In 1903, after exhaustive experiments in gliding, Wilbur and Orville Wright finally flew a motor-driven airplane. Over the next five years they built other airplanes, which differed little from the one that first took wing at Kitty Hawk. Their first public flights, in September, 1908 (Orville Wright at Fort Meyer, and Wilbur Wright at Le Mans, France) astonished the world.

[ad#ad-1]The machine they flew, the Wright Model A, was a biplane driven by a small four-cylinder water-cooled engine and two large propellers. These were both actuated by chains gearing on the engine-shaft, one chain being crossed so as to make its propeller revolve in the direction opposite to the other, thus giving proper balance to the driving force. Alongside the engine and slightly in front of it was the pilot’s seat, and there was also a seat for a passenger in between, exactly in the center, so that the added weight would not alter the balance. Called the “tail-first” type, or “Canard” or “duck,” owing to its long projection forward which resembled the neck of that bird. This design did not steer easily and was later abandoned.

The 1908 Wright machine had vertical rudders aft, and relied on the two big elevator planes forward for its up and down steering. Its lateral, or rolling, movements were controlled by warping or twisting the wings so that while the angle of the wings on one side was increased and gave more lift, the angle on the other side decreased and gave less lift, thus enabling the pilot to right the machine. The elevators were controlled by means of a lever on the left-hand side of the pilot, the warp by a lever on his right, while by waggling the jointed top of the right-hand lever he also controlled the rudder. This complicated system of control was very difficult to master. In 1910 the Wrights attached a horizontal tail at right angles to their rudder, and in 1911 they dropped the front elevators entirely.

Unlike all later airplanes, the Wright 1908 was launched from a carriage which ran on a rail until the planes were lifted into the air, leaving the carriage on the ground. This same idea was used for launching planes from battleships.

By late 1910, the Wright machine held no great record except altitude, but the flights of Wilbur Wright at New York in October, 1909, and those of Orville Wright at Fort Meyer in July, 1909, wee among the most difficult negotiated in that era. Among contemporary biplanes the Wright was almost twice as efficient in power consumption as any other type. Many machines of the Wright type were flown in France. Germany, Austria, Italy, and England, notably by Count Lambert and M. Tissandier in France, Capt. Englehardt in Germany, and Lieut. Calderera in Italy. In this country the Wright machine was widely used, by Messrs. Coffyn, La Chapelle, Hoxsey, Brookins, and Johnstone, as well as the Wrights themselves. An altitude record was held by the Wright machine, the late Arch Hoxsey having mounted to the height of 11,400 feet. The old 1909 Wright, although at present almost entirely discarded, was a type that should not be forgotten.

Specifications from “Monoplanes and Biplanes,â€