Trip through Time / Where Controlled Flight Was Conceived: The Wright Brothers (Wilbur: 1867-1912, Orville: 1871-1948) in Dayton

Article excerpt

DAYTON, Ohio--The Wright brothers succeeded in making a manned, powered flight in North Carolina in 1903, but it was in their hometown of Dayton, where Wilbur and Orville honed their plane-making skills.

The Carrilon Historical Park in the city displays the original Wright Flyer III, which the brothers crafted two years after the 1903 flight. John Lemming, an interpreter at the park, said the brothers' biggest achievement was making an airplane that could be freely maneuvered.

In October 1905, Wilbur, the older brother, took off in the Wright Flyer III from Huffman Prairie outside Dayton and flew for 40 minutes above the pasture, making 29 laps for a total of about 39 kilometers.

It was an age when pilot hopefuls worldwide were in fierce competition, with others claiming to have taken the first manned, powered flight.

However, the flight of the Wright Flyer III was a watershed event because it was the first airplane capable of flexible up-down, left-right, and rotating movements. These became the principles of modern aviation and solidified the Wright brothers' fame.

How did the self-taught managers of a bicycle shop attain such an honored place in aviation history?

"Both of them were total experimentalists," said Niigata University Prof. Sachiko Tosa, author of "Wright Kyodai wa Naze Tobeta no ka" (Why were the Wright brothers able to fly?) published by Saela Shobo. "They also shared the dream of flying, and worked together to solve problems."

When the brothers were young, they were entranced with a helicopter-like toy powered by a rubber band, but got swept up in the bicycle boom and eventually opened their own shop.

Upon the death of their hero, German aviation pioneer Otto Lilienthal in a glider accident in 1896, they decided to carry on the legacy of the German aviation pioneer and began building airplanes.

They studied books on aviation theory and built a device that could calculate wind direction during flight. They also thoroughly investigated the relationship between wing shape and air flow.

The brothers performed repeated experiments on how propulsive force changed with different propeller shapes. Their notes on propellers alone filled five notebooks.

The brothers rented Huffman Prairie and performed more than 150 test flights in 18 months there. …