Skip to comments.First in Flight?
Posted on 10/15/2012 9:41:50 AM PDT by ThinkingBuddha
Were the Wright brothers really the first human beings to fly?
The short answer, of course, is no. That honor goes to Jean-François Pilâtre de Rozier and (perhaps) the Marquis d'Arlandes, who were lifted by hot-air balloon in 1783. Is the real question, then, whether the Wrights were the first to fly a heavier-than-air craft? Not exactly. Before the Wrights took off in the Flyer, they had gained experience with unpowered gliders, following the example of other pioneering aviators. That is, piloted, heavier-than-air craft were around before the Wrights, some very much resembling the hang gliders now used for recreation. So the question is whether the Wrights were the first to fly a powered, heavier-than-air vehicleor is it?
A quick investigation into the history of flight reveals numerous reports of piloted, powered flight in heavier-than-air vehicles before the Wright brothers' success. A German immigrant to the United States named Gustave Whitehead (Weisskopf), for example, is said by some to have flown in a home-built, propeller-powered contraption years before the Wrights did. Whitehead's claims are dubious for various reasons, and most aviation historians simply discount them and others of similar ilk. But some of the pre-Wright activity is hard to dismiss as pure invention.
Take the aerial experiments of Augustus Moore Herring. After working under another pioneering aviator, Octave Chanute, with whom he had carried out a number of successful gliding experiments, Herring found independent backing and constructed a biplane hang glider of sorts in 1898, which included a small compressed-air engine. Herring first flew this powered, heavier-than-air craft 50 feet on October 10, 1898, over the lakeside dunes of St. Joseph, Michigan. On October 22, he managed a 73-foot flight, which a newspaper reporter witnessed and described..........
(Excerpt) Read more at americanscientist.org ...
And yet those others weren’t able to accomplish anything with their machines.
It reminds me of people who say "the Vikings really discovered America centuries before Columbus"; however, the Vikings apparently didn't tell anybody.
I hadn’t heard of the steam-powered plane before! Interesting!
The Wrights’ famous first flight was the last flight of the day at Kittyhawk. All the others that day had failed. On the last flight, the Wright Flyer became airborne under its own power and flew 120 feet. Higher and longer flights were made on the following days.
The Wright's achievement was not seen as important at the time by the media of the day, but the Wright's being home for Christmas was.
Similar inventions tend to come at the same time all over the place. It really comes down to a matter of luck and access to resources and funds.
Article to diminish their achievement, First sustained powered flight.
But - hey - I'm no expert.
...except be first to fly a powered heavier-than-air craft, which one of them was.
And truly, the Wright Flyer didn't accomplish much either, except to fly further and more reliably than any HTA craft had done before. I don't minimize this, it was a great accomplishment. The Wrights' accomplishment, really, was to demonstrate sufficient engineering and design skills to reliably repeat the experiment. All the developments in aircraft technology immediately following the flight at Kitty Hawk were based on their design, including the brothers' own work with Glenn Curtiss.
dunno. i kinda favor Gus whitehead myself, fellow nutmegger and all.;-)
I don't doubt they were there. But it was not a discovery. More like a secret. Columbus and the explorers who followed him were the real discoverers.
Lots of people flew before. The landing is the tricky part.
As with Columbus, The Wrights may well not have been the “first” but they were the first entrepreneurs to do it, the first significant doers of the deed, the first to make it commercially useful.
I have NEVER considered the simple act of buoyancy to be “flight”.
The Vikings attempted settling in Newfoundland but failed. However the first southern Europeans didn’t do so hot either. What the southern Europeans did do was keep trying.
Obama invented the airplane with a windmill on top of it. Didn’t work though.
There was literally no room in N.America for the Vikings settle. By the time other Europans started colonizing in the 17th century 80% of the human population had died off due to old world diseases. Plenty of room then.
From a History of Santa Cruz:
“1904 Montgomery hired and trained aeronaut, Daniel John Maloney to handle the two full scale glider aeroplanes completed in the autumn of 1903.
1905 Montgomery directed Maloney in a balloon lift of the glider to heights of 800 to 3000 feet. The balloon was rented by Fred Swanton (the builder of the Santa Cruz Casino, later the Boardwalk). Maloney cut loose and maneuvered over an area of two miles in the air, banking, rising, turning at ease and landing safely on successful flights of March 16th, 17th, and 20th, at Leonard’s ranch, Aptos, California, (now Seascape). These were the first high altitude Aircraft flights in history.”
