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the Wright brothers may have been the first to make a sustained,
controlled flight, they were just two among hundreds of brave men
and women who helped to give the world its wings during the earliest
days of aviation. Their Flyer was but one of many historically
important aircraft. Below are brief descriptions and photos of some of the most important
people and planes, and where available resources and links where you can find more
information. In some cases, contributors have supplied expanded
histories and biographies. Those are listed at the right and linked below.
Browning was a renowned optician and instrument maker in London,
England. Together with
Francis Herbert Wenham he built the first wind
tunnel in 1871. It was a simple affair, just a 10-foot (3 meters) long
duct, 18 inches (46 cm) to a side. A steam engine at one end drove a
fan, creating a airstream of about 40 mph (64 kph). They used it to prove that cambered
wings produce more lift than other shapes. They were also the first
investigators to study the aspect ratio (wingspan to chord) of
An advertisement for one of Browning's telescopes.
William Paul Butusov, Russian
immigrant and sailor, built bird-like aircraft modeled after
Jean-Marie Le Bris's gliders. In 1896 he built a large glider, the Albatross,
designed to be launched off a sloping rail. It was tested in August near
Miller, Indiana along with other glider designs brought together by
Chanute. It's performance was disappointing.
William Butusov standing beside the frame of his
The Albatross, ready to
launch from the Indiana Dunes in 1896..