Wright Brothers – Celebration Activities

Articles relating to the celebration activities about the Centennial Anniversary.

The 1902 Wright Glider flew again during the first several days of October 2002. It was 100 years ago that the final configuration of the glider flew the first fully

controlled flight October 8, 1902. It was the critical event that opened the door to man’s ability to fly.

The glider was designed to provide 3-axis control – pitch, roll, and yaw that makes it possible for a pilot to steer an airplane in the direction desired. The ingenious

control system became the basis for the patent granted to the Wright Brothers in 1906.

This time four experienced military pilots flew the glider. Nick Engler invited them. He is the director of the educational nonprofit, Dayton, Ohio based Wright Brothers

Aeroplane Co. Engler built the 112-pound ash and spruce replica glider and organized the event that took place at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The park is located four

miles south of the Wright Brothers Memorial Park, NC where the actual event originally occurred.

I watched Navy LT. CDR Klas Ohman, an F-18 pilot from the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and Army Captain Tanya Markow, an Army Apache pilot, do their stuff.

Making the transition from flying modern airplanes to the Wright glider was not an easy task. The controls are entirely different and an unsteady wind added to their

difficulty. Early on, they couldn’t get off the ground and when they did, they had several crash landings that necessitated repairs to the elevator.

On one occasion, a helper who was steadying a wing on launch, wrenched his back and required an ambulance trip to the hospital. On another occasion, the glider

was flipped over by the crosswind. Fortunately, the pilot emerged unhurt.

It wasn’t long before they got the hang of it, enabling them to fly more than 100 flights over a period of five days. Some flights were as long as 200 feet.

It brought home realistically the challenge the Wright Brothers experienced. The brothers flew the glider some 600 times in its final configuration in 1902 and another

1,000 times in 1903. On October 23, 1902, Wilbur flew a record 622.5 feet in 26 seconds.

The Wrights made their third trip to Kitty Hawk in 1902, arriving August 28th.

As a result of their wind tunnel tests, their new glider had a wing span ten feet longer (32 feet) than the previous year’s glider and the cord was two feet shorter (5

foot). The camber of the wings on the 17-foot glider was set at 1:20, providing excellent lift.

A tail was added for the first time as a means to prevent the spins that had occurred the previous year. The tail consisted of two rigidly mounted vertical fins.

They soon found out that the spin problem had not gone away. Orville found out the hard way when on one of his glides, he crashed into a sand dune, demolishing the

glider but somehow emerging unharmed.

At first they blamed it on pilot error. But every so often no matter how careful they were when attempting a turn, the low wing would drop even lower and the glider

would slide into an uncontrolled spinning fall. They gave it the name of “well digging.”

They then turned to the design of the glider. They decided to focus on the tail. They removed one of the two fins, but it made no difference.

Orville solved the problem one night while lying awake in bed after drinking too much coffee. He reasoned that the fixed tail fin was the problem.

In a turn the glider began to fall off to one side because the air pressure on that side of the tail increased. This sets off a sequence of events. The higher wings in the

banking turn increased in speed, resulting in increased lift. The corresponding lower wings slowed down and lost lift.

The pilot would try to counteract the increasing spin by applying positive warp to the lower wings. But this only increased the drag, further slowing the lower wings,

losing more lift. The effect was that the glider corkscrewed around the lower wing as it fell until the wingtip dug into the sand.

On the morning of October 3, Orville suggested to Wilbur that they convert the vertical tail from a fixed vane to a steerable rudder. Orville reasoned that by turning the

rudder in synchronization with warping the wings, the pilot would recover lateral balance and prevent “well digging.”

Wilbur bought the idea and added an improvement. He proposed connecting the rudder wires with those of wing warping so that the operator could control both with a

single movement.

It worked! All of the essentials of the Wright control system were now complete.

Orville wrote home: “Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second, or 30-mph, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind any

gliding machine was ever in, so that now we hold all the records.”

Wilbur once said that the biggest obstacle to human flight was the inability to control a machine in the air. “When this one feature has been worked out, the age of

flying machines will have arrived.” He was prescient; the three-axis control system the brothers conceived is used today in all airplanes, including the space shuttle.

The Wright Brothers’ centennial celebration in North Carolina, although still struggling to overcome a late start in planning and a shortage of funds, is taking shape. There is still much to do. The planners are beginning to pull together an entertaining and an appropriate schedule of events that is expected to draw an estimated 50,000 visitors to the Outer Banks, including President Bush.

The focus of the celebration will center on six-day period in December at the Wright Brothers Memorial Park, Kill Devil Hills, this December (www.outerbanks.org).

Here are the highlights:

Dec. 12: Igniting the Imagination – This day is designed to inspire the next generation of aviators by engaging children of all ages in the power of flight. Highlights include interacting with NASA, interviews with the Wright Family, and Candy Bomber demonstrations. The latter being a recreation of the candy drops during the Berlin Airlift.

