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Replica Flyer Foiled By Weather 238

Posted by timothy
from the first-one-took-a-few-tries-too dept.
An anonymous reader submits: "A replica of the Wright Brothers' 1903 flyer failed to fly yesterday afternoon at a demonstration in Chicago. Organizers blamed the measly 5 MPH winds. Kitty Hawk had 25 MPH back on December 17, 1903. IIRC, isn't Chicago the 'Windy City?'" Here's an earlier story about the various groups attempting to re-enact the Wright brothers' pioneer flight.
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Replica Flyer Foiled By Weather

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  • Windy (Score:5, Informative)

    by youaredan (668702) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:21PM (#7019510) Homepage
    Actually... Chicago is called the windy city because of the politians, not the wind. It's a "hot air" sort of wind :) But it is usually 'blustery' as well...
    • Wrong again. The Windy City is called such because of the 1893 World's Fair [virginia.edu]. Chicago had to do quite a bit of bragging to bring the fair to their city.
      • Re:Windy (Score:2, Informative)

        by rednox (243124)

        You could also be wrong.

        According to Barry Popik [islandnet.com], a word-sleuth and consultant to the Oxford English Dictionary, that is a common urban legend. He has found evidence that Chicago was called The Windy City in newspapers, including the Chicago Tribune, in the early 1880's.

    • Re:Windy (Score:5, Informative)

      by mrtrumbe (412155) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:32PM (#7019583) Homepage
      Ahh, but that might not be right either. Here's the full explanation from straightdope.com:

      ANOTHER BITE FROM THE APPLE

      Back to Barry Popik. Having gotten Big Apple squared away, Barry turned his attention to Chicago's nickname, the Windy City. The average mope believes Chicago was so dubbed because it's windy, meteorologically speaking. The more sophisticated set (including, till recently, your columnist) thinks the term originated in a comment by Charles Dana, editor of the New York Sun in the 1890s. Annoyed by the vocal (and ultimately successful) efforts of Chicago civic leaders to land the world's fair celebrating Columbus's discovery of America, Dana urged his readers to ignore "the nonsensical claims of that windy city"--windy meaning excessively talkative.
      But that may not be the true explanation either. Scouring the magazines and newspapers of the day, Popik found that the nickname commonly used for Chicago switched from the Garden City to the Windy City in 1886, several years before Dana's comment. The earliest citation was from the Louisville Courier-Journal in early January, 1886, when it was used in reference to the wind off Lake Michigan. In other words, the average mope was right all along! However, when Popik attempted to notify former Chicagoan but soon-to-be New Yorker Hillary Rodham Clinton of his findings, she blew him off with a form letter--and this from a woman facing a campaign for the Senate. Come on, Hill, quit worrying about the Puerto Ricans and pay attention here. You want to lose the etymologist vote?

      Full article here. [straightdope.com] There's also info on the origins of the "Big Apple." Neat.

      Taft

    • The presentation given at the Sears Tower tour gives that explaination, too. They say its called the windy city because of the windy politicians.

      -Lucas

    • But I didn't see any reference at all to "Windy City" in the link you provided. Although interesting, it only once mentioned "brisk lake wind" and did not attribute that to being the source of the moniker. Got anything else?

  • by enos (627034) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:24PM (#7019531)
    ... but two Wrights make an airplane.
  • Too much wind? (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward
    First line of story says "not enough wind."
  • by civilengineer (669209) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:26PM (#7019546) Homepage Journal
    Anyone saying getting there is half the fun did not fly on modern commercial airlines. -someone's quote I forgot who
    • More quotes:
      I feel about airplaines the way I feel about diets. It seems to me they are wonderful things for other people to go on. Jean Kerr
    • by SheldonYoung (25077) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:58PM (#7019720)
      100 years of aviation and we get air travel very safely at unbelievable speeds, where going through the airport often takes longer than the flight itself. It's become so routine nobody even thinks of how amazing flying is.

      100 years of aviation and we get safe, affordable high performance airplanes that you can buy and build yourself.

      100 years of aviation and we get piston engine airplanes with greater than 1:1 thurst to weight ratio.

