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The Wright Brothers
Background Essay
Essay Home - Wing Warping - Why Kitty Hawk? - Breakthrough - Takeoff - History's First Drafts


Back in Dayton in the fall of 1901, the Wrights constructed a wind tunnel out of a wooden box.   A fan at one end of the box blew a steady, straight stream of air against mounted miniature wings.  They made observations through a glass panel in the top of the box.  By measuring the factors of lift and wind resistance, they were able to prove that Lilienthal’s calculations were incorrect.

But now, with this device, they could study an endless variety of wing shapes and sizes. When they returned to North Carolina in 1902, they made nearly a thousand flights on wings designed according to their own data.

From the beginning, the Wrights believed that putting a motor on a flying machine would be relatively easy. The patent that would eventually make them wealthy men was not for a motorized machine, but for the method of control embodied in the 1902 glider.

“In every meaningful sense,” says Smithsonian curator Peter Jakab, the glider “flew just as a Boeing 747 airliner or a modern jet fighter flies, and it was the first machine ever to do so.”

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