In 1917, Orville was back in the airplane business after selling the Wright
Company in 1915. This time he didnít own the company named the Dayton Wright
Airplane Company, rather he served as a technical advisor.
Six Dayton businessmen formed the new company. The president of the new
company was Edward Deeds, vice-president and later, president of the NCR
Company. The vice- president of the new company was Charles Kettering, the
noted inventor. Orville was a good friend of both men.
One of the more interesting projects that Kettering and Orville worked on
was the Kettering Bug, an aerial torpedo, pilotless, gyroscopically controlled,
wooden biplane designed to deliver a 180-pound bomb. The bomb constituted the
10 foot long fuselage. A 2-cycle, 4-cylinder 40-horsepower Ford engine powered
the plane. It had no wheels and was launched from a track.
When the engine was fully revved, a mechanical counter was engaged and the
Bug was released. When it reached flying speed, it lifted off and flew straight
ahead toward the target, climbing to a preset altitude.
The altitude was controlled by a sensitive aneroid barometer. When it
reached the set altitude, the Bugís barometer sent signals to small flight
controls that were moved by a system of cranks and a bellows (from a player
piano) for altitude control.
A gyro helped maintain the stability of the Bug and the barometer helped
maintain altitude. The wings were designed on the dihedral (slightly upward
shape) and this shape was the only thing that provided directional stability.
Latter, lateral controls were added that provided lateral control.
The number of engine revolutions was calculated by using target distance and
forecasts of wind speed and distance. When the engine had turned the set number
of times, a cam dropped into position, cutting fuel to the engine. Then the Bug
silently glided to the target like a diving falcon.
Unfortunately, The Bug was rarely as deadly as a falcon.
The first official test of the Bug went held on the first week of October
1918, before a distinguished crowd. At first everything was well, but then the
slowing climbing missile went off course and dove like a "kite without
wind" aimed at the reviewing stands scattering the spectators.
Fortunately, the missle crash-landed a few hundred feet beyond the invited
The next week the pilotless plane went out of control again setting off a
chase by 100 men in automobiles. The Bug initially flew straight and level, but
then began a lazy circle and came down 21 miles from Dayton in a farmerís
When the chase party arrived, puzzled people at the site were searching for
The Bug was demonstrated to the U.S. Army Air Corps in Dayton, Ohio, in
1918. Also, in September 1918 a somewhat larger manned version of the Bug, the
"Messenger," was test flown successfully. However, WW I ended before
they could be put into production.
The Bug received a patent and therefore was subject to public disclosure.
The Germans in WW II obtained the plans and used them to build the "Fi 103
missile," better known as the V-1 "buzz bomb."
One of the strong supporters of the Bug was Col. Hap Arnold, who in 1911 was
taught to fly by Orville Wright at Huffman Prairie in Dayton. Arnold served
tours of duty at what is now Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. In 1917, he
served as Director of Military Aeronautics and in 1929 he was the Commander of
the Fairfield Depot.
Later, during World War II, he became the Air Forceís only five-star
General and Chief of the Army Air Forces.
Arnold saw great potential in the Bug and convinced his superiors to send
him to Europe to convince Gen. John M. Pershing to use the Bug against the
Germans during WW I. The War was about over and the Bug was not used.