      100 years of aviation and we feel confident enough to land airplanes without being able to see the ground.

      100 years of aviation and we find the next 100 years is decided by laywers and the insurance industry.

    • also:

      speaking of airline crashes, it's a good thing we dont train aerospace engineers like we do computer scientists.

      but it's too bad we dont train computer users like airplane pilots.
  • by YouHaveSnail (202852) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:26PM (#7019547)
    Should we continue to give the Wrights credit for the first powered flight when they had to rely on 25mph winds? Seems the 1903 Wright flyer was more like a glider.
    • That first flight might not have lasted very long, but in a couple of years they had versions out that stayed aloft for hours at a time. And the wind is probably only required to get the airplane off the ground, although I'm guessing on that point. Would someone with a better aircraft background then me care to elaborate on this?
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Should we continue to give the Wrights credit for the first powered flight when they had to rely on 25mph winds? Seems the 1903 Wright flyer was more like a glider.

      In case you were confused, they were flying into the wind. The reason planes go so fast is so they can create an artifical nose wind and thus give themselves the needed lift. The Wright Brothers weren't just gliding along - they used the strong head winds just like modern planes do. Aircraft carriers that need to boost nose wind for the F16s do
      • I wasn't confused. But gliders also fly into the wind, using gravity to provide some forward thrust.

        My point was that if the tiny engine can't provide enough thrust to generate the lift needed to lift the plain, then the plane was doing more gliding the flying. It's no coincidence that hang gliding is a hugely popular sport in Kittyhawk.

        I thought that the reason planes go so fast is that we prefer get from NY to LA in 5 hours instead of 50.
      • Except, of course, that F-16s are single engine land-based aircraft.

        The USN flies F-18s and F-14s off carriers.
    • Catapults (Score:4, Insightful)

      by blitz487 (606553) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:46PM (#7019656)
      Should we also then assert that navy jets are not really airplanes because they cannot get off the carrier deck under their own power and without the carrier steaming full blast into the wind?
      • Re:Catapults (Score:3, Informative)

        by YouHaveSnail (202852)
        I don't think that follows. The average F16 doesn't have any trouble at all taking off by itself, even with a tail wind, given a long enough runway.

        It would be absolutely accurate, on the other hand, to assert that navy jets don't 'take off' so much as they're thrown in to the air by a giant slingshot. Once aloft, however, they can stay in the air as long as fuel is available.
        • "The average F16 doesn't have any trouble at all taking off by itself, (...) given a long enough runway."

          A long enough what? In 1903, you were lucky to find a paved road. I'd like to see an F-16 (or an F-18) take off from a beach.
      • Re:Catapults (Score:2, Informative)

        by Via_Patrino (702161)
        Navy jets don't take off just with their power but after take off they keep flying just with their power.

        The Wright brothers couldn't repeat that flight, so that wasn't accepted by the world's scientific society that recognizes Santos Dumont the creator of the airplane. But "if you (holywood) say i lie thousand of times it becames true"
    • by Balinares (316703) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:08PM (#7019766)
      1890 [arts-et-metiers.net].

      For some reason it was decided that only the Wright brothers' attempt really counted and was worth teaching in schools, however. Go us, we invented the plane, etc.

      Not that this one wasn't overly dependant on weather conditions either, of course (the plane exposed in this museum crashed in 1897 after a flight in bad weather conditions).
      • Bottom line is this.
        All modern aviation has evolved from the Wright Brothers Flyer.
        The Wright Brothers evolved there flyer from known glider designs and experimentation they did on lift, drag, weight and thrust. They created a lot of the mathmatical models that are still used in aviation today.

        While the case can be made that a couple of people (an Englishman and an Austrialian I believe) could have achieved controled powered flight before the Wright Brothers, the case CANNOT be made that modern aviation e
        • While the case can be made that a couple of people (an Englishman and an Austrialian I believe) could have achieved controled powered flight before the Wright Brothers, the case CANNOT be made that modern aviation evolved from those people.

          New Zealander actually, Richard Pearse, who's design was far and away superior to the Wright bro's efforts, monoplane, ailerons (no wing warping), all his own design including the engine, and commonly thought to have flown some months earlier than the Wrights.

