Orville Continues to Set Records at Ft. Myer (1908)

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in The Military Airplane

The September 11, 1908 edition of the newspapers carried a story about Orville’s flights at Ft. Myer outside Washington D.C.

The article contains several interesting items in addition to Orville’s record-breaking flights. It notes a race with a pigeon. Wind forces its way under Orville’s goggles and inflames his ideas. Orville receives a cable from Wilbur that is written in code. Orville is quoted predicting aeroplanes will carry up to seven passengers and perform loops the loops. Augustus Herring requests an extension of time to submit his aeroplane, and Orville declines to fly at amusement parks.

Concerning Herring, to everyone’s surprise, Herring was the low bidder for providing a Heavier-Than-Air Machine for the Army Signal Corps. He bid $20,000. That was $5,000 under the Wright brothers’ quote. The Army solved a possible dilemma by accepting both proposals.

Orville and Wilbur knew Herring very well. He had attended the Wrights’ glider experiments at Kitty Hawk in 1902.

Herring said he would provide an airplane and fly it to Washington. After the Army had given him numerous extensions of time, Herring stopped the charade by formally requesting his contact be voided for reasons of non-delivery.

Here is the article: “Under adverse conditions Orville Wright, the aviator, yesterday placed the world’s record for continuous flight in heavier-than air machines a notch higher by remaining in the air for one hour, five minutes and fifty-two seconds.

Comment: He also flew two figure eigths.

He has performed the unequaled feat of breaking the world’s record three times in two days. The general opinion in Washington is that the present record will remain untouched until one of the Wright brothers makes up his mind to surpass it. It is believed that no aviator except the Wrights will be able to equal it for some time.

Comment: The next day (12th) Orville broke his own record, circling 71 times and set a duration record for the longest flight of 1908.

A light wind was blowing when the aeroplane was launched from the track on the Fort Myer grounds, but it did not interfere with the ascent of the machine. At 5:08 o’clock the launching weights were loosened and the aeroplane slid down the track. In spite of the wind, Mr. Wright made wider circles than he has before attempted since he began his experiments here.

Frequently he ventured off the parade ground toward an open field adjoining the Arlington National Cemetery. Each time, however, he made a broad turn to come back up to the parade ground before starting on his next circuit.

Mr. Wright also sought higher altitudes yesterday than he did in the earlier flights. Once or twice the aeroplane reached a height of about 160 feet. He made no attempt to remain so high in the air for any length of time, but usually dropped back to his normal height of about fifty feet.

During one of the circuits of the parade ground a pigeon tried to keep pace with the aeroplane, but it was soon distanced.

The engine did not work as well yesterday as it did in the two record-breaking flights Wednesday. It missed about four explosions every minute. This small percentage, however, did not affect the length of the flight. When the machine landed near the starting point the bearings of the engine showed no signs of overheating, and there was still sufficient fuel in the gasoline tank to have enabled Mr. Wright to continue his flight some time longer.

One reason he descended was that the wind had forced its way under his goggles and inflamed his eyes. The wind gradually increased and at the conclusion of the flight it was blowing at the rate of about twelve miles an hour. The sky was cloudy and the air a bit cool.

The aeroplane made a total of fifty-eight circuits over the parade grounds. They were much larger in diameter, however, than those of Wednesday. It is estimated that the aeroplane covered about forty-five miles yesterday at an average speed of approximately thirty-eight miles an hour.

Messages and telegrams of congratulation on his record smashing achievements poured in upon Mr. Wright yesterday. Just as he climbed out of the machine yesterday afternoon, a package of telegrams was handed to him by Charles Taylor, his mechanic.

One was from the Aero Club of America. Another was from the Aeronautic Society of America.

Mr. Wright said he had received a cablegram from his brother, Wilbur Wright, who is in France, but he said it was written in code and in French and he had not been able to decipher all of it. All he could understand, he said, were the two French words “tres bien.”

The official trials will probably not be held until next week. Mr. Wright wants to fly more trials with an additional passenger before submitting his aeroplane to the official trials. He will probably devote today and tomorrow to this practice.

Mr. Wright expected to make only a ten-minute flight this afternoon. The anemometer attached to the machine is graduated in the metric system and can only register a maximum distance of ten kilometres.

“Aeroplanes to carry six or seven passengers can now be built,” said Mr. Wright, in speaking of the observations which he has made during his flight and experiment, “and it will not be long before some aviator will be able to loop the loop in the air. In fact, some may do it without intending to. Our machine is perfectly safe, the only danger being in the way we handle it.”

The chief signal officer of the Army received a telegram today from A. M. Herring, who is under contract to deliver an aeroplane at Fort Myer, for which he will receive $20,000, if the same conditions which Orville Wright will have to fulfill are satisfactorily accomplished. Mr. Herring asked for an extension of thirty days in which to do a little shop work on his machine.

It is very likely that the Secretary of War will grant Mr. Herring ‘s request, as it would be impracticable to conduct the tests of both the Wright brothers and the Herring aeroplanes at the same time.

Since making his record-breaking flights at Fort Myer, Orville Wright has declined numerous offers from amusement managers for public flights. “I’m not in that sort of business,” said Mr. Wright.”

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