowledge of propeller design. No existing engines that provided the power required were light enough to be practical to carry aboard an airplane. They eventually constructed their own 9-kilowatt (12-horsepower) motor and...

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