The June Bug
 

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The Wright Story 

Showing the    
World 

  Up       

Politics and    
Patents
 

The Prize Patrol 

  Stalled in    
Europe
 

Bell's Boys 

A Turn for    
the Purse
 

Back in the Air 

  The June Bug  
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He Flies! 

Tragedy at    
Fort Meyer
 

Pushing the    
Envelope
 

A Whirlwind Tour 

Them's Our Boys 

The Military FlYer 

Crossing the    
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The Patent Wars 

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'Round the Lady 

Wright Timeline 

            

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n the summer of 1908, the Wright brothers were light years ahead of any other group of aeronautical engineers on the planet with a practical, passenger-carrying airplane. Nonetheless, the next important aviation milestone was not passed by the Wrights, but by the new kids on the aviation block, the Aerial Experiment Association.

Mindful of how prizes had helped spur European aviation, the Aero Club of America and Scientific American magazine offered their own incentive — a silver sculpture called the Scientific American Trophy. They would award this trophy each year to recognize a significant achievement in aviation. When they unveiled the prize in 1907, the Aero Club announced that they would award it for the first time to the first individual to fly a kilometer in a straight line.

This was a "gimmee" for the Wright brothers, or so the donors thought. Scientific American magazine had initially been skeptical of the Wright claims, and the editors were now anxious to mend fences with the inventors as their work drew more attention. The Aero Club had been supportive of the Wrights since the club's outset. Allan Hawly, the president of the club, counted himself a good friend of the Wrights. He had treated Wilbur to a balloon ride when they met in France.

Bell's Boys completed their third aircraft in the late spring of 1908, the first designed by Glenn Curtiss. Like the White Wing, it had ailerons, a rudder, and front and back elevators. Unlike previous A.E.A aircraft, it wasn't called after the color of the cloth used to cover the wings. Instead, Glenn Curtiss gave the honor of naming the aircraft to Mrs. Malinda Bennitt, a friend who had helped him out when he was just starting his manufacturing business. The gesture so flustered her that "my old head just wouldn't work." Alexander Graham Bell came to her rescue, and for reasons lost to history, he picked "June Bug."

Curtiss made three successful flights in the June Bug on June 21, and within a week he was breaking his own records with flights of over 1000 yards. The A.E.A., satisfied that they could capture the Scientific American Trophy, cabled the Aero Club that they would make a run for it on July 4.

The request caught the Aero Club by surprise, and the secretary, August Post, informed Charles Munn, the publisher of Scientific American. Munn cabled Orville, offering to postpone the A.E.A attempt if Orville wanted to try for the trophy himself. Orville, unfortunately, was swamped. He, Charlie Taylor, and Charlie Furnas were working around the clock trying to get an aircraft ready to fly for the U.S. Army trials. On top of that, Wilbur had asked him to write an article for The Century magazine that would help establish their position as the first to make a controlled, sustained flight in a powered aircraft. Finally, the Aero Club rules said the plane had to make an unassisted take-off. With everything else he had to do, Orville would have to put wheels on his airplane and find a field big enough to make a take-off run. He declined.

Twenty-two members of the Aero Club arrived in Hammondsport, New York on July 4 to witness Curtiss's flight. The weather was uncooperative; winds and rain delaying the flight until well into the evening. At 7:00 p.m., Curtiss took off in the June Bug, climbed to an altitude of 40 feet, and landed immediately — the airplane had been rigged incorrectly, making it impossible to keep the nose up. After adjusting the rigging, he flew again, traveling 5,360 feet in 1 minute and 40 seconds. Glenn Curtiss captured the Scientific American trophy, and was the toast of both the American and European newspapers.

The Wrights, even though they had declined to compete for the trophy, did not fail to take notice. Orville wrote a stern note to Curtiss on July 20, reminding him that he and Wilbur had shared information with the A.E.A. freely. The Wrights would allow them to use the patented control system for experimentation, but Orville warned, "We did not intend to give permission to use the patented features of our machines for exhibitions or in a commercial way." It was the first of many such communications that the Wrights would exchange with Curtiss.
 


1908 Scientific American.jpg (26930 bytes)
A
Scientific American magazine from 1908 shows Wilbur flying in France.

1908 Assembling June Bug s.jpg (82452 bytes)
Assembling the June Bug in a tent hangar.

1908 June Bug rollout s.jpg (116212 bytes)
Rolling out the completed June Bug.

1908 Junebug in flight.jpg (28577 bytes)
The June Bug in flight on July 4, 1908.

1908 June Bug and Bell's Boys.jpg (49893 bytes)
Curtiss and other "Bell's Boys" gathered around the June Big after a triumphant flight.

1908 June Bug Scientific American 2.gif (138676 bytes)
The Scientific American article about the 1-kilometer flight of the June Bug.


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"Aviation is proof that – given the will – we can do the impossible."
 Eddie Rickenbacker

 

 

The Wright Story/Showing the World/AEA Wins the Scientific American Trophy with the June Bug

Part of a biography of the Wright Brothers

 

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