          Modern

          • Maybe his first flight was superior.
            The literature that I have come across is pretty straight forward in saying that people don't know a whole lot about the guy, his airplane or what he did.
            A tremendous amount of the information about him is heresay and speculation.

            But modern aviation is a direct evolution of the Wright Flyer and not some New Zelanders hobby.
            The Wright Brothers spent several years refinning there design and pushing for a more stable aircraft and better design.
            These other people, it was jus
            • But modern aviation is a direct evolution of the Wright Flyer

              Mostly incorrect. The Wrights were only two of very many people working on flight at the time, non-powered heavier than air gliding was already possible. They came up with a hodge-podge control system, a light enough engine, and a efficient enough propellor.

              They never refined there designs. They never took the aircraft to the next logical step.

              Neither did the Wrights very much, other parties, notably Curtiss under Alexander Graham Bell'

              • construct a powered, heavier than air, flying machine, without knowing how to do so

                You underestimate the Wright brothers. As a matter of fact, they were the first to use a wind tunnel to test various air foils, forming tables of lift vs. drag for each air foil. They were among the first to aproach flying as a scientific endevour rather than a hit-or-miss purely intuitive approach like nearly every other person at the time.

                If they had a better power plant and adjusted the weight distribution of the plane

            • SPELL PROPERLY!

              heresay -> hearsay (remember, "hear" and "say")
              New Zelanders -> New Zealander
              there design -> their design
              refinning -> refining
              basicaly -> basically
              Capitlism -> capitalism

              I mean, your whole argument is laughable anyhow. The US doing in 200 years what Europe failed to do in 2000. Riiight... because in 200 years the US went from the iron age to the industrial age. Wake up.

              Besides, it wasn't the "Superior US Capitalist Society" that put it int he powerful posit

          • According to http://www.nzhistory.net.nz/Gallery/Pearse/Pearse . html, Pearse crashed at the end of his first flight. Quoting the site: "In two letters, published in 1915 and 1928, the inventor writes of February or March 1904 as the time when he set out to solve the problem of aerial navigation. He also states that he did not achieve proper flight and did not beat the American brothers Orville and Wilbur Wright who flew on 17 December 1903. "

            And then there's size. The Pearse machine had (a smidge over)
            • Yes, that is true, however extensive investigations show that Pearse was either mistaken, or more likely he did not consider his first experiments as flying, for him, flying meant being able to take off, fly down to the nearest town, and fly back, anything less wasn't worth considering.

              Eyewitness, and historical weather records indicate that the first (powered controlled) flight by a definition that we would accept today was March 31st 1903.
      • For some reason it was decided that only the Wright brothers' attempt really counted and was worth teaching in schools, however. Go us, we invented the plane, etc.

        I hear BS like this all of the time, but that's simply not the truth. The Wright Brothers' attempt started the true evolution towards current flight capabilities.

        Much in the the same way, Dutchman Laurens Janszoon Coster invented the Printing Press in 1440. However, Gutenberg invented his version with no knowledge of Janszoon's press. Janszoo

        • Much the same way with the Wright Brothers. Something happened after their flight.

          There are *many* stories like this throughout history. Whether or not the Wrights were the first to fly, it was thier flight that galvanized the world and led to sweeping change. Much as Christopher Columbus was almost certainly beaten to the American continent by centuries by other Europeans (notably the Vikings), his is nevertheless the voyage of discovery that is important, because it was the one that resulted in the Ne
    • They get credit for the "first powered flight" probably less for that particular flight in 1903, than for the fact that they -- over the course of many years -- developed a practical airplane.

      The flight on that particular date is celebrated today because people like to latch onto a single event -- the "ah ha" moment -- when in reality it was a steady progression of events that led the Wrights to the airplane. It probably was the most significant event for the Wrights, but if they had stopped there and n
    • Too short, too late (Score:3, Informative)

      by arth1 (260657)
      The Wright brother's catapulted 120 foot flight into the wind in 1903 was indeed not recognized as the first motorised and non-buoyed flight by the Avionics society. Neither was Clement Ader's 165 foot flight in 1890 recognized (i.e. a longer flight than the Wright brothers could claim, 13 years earlier).

