Flying the Wright Flyer

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Wright Activities Before and After 1903

What would it be like to fly the Wright Airplane? The Wright brothers tell us in the August 29, 1909 issue of Scientific American.

“In order to show the general reader the way in which the machine operates, let us fancy ourselves ready for the start. (Katharine and Wilbur fly together in the picture)

The machine is placed upon a single rail track facing the wind, and is securely fastened with a cable. The engine is put in motion, and the propellers in the rear whirr.

You take your seat at the center of the machine beside he operator. He slips the cable, and you shoot forward.

An assistant, who has been holding the machine in balance on the rail, starts forward with you. But before you have gone fifty feet the speed is too great for him, and he lets go.

Before reaching the end of the track the operator moves the front rudder, and the machine lifts the rail like a kite supported by the pressure of the air underneath it. The ground under you is at first a perfect blur, but as you rise the objects become clearer.

At height of one hundred feet you feel hardly any motion at all, except for the wind which strikes your face. If you did take the precaution to fasten your hat before starting, you have probably lost it by this time.

The operator moves a lever; the right wing rises, and the machine swings about to the left. You make a very short turn, yet you do not feel the sensation of being thrown from your seat, so often experienced in automobile and railway travel. You find yourself facing toward the point from which you started.

The objects on the ground now seem to be moving at much higher speed, though you perceive no change in pressure on your face. You know then that you are traveling with the wind.

When you near the starting point, the operator stops the motor while still high in the air. The machine coasts down at an oblique angle to the ground, and after sliding fifty or a hundred feet comes to rest.

Although the machine lands when traveling at a speed of a mile a minute, you feel no shock whatever, and cannot, in fact, tell the exact moment at which it first touched the ground.

The motor close beside you kept up an almost deafening roar during the whole flight, yet in your excitement you did not notice it till it stopped.”

Anybody want a ride?

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