“On the last flight, the Wright Flyer became airborne under its own power and flew 120 feet. Higher and longer flights were made on the following days.”
Actually, the first flight day consisted of 4 flights. Each higher and longer than the previous. Some damage was incurred on some of the flights, but was repaired on the spot. The first flight could have occurred completely within the cargo hold of a C-5. None of the flights got much higher than 10-15’, The last flight that day lasted some 50 seconds and 600’. The plane was damaged by the winds shortly after that flight and never flew again. The 1903 flyer was way underpowered and really couldn’t take off on it’s own. The Brothers had waited for a perfect launch day, sustained winds over 20mph. They laid out the 2x4’s into the wind to launch. When they later built the Flyer II and tested it in Ohio they needed a catapult system to get it airborne. Amazing men really.
You’re series! That’s Hugh!
Other “planes” flew, but the pilots pretty much just hung on for the ride. Sometimes it was their last.
For anyone interested in this subject I highly recommend “Wilbur and Orville: A Biography of the Wright Brothers” by Fred Howard. The first third of the book takes you up to the first flight; the rest of the book is what happened after...the non-believers, secret flights back in Ohio, seeking to sale their invention to Germany and other countries because the U.S Army didn’t believe they were legit. To me, the second two-thirds was more interesting than the first.
Of course, it was the consistent wind on the Outer Banks that brought them to Kitty Hawk...to augment lift.
See my earlier post. I think you’d like that book if you haven’t already read it.
Really? How can people ‘discover’ a land that thousands of other people were living on? The whole thing is a bit silly.
Yes, that’s a great book. I’ve also visited Kitty Hawk many times and was in the Air and Space museum just last week. I often wish the Wrights had kept on inventing and innovating in aviation. After getting as far as they did they seemed to spend the latter parts of their lives fighting in court over patent infringements and royalties. A shame really.
“consistent wind on the Outer Banks”
And perhaps more importantly were the dunes themselves. Huge consistent sand dunes to launch the gliders from. Not to mention crash on... The Wrights actually flew the 1903 flyer the day before first flight day to get some air time. They launched it from the dune just like they had so many times with their gliders. They stalled it and crashed it that day too. Repaired it and flew it 4 times the next day. Each of the brothers had hundreds of glider flights/hops in prior to the first powered flight. Very very cool to stand on those dunes and in that field and try to put your mind where they were.
I’m sorry to offend you. I do have a hard time believing that there was no room left here before the white man showed up.
They did, somewhat. But their patents were on things that became irrelevant as the technology took off (all pun intended). That and the fact that they held on to the front elevator positioning long after it was apparent that rear mounted was much better.
Still, none of that detracts from their brilliant invention and innovations. (I know you know that, just thinking aloud.) I’ve been to the memorial a good number of times. The park service puts on a good presentation about their efforts.
When the Vikings visited, all the territory was taken and defended by intact societies. When 80% of your population dies of practically over night you are in a pretty vulunerable position.
The Pilgrims built their settlement on the site of a village that completely died off only a few years before they arrived.
And invent the ailerons or wing warping as they called it. Not to mention the use of a wind tunnel and the reinvention of the tables used to design wings, the lift tables they were using before they used a wind tunnel were wrong. They improved them and their initial work was used in air craft design by others and still is.
The Wright brothers pioneered practical aviation, without their pioneering inventions we would not be where we are today in Aviation.
“Article to diminish their achievement, First sustained powered flight.”
There seem to be a lot of efforts to diminish American technical achievements and exceptionalism. I think some people and countries have, ahem, “size” envy!
Another example of this phenomenon is the attack on Edison’s invention of the practical light bulb. Most “inventions” are further refinements of someone else’s pioneering idea. It is a long way from concept to concrete reality. (”Genius is 1% inspiration and 99% perspiration”) True, Edison did not invent the original concept, others had been trying to invent a usable bulb for decades. However, it was Edison that perfected and mass-produced the light bulb by using carbon filaments in a nearly perfect vacuum obtained by driving off occluded gases. He achieved what no one else had. Plus, he designed and built the generating stations and infrastructure to power the bulbs.
The Wrights took flying from a crackpot idea to something practical enough for the US military to buy. They did not invent the concept of motorized flight, but they perfected it sufficiently to become reality.