Dec. 13-14: Remember the Past, Imagine the Future – This two-day festival will celebrate aviation’s impact over the last century and will feature appearances by historic aviators, exhibits chronicling this history of flights, aircraft and demonstrations.

Dec. 15: Protecting the Home of the Brave – Celebrating the impact of aviation in the military. This day is designed to honor those men and women who developed and flew military aircraft through the years. Highlights include military aircraft dating back to World War I and participation from U.S. military stationed around the world.

Dec. 16: In History’s Footsteps, Celebrating 100 Aviation Pioneers – The N.C. Centennial Commission will hold a ceremony to honor 100 aviation heroes, as selected by the commission. In addition, the historic contributions of these individuals will be examined through film and exhibits.

Dec. 17: 12 Seconds That Changed the World – The Experimental Aircraft Association’s initiative, “Countdown to Kitty Hawk sponsored by the Ford Motor Co.,” culminates with the re-enactment of the first flight by Ken Hyde’s reproduction of the Wright Flyer at 10:35 a.m. The Wright brother’s flew the first heavier-than-air powered flight 100 years ago on this date. The Flyer took-off at 10:35 a.m. and flew 120 feet in 12 seconds. A flyover of 99 additional airplanes will top off the 100th anniversary.

Notice: Lodging on the Outer Banks is rapidly filling up. Some hotels are already full.

Some of other N.C. celebration events include:

April 16-17: Wilbur Wright Birthday Celebration at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Nags Head and Paper Airplane Contest at the Wright Memorial. (www.outerbanks.org)

May 14-18: Celebration of Flight and Air Show, Municipal Airport, Lumberton. (www.celebrationofflightnc.com)

May 16-26: Festival of Flight, Fayetteville. (www.festivalofflight.org)

May 24-25: “The Thrill of Flying” Military Air Show, Pope Air Force Base, Fayetteville. (www.festivalofflight.org)

June 6-8: Women in Aviation, Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport, Rocky Mount (www.rwiairport.com)

June 13-15: 25th Annual Wright Kite Festival, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.kittyhawk.com)

July 3: Soaring Society (Gliders) Cross-Country Flight Finale Ceremony – Return to Kitty Hawk: Transcontinental Glider Race, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.fly2mqi.com)

July 6-9: Re/Max Balloon Celebration, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.remax.com)

August 19-25: National Aviation Week (Orville Wright’s Birthday is on the 19th), Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.outerbanks.org)

Oct. 10-11: Commemorating the 1902 Wright Brothers Glider Flights, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.wright-brothers.org)

The Annual Enshrinement of Aviation Heroes was held in Dayton on July 17, 2004. Since its establishment in 1962, 178 people have been honored, starting with Orville and Wilbur Wright.

This year’s the honorees were William A. Anders, Harriet Quimby, Jack Ridley and Patty Wagstaff.

Anders gained worldwide fame in 1968 as an astronaut on Apollo 8 when he took a picture of earth as seen from the moon’s orbit. The picture was not part of the prescribed flight plan but it was too beautiful to miss. The famous picture, known as “Earthrise”, became one of the most influential images of the 20h century.

Quimby was the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license. She became a favorite on the exhibition circuit and the first women to successfully fly across the English Channel on April 16, 1912. She was killed in an airplane accident in July 1, 1912. At a time when women were universally thought to be less capable than men, (the Wright Flying school wouldn’t accept her as a student) she proved that women could successfully fly.

Ridley was the flight test engineer for the rocket-powered Bell X-1 program in which Chuck Yeager was the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. Yeager credits the success of the program to Ridley’s ingenuity and engineering skills. Yeager was having trouble flying faster that 0.94 Mach because he would loose pitch control. Ridley figured out how to manipulate the horizontal stabilizer so that Yeager could use it to have pitch control. It worked great and Yeager flew Mach 1.06 on October 14, 1947.

Wagstaff is an aerobatic champion. I saw her magnificent performance at the Wright Centennial at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Nags Head. She won her first U.S. Championship in 1991, becoming the first woman to do so. She repeated the feat the next two years in a row. She has thrilled air show spectators worldwide.

The Aviation Hall of Fame was established as a non-profit Ohio Corporation on October 5, 1962. Congress chartered it in 1964.

The presenters on the program were Frank Borrman, former astronaut and a 1982 enshrinee; Emily Howell Warner, first female of a jet-equipped, scheduled U.S. airline; Chuck Yeager, W.W.II ace, former test pilot and 1973 enshrinee; and co-presenters John and Martha King, founders of a pilot training resources supplier.

The Master of Ceremonies was Dennis Quaid, actor and pilot, and the narrator was Cliff Robertson, Academy and Emmy Award winning actor, writer and director.

Amanda Wright represented the Wright family and she told the audience that she was glad that two of the honorees proved that women could fly as well as men.

Katharine Wright and her brothers returned to America on May 11, 1909 after Wilbur’s triumphant flying performance in Europe. They arrived in New York aboard the Kronprinzessin Cecilie to the cheers of representatives of the Aero Club of America, The Aeronautic Society and several other organizations as well as friends and admirers.