      Others had done similar semi-motor-driven "flights" too, but they did not have the advantage of as much press coverage and American chauvinism, which is probably the main reason why Wright's flight is in
    • Should we continue to give the Wrights credit for the first powered flight when they had to rely on 25mph winds? Seems the 1903 Wright flyer was more like a glider.

      No, we should be giving them credit for what they actually achieved.

      Wilbur and Orville Wright wished to be remembered for making the first controlled and sustained powered flight. Their greatest contribution to aviation was the development of three-axis aerodynamic controls -- roll, pitch, and yaw -- and the piloting skills needed to use them

  • Windy City (Score:3, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:27PM (#7019551)
    Chicago doesn't even make this top average wind speed list. Fargo would be a better choice, especially as flat as it is there.

    MT. WASHINGTON, NH 35.3
    ST. PAUL ISLAND, AK 17.4
    COLD BAY,AK 16.9
    JOHNSTON ISLAND, PC 15.8
    BLUE HILL, MA 15.4
    DODGE CITY, KS 14
    WAKE ISLAND, PC 13.8
    AMARILLO, TX 13.5
    KWAJALEIN, MARSHALL IS., PC 13.3
    BARTER IS.,AK 13.2
    ROCHESTER, MN 13.1
    KOTZEBUE, AK 13
    CASPER, WY 12.9
    CHEYENNE, WY 12.9
    BETHEL, AK 12.8
    KAHULUI, HI 12.8
    GREAT FALLS, MT 12.7
    GOODLAND, KS 12.6
    BOSTON, MA 12.5
    LUBBOCK, TX 12.4
    LIHUE, HI 12.3
    WICHITA, KS 12.3
    FARGO, ND 12.3
    OKLAHOMA CITY, OK 12.3
    CONCORDIA, KS 12.2
    NEW YORK (LAGUARDIA AP), NY 12.2
    BRIDGEPORT, CT 12
    CORPUS CHRISTI, TX 12
    • Wind speed at street level in downtown Chicago has been recorded above 100mph. The air accelerates while moving between the large structures. Spend some time there and you will gain a deep appreciation for the difference between average wind speed over an empty field and a strong gust channeled by half a mile of steel and glass.
    • The origin of the term dates back to before the worlds fair (1903?) and to the political bickering and promises made. It was the worlds way of saying the politicians were full of hot air.
  • website (Score:3, Informative)

    by ih8apple (607271) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:29PM (#7019561)
    The website of the Wright Redux Association [wrightredux.org], the group mentioned in the article.
  • Why? (Score:5, Funny)

    by chrispl (189217) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:32PM (#7019582) Homepage
    Why would someone try this? The technology is ancient and there are much better...

    Oh wait, wasn't there a story on here a few days ago about how to hook a C64 to your cable modem?

    Never mind then.
  • We have the technology to routinely launch stuff into space. Thousands of commerical flights take place daily...

    Yet they can't replicate something that was done 100 years ago.
    • by FreeLinux (555387)
      Lets be clear about this. Who is they? When you talk about space flight and commercial flight you are talking about Lockheed, Boeing, GE and so forth. When you talk about replicating the Wright Brothers flight, you are talking about some acedemic half-wits whose biggest accomplishment is that they were able to dupe someone into giving them a grant for this waste of time and money.
    • Re:Kind of Sad (Score:3, Insightful)

      by catbutt (469582)
      Well, if what you mean by "replicate something done 100 years ago" is "create a heavier than air flying machine", well duh, it's easy.

