The Wright Brothers Take Flight: Developing The Flyer


Wright_Flyer_II_shedIn 1901, a year after they had successfully flown the first ever manned full sized glider in North Carolina, the Wright Brothers attempted to fly an even larger model.

With a wingspan of 22 feet (5 feet longer than their previous craft), and a weight of 100 pounds (twice as heavy as their successful glider), many problems beset this test flight. The increased sized wings didn’t have enough lifting power, and the wing-warping mechanism that had worked so effectively for the brothers before, caused the craft to spin out of control.

Such was the brother’s disappointment, they initially predicted man was destined not to fly in their lifetime.
Once they’d got over their initial despondency, however, the Wright brothers went back to the drawing board and reviewed their test results. Realising that their initial calculations had been incorrect, they took the major step of building a wind tunnel so that they could test a series of different wing shapes and study the effect each had on the lift of any potential future aircraft. This research was so successful the Wright brothers were able to create a brand new 32 foot wingspan glider, which for the first time, would have a tail to help stabilize it.
For the majority of 1902, the brothers flew and tested this new glider. As the new tail proved successful again and again in giving stability to their craft, Orville and Wilbur decided the time was right to plan their first powered aircraft.

It took months of designing and experimenting before the Wright Brothers had finally created a motor powerful enough to power an aircraft, and still more time to build craft sturdy enough to accommodate the increased weight and vibrations, and consequences, the motor brought with it.
This first motor powered aircraft, which weighed 700 pounds (650 pounds heavier than their first successfully flown glider), now became known as the Flyer.

See more by

Dr Kathryn Bates is a graduate of archaeology and history. She has excavated across the world as an archaeologist, and tutored medieval history at Leicester University. She joined the administrative team at Oxford Open Learning twelve years ago. Alongside her distance learning work, Dr Bates is a bestselling novelist, and an itinerant creative writing tutor for primary school children.

Connect with Oxford Home Schooling