In many ways, Wilbur and Orville Wright brought about the modern transportation age that we have today. These two brothers had a dream of being able to get humanity off of the ground safely and so they worked together to build a mechanical device that would allow this to happen. Most people know that the Wright Brothers are credited with the invention of the first successful airplane and the first successful flight of a craft that was heavier than air.
There are a few other inventions that the Wright Brothers are credited with as well, some of which you may not be as familiar with as the airplane. Let’s take a look.
What makes the Wright Brothers’ aircraft different than the other experimental planes that were being flown at the time was their system of controlling the flight of the aircraft. Instead of the traditional “left” or “right” like most control systems, Wilbur and Orville developed a system that would also allow the aircraft to steer up or down. This was an important step in the aircraft development process because it allowed pilots the chance to maintain equilibrium with the craft and is still used today.
The Fixed Wing
At the time Wilbur and Orville were working on their aircraft, almost all of the other competitors in this field were working on concepts that mimicked bird flight. The understanding of air travel at the time was that a substance needed to be filled with something that was lighter than air, like you’d find in a hot air balloon. The Wrights saw that these motion wing efforts or the idea to fill a wing with lighter materials just weren’t working, so they developed a fixed wing approach that is the foundation of all aircraft still today.
Even though an airplane has a fixed wing, it still needs to have some form of lateral control. In 1906, the Wright Brothers were awarded a patent for a process that allowed for this control, which we would call an “aileron” today. The modern concept of the aileron is virtually the same as the one promoted by the Wright Brothers, which puts a smaller “wing” on the fixed wing to help it with changes in movement and rolling.
In the years before World War I, the US Army began purchasing aircraft from the Wright Brothers to give the military a potential advantage. In those initial years, they purchased 6 aircraft that were dubbed the “Model C.” All six of these aircraft crashed and nearly a dozen pilots were killed in training accidents. Orville insisted that these accidents were caused by pilot error, so he developed a flight indication system that would tell pilots when they were climbing too steeply for the engine of the airplane to handle.
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