      But if you have to use the same technology they used 100 years ago, I don't see how 100 years of technological advancement really makes it a whole lot easier than it was in the first place. Sure, you could computer model it and all that, but if you end up with a different design than they had, you haven't solved the problem.
    • "They" can replicate it and have. "They" still can't control the weather. You are confused. "They" need a stiff breeze to create enough lift to fly. No wind no fly.
  • Windy City (Score:1, Redundant)

    by javaaddikt (385701)
    Chicago was named the "Windy City" after the "winds" coming from the mouths of gas bag politicians at city hall, not for meteorological winds.
  • by Rojo^ (78973) * on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:51PM (#7019678) Homepage Journal
    The Wright brothers didn't get the plane into the air on their first attempt either. A google search revealed a website [time.com] containing the following information:

    On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville Wright climbed into a 600 pound flying machine and made his historic flight in Kitty Hawk, N.C. Three days before, with Wilbur as pilot, the Wrights had tried but failed to get off the ground. The 17th turned out to be the fateful day for the Akron, Ohio-born brothers who had tinkered for months before finally unlocking the key to powered flight. They made four flights that day -- Orville's first lasted 12 seconds and spanned 120 feet; Wilbur's best was a 59 seconds, 852 foot leap. It wasn't long before the brothers had formed the Wright Company, which bought and sold airplanes.
  • by DeadBugs (546475)
    "at a demonstration in Chicago. Organizers blamed the measly 5 MPH winds. Kitty Hawk had 25 MPH back on December 17, 1903. IIRC, isn't Chicago the 'Windy City?'"

    Yeah Chicago Blows.
  • Give'm a break (Score:4, Informative)

    by codefungus (463647) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:52PM (#7019689) Homepage Journal
    I JUST watched a documentary on this last night. It was really interesting. The wright brothers created the first powered airplane on their own while the goverment wasted thousands funding someone else. It was a fascinating story about these two inseperable brothers who ran a bicycle shop and decided to build their own plane. They were very methodical and:
    1) Came up with the idea of what we call "Lift"
    2) Created the first propeller as we use it today
    3) Invented the wind tunnel for testing

    All on their own! They also developed the way modern planes "stear"...as in angle and yaw are connected (i believe that's what they are).

    The worked very very hard on this plane and left tons of notes...however...we do not have that plane. That's why the "Wright Experience" set out to build a replica based on the brothers notes...to the T! They knew they could make improvements, fixes...but then they wouldn't be building a replica.

    Gives these guys a break...it took years to put this thing together as accuratly as possible...from the fabric to even the damn engine !

    Thanks for playing
    • Re:Give'm a break (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Animats (122034)
      The Wright Brothers' big contribution was stability and control. Everybody else had been focusing on lift and power, with the result that there were quite a few machines before (and after) the Wright Brothers that could get off the ground, but were incapable of stable flight.

      There's a great movie "Gizmos", which has dozens of film sequences of early flight failures. But the best is at the end, when, in a grainy black and white clip, someone with a wing strapped to their back runs down a hill and leaps

      • There's a great movie "Gizmos", which has dozens of film sequences of early flight failures. But the best is at the end, when, in a grainy black and white clip, someone with a wing strapped to their back runs down a hill and leaps over a cliff - and flies perfectly. The scene changes to high-resolution color and you see the hang glider flying around for quite a while, and finally touching down softly.

        Thanks for ruining the movie. [Throws movie into the wasebasket and walks away]
    • by blitz487 (606553)
      To find out more about what the Wrights accomplished with the original Wright Flyer, see "The Wright Brothers as Engineers, An Appraisal" by Quentin Wald. He credits their achievements as:

      1. Identification of control as the primary unsolved problem.
      2. Realization that an airplane must bank in order to turn, and invention of the first method of doing that.
      3. Recognition of the problem of "adverse yaw" and the first control system to deal with that.
      4. The first practical wind tunnel experimental program

  • Was this the same guy that was on the discovery channel a few days ago? (or was it TLC?)... ok quick search on TVGuide says it was TLC.. And it's called "Wright Stuff" and its on TODAY (Sept 21) at 6PM eastern

    It was a disappointment though because at the end they said "To find out if it flies, watch TLC in December" grr
    • by codegen (103601)
      Given the fact that the aircraft is not completely finished and they plan to do the flight on th 100th anniversary, it's not entirely a surprise!!
  • by bongobongo (608275) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @03:56PM (#7019707)
    A recreation of Columbus' first voyage was scheduled to begin today in Spain, but was called off due to the presence of what the organizers of the event described as "a wave in the ocean."
  • Isn't more strong winds found in east coast duirng a class 2 tropical depression?