Katharine and her brothers stood at the deck rail and surveyed the cheering crowd. Wilbur looked thoughtful and stern.

When asked about his thoughts, he responded. “I was thinking of another time that Orville and I came to New York.”

When they had visited in New York five years ago seeking assistance to go on with their airplane, they were laughed at. Those that had A scoffed at them then now cheered the loudest.

Newspaper reporters and other onlookers began asking them many questions. As usual the brothers had little to say.

When pressed, Wilbur replied, “He couldn’t think of anything that happened in Europe that would be of interest here.”

An English reporter asked if he had received a greater measure of honor and attention than Europe had given since the independence of the colonies. Wilbur responded curtly, “I can’t remember as far back as that.”

When asked about the safety of their airplane, Orville responded, “Airplanes we are using today, if properly handled are very safe and such improvements have been made in them that the accident that happened at Fort Myer last September could not occur again.”

Pressed about business concluded in Europe, they were reluctant to reveal very much, but did say that the right to manufacture their airplanes had been sold to France and that several machines were now being built in England.

By this time Katharine, seeing that that her brothers were becoming agitated, arranged to have the ship’s officer call them away on a pretext.

She remained behind and was soon surrounded by a group of people who wanted to know about her experiences in meeting various distinguished Europeans who had called upon the brothers in the course of their aerial performances.

She responded that “it is part of my work to look after the boys and keep them from being talked to death.”

“You know they are such chatter boxes,” she said with some sarcasm.

“I had to rescue them several times in London last week and pulled Wilbur out of some conversational mires in Paris.”

One reporter asked her if it was true that she was engaged to an Italian nobleman?

“Engaged?” “Why bless your soul. I had never heard a word about it. You may be sure, though, that I am not. I didn’t go to Europe for that purpose.”

“But really,” she continued, “I haven’t a word to say against Europe’s kings and nobleman. They are every bit as good as other people, and they are appreciative and up to date also. I really didn’t mind them a bit.”

While in Pau, France, Katharine flew as a passenger with Wilbur in front of Edward VII.

The Wrights were driven to the Waldorf-Astoria and entertained with a luncheon hosted by Holland Forbes, acting president of the Aero Club.

At five o’clock in the afternoon they left for Dayton.

Reference: NY Herald, May 12, 1909.

Here is an edited article about the event from The Republican-News published in Hamilton Ohio on June 17, 1909.

Bylines: “Dayton is Gay with Decorations and Lights in Honor of the Two World Renowned Aviators.”

“First day of the Two Days Celebration Began on Thursday When Every Whistle and Bell in Dayton Cut Loose For Ten Minutes.”

“Two Aviators Worked At Their Little Shop Until The Carriages Arrived To Take Them to The Scene of Their Greatest Triumph in The City of Their Birth – Medals to be Presented Friday.”

Text: “The ceremonies in honor of Wilbur and Orville Wright began at 9 O’clock this morning when, for ten minutes, every whistle, bell and tin horn in the town joined in a outburst of hilarious sound.

From many triumphant arches swung aeroplanes, and on tops of tall buildings an aeroplane was made to appear as ready for flight while every where were flags and bunting.

Up to the hour of the opening ceremony, Wilbur and Orville were hammering away in their workshop. They were still busy with the details of packing up of the parts of their aeroplane for shipment to Fort Myer, Washington.

Miss Katharine Wright, their sister, Bishop Milton Wright, their father, and Lorin and Reuchlin Wright, their brothers, had already entered carriages when Wilbur and Orville emerged from their home, escorted by the state militia troops of regulars and a brass band. The Wrights were driven to the platform where they was given a pageant representing the events from the founding of Dayton 113 years ago down to the arrival of the Wright brothers.

A number of speeches were made by prominent citizens, thanking the aviators for the fame they had brought to the city and telling of their experiments from which they finally evolved the modern aeroplane. The chief event is to be the celebration that will occur tomorrow, when the medals are to be presented by the nation, State of Ohio and the city of Dayton.

Gov. Harmon will present the state medals, while General James Allen, chief signal officer, has been designated by Secretary of War Dickinson to make the presentation of medals authorized by congress.

Conrad J. Schmidt, president of the local school board, thanked the aviators for the fame they had brought to the city. Other speeches were made telling how on Huffman’s Prairie, eight miles east of Dayton, the Wrights in 1905 made the record-breaking fight which first brought upon them the attention of the world. How the father of the boys years ago had given them a helicopter to play with, and how it was really by this toy that Wilbur and Orville were stirred to the early experiments from which the modern aeroplane evolved.

After completing the qualification flights for the government which are to begin at Fort Myer next week, both the Wrights probably in August will sail for Germany to take up their work there.” End

Note: Orville and Katharine went to Germany. Wilbur stayed home to handle their patent lawsuits.

Reference: “Wright Brothers Publicly Honored,” The Republican-News, June 17, 1909.