  • by Knightmare (12112) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:05PM (#7019747) Homepage
    Dear anonymous poster, if you had read the article you would realize they blame the wind NOT being strong ENOUGH... Yes Kitty Hawk had 25 MPH winds thats probably why it did fly.

    *sigh*
  • Other conditions (Score:3, Insightful)

    by merlin_jim (302773) <James.McCracken@ ... lt.com minus bsd> on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:06PM (#7019753)
    The other condition that most people fail to mention is that the flight occurred off a cliff. The first powered flight, while indeed powered, was more of a glide than a flight. IIRC, they stayed in the air for all of 30 seconds...

    Of course data isn't available, but I'd be willing to bet that the only way it stayed in the air was that it was trading forward velocity for lift the whole trip...

    Now Brazil had a powered flight the very next year, and based on these facts, are trying to gain recognition for the first "true" flight.

    That argument won't "fly" however (excuse the pun), because the Wright brothers were able to improve their design and have a true powered flight within a few months, provably before the first Brazillian powered flight...
    • by blitz487 (606553)
      Since the flyer obviously flew forwards relative to the ground from the photo of it in flight, not backwards, it clearly isn't losing that 25mph speed. It isn't flying off of a cliff, either.

      What other claimants to first flight have failed in is in providing convincing documentation of their achievements or any contributions at all to aeronautics. They made no further progress, and nothing ever came of or was based on their designs. The Wrights had enough brains to convincingly document every step of the w

    • Re:Other conditions (Score:3, Informative)

      by Quarters (18322)
      A cliff? At sea level? Wow, you must be a geographic genius! The Wrights used Kill Devil Hill as the launching hill for their 3 years of glider tests (1899-1902). The 1903 flyer was launched from level ground, along a track. It was not launched from Kill Devil Hill. The first flight lasted ~12 seconds. The forth (and last) flight that day was almost 4x longer. The 1903 flyer was not trading forward velocity for left. It pushed itself along the track and lifted off when the wings were generating enough li
  • by Speare (84249) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:10PM (#7019770) Homepage Journal
    I work at a major aerospace firm, and they're going crazy with enthusiasm about 100 years of flight, of course. One of their brochures highlights a small modern jet banking sharply, composited over an old sepia-toned photograph of an enthusiastic 1900s crowd of spectators.

    The first thing that came to mind was the cynical tagline, "100 Years of Air Show Disasters." Unfortunately, given some other crazed wackos before and after the Kitty Hawk, I'm sure that we're already past that milestone. Last week's Air Force Thunderbirds disaster was a sombre reminder of how hard it is to stay in the air even under ideal conditions.

    • Last week's Air Force Thunderbirds disaster was a sombre reminder of how hard it is to stay in the air even under ideal conditions.

      It's not that it's so hard to stay in the air these days, but with everything, there are limits to what you can do. It is the nature of stunt teams like the Thunderbirds to push those limits as close to the danger threshold as they can (or are willing).

      If you are not trying to push limits, I would not say it is hard to stay in the air.
      • I know that a plane "wants to fly." I have no fear of strapping a lawnmower engine to a Cessna milk crate and puttering around the skies. I understand that the Thunderbirds are pulling some heavy G forces.

        I also know the Thunderbirds work hard to stay well within the operational envelope for safety: they don't want their pilots to die, and they don't want their recruitable and financier spectators to die.

        However, I've also seen what a couple of birds sucked into a jet intake will do to the blades of

  • Kitty should have met Isabel. But, perhaps not, after all. :)
  • We finally see what a shameful wishful thought heavier than air flight is. maybe now we'll stop pouring so much money into this dream of a madman.
  • Man's First Powered Flight Richard Pearse, Waitohi, New Zealand, March 31, 1902.
    HERE [monash.edu.au]
  • I think that Kitty Hawk, North Carolina would have been a much better choice, especially around Thursday morning of this past week. With Isabel and the associated winds, I think that they could have even gotten a mobile home to fly.
  • by Whammy666 (589169) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:20PM (#7019838) Homepage
    It's been suggested in several posts that the Wright's requirement of a 25mph headwind was cheating because this somehow reduced their plane to a noisy glider. This really isn't the case. The reason has to do with drag. Even with a modern paved runway and tires, there is still a noticable amount of rolling drag during a take-off roll. It's not uncommon for a pilot (especially in small planes with limited horsepower) to lift the plane of the runaway a few feet to eliminate the rolling drag and then let the plane gain additional speed from the reduced drag before climbing out. Using a headwind just makes this process easier. Considering that the Wright Bros were using a crude track, wheels, and skids it's amazing they were able to get off the ground at all.

    But their biggest contribution was that the Wrights recognized that existing aerodynamic theory was wrong. Using their wind tunnel and full size models, they literally re-wrote the book on aerodynamic theory of the time. Unlike other attempts at flight of the time, the Wright flyer was a product of sound scientific research rather than throw-it-together-and-hope-it-flies which was so common a the time. For that, they deserve to be recognized as the fathers of flight.
    • by KFury (19522) * on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:47PM (#7019967) Homepage
      Interestingly, several modern aircraft don't even rely on the airfoil principles pioneered by the Wright Brothers.

      The F-4 Phantom's wings don't even have an airfoil shape. To compensate, they have huge engines mounted with a different angle of attack than the wings, so the wings act as lifting bodies because they're tilted up, as opposed to any help from Bernoulli.

      Like several other modern fighters, F-4 proves that you can put enough power behind a brick and it will fly.

      So the Wright Brothers needed 25mph headwinds. Is that any less an airplane than an F-4?
  • Personally, I like this project done by Utah State University. It uses the Wright Brothers design, but it's all composite and uses a Harley Davidson engine.

    http://www.spacedaily.com/news/plane-100-03a.htm l

  • by ryochiji (453715) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @04:57PM (#7020022) Homepage
    I was there yesterday morning (I live right across the street from the Museum of Science and Industry), and remember a few pieces of information that might provide some insight...

    The plane they made was an exact replica of the 1903 Wright Flier, and slightly different to the more famous 1904 version. The replica, including the "pilot" weighs around 830lb, but the 4 cynlinder 12-hp engine which maxes at 1200 rpm only has something like 160lb of thrust.

    I only stayed to watch the first failed attempt (they said they would have multiple attempts), but it was an exhilirating sight nonetheless. As it accelerated down the tracks, you could almost see it become light on the skids. Just the uncertainty made it more exciting than watching a modern plane take off (which, I think, is pretty exciting enough).
    • My concern is if they do get that thing off the ground -- are they going to be able to control it?

      Having trained on a Piper Warrior, taking a glider lesson was a scary experience -- I never did get the hang of rudder/aileron coordination, something you don't need to worry about in the Warrior on account of asymmetrical aileron deflection. Probably the worst preparation for operating the Flyer is experience in light planes because I imagine the Flyer control feel is unlike any other aircraft anyone has tr

  • by marko123 (131635) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @06:56PM (#7020677) Homepage
    Because, like cold fusion, the Wrights fluked "something" and drew some insane conclusions, such as "heavier than air craft can fly under the own propulsion".

    Unlike cold fusion, the scientific world believed them, and thus we are where we are now with aircraft.

    I believe the cynicism of today's scientific community is preventing our society of the future from enjoying the benefits of cold fusion and the shaking away of the shackles of the second law of thermodynamics.

  • Not Kitty Hawk (Score:3, Informative)

    by Drathos (1092) on Sunday September 21, 2003 @07:41PM (#7020971)
    It still amazes me how many people get the location wrong.

    The Wright brothers did not make their "historic" (and somewhat debated) flight at Kitty Hawk, NC, they made it at Kill Devil Hills, a few miles to the south. This misconception was started because they sent the telegram to their mother from Kitty Hawk, which was the nearest town with a telegram station.

    The only museum I've ever seen this info correct is the Wright Brothers National Memorial which is located where the flight occurred. Even the National Air & Space Museum has it wrong.
  • by trolman (648780) *
    So now illinois trying to claim first in flight status. Well North by God Carolina was first in flight and if you had been here last week for the hurricane you could have flown for miles as a bonus on your vacation package. Youall come back now!

Maybe Computer Science should be in the College of Theology. -- R. S. Barton

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