Wright Flyer II
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no parts from Flyer I, the Wrights built a biplane slightly heavier than their
first (780 lbs or 354 kg). They beefed up the landing skids and
attached 70-90 lb (32-41 kg) of iron bars to the front elevator
to shift the center of gravity forward. They also decreased the
wing camber from 1:20 to 1:25. This was the only plane they ever
made with such a shallow camber. But for all aeronautical purposes,
the second Flyer was an identical copy of the first.
knew that they had not tested the Flyer I design sufficiently to
make significant changes. But the Flyer II was also a test bed and
it did not remain a copy for long. The Wright brothers added
extensions to the skids to keep the wings and propellers clear of
the ground. They moved the engine backward and then forward. They
moved the radiator to the rear, then added a second radiator in the
front to aid in cooling the engine. They changed the shape of the
vertical rudder, increased the capacity of the gas tank, lengthened
the propellers and changed their shape.
23 May to 1 Dec 1904, the Wrights attempted to fly or flew a total of 105 times at Huffman
Prairie, eight miles east of Dayton, OH. Without the high winds of Kitty Hawk, the Wrights
had great difficulty getting off the ground in Dayton. Beginning 7 Sep 1904, Wrights used
catapult to launch plane in calm wind. This "catapult" was actually a
wooden derrick, 20 feet (6 meters) high, which dropped a 1200-1400 pound
(544-726 kg) weight. The weight was
attached to a rope. The rope stretched down the derrick, through a compound
pulley, back up the derrick to a simple pulley, and back down the
derrick to the compound pulley. From there, it ran 65-75 feet (20-23
meters) horizontally under the launching rail, through another
simple pulley, and
back to the trolley on which the Flyer traveled along the rail. When the weight
was released is fell just 16-1/2 feet (5 meters), but owing to the
compound pulley arrangement, it pulled the trolley 3 times further
-- 49-1/2 feet (15 meters). As the weight fell, the Flyer
accelerated much faster than it would have with the thrust of the
The Wright made 105 flights in 1904, racking up 45 minutes in total flight time.
In this airplane on 20 September, they made the first complete 360-degree
turn in an aircraft. The
two best flights (9 Nov and 1 Dec) exceeded 5 minutes and covered about 3 miles
(4.8 kilometers). During the 9 November flight, they circled the field
almost four times.
Over the winter of 1904-1905, the brothers built a third machine, the
Wright Flyer III, recycling the mechanical parts of the Flyer II. The wooden
parts were burned in 1905.
The 1904 Wright Flyer II was almost identical to the 1903 Flyer I,
as you can see by comparing these two photos.
The Flyer II was hangared in a small shed the brothers built on the
prairie. The brothers removed the front elevator and the rear
rudder, then slid the aircraft into the shed.
They were wise to stay low. Many early flights ended like this.
With the addition of the catapult, they began to make long flights
and crashed less often. Consequently, the dared to fly a few more
feet above the ground. Note that the radiator is mounted on a rear
Top, front, and side views of the 1904 Wright Flyer II.
The Wright brothers tested the Flyer II at Huffman Prairie, a
pasture about ten miles (16 kilometers) northeast of Dayton, Ohio
and the present site of Wright-Paterson Air Force Base.
During their earliest flights in the Flyer II, the Wrights kept
close to the ground for safety.
After a frustrating summer trying to get off the ground, the Wrights
built a catapult to help accelerate the Flyer II as it rolled along
the launch rail. You can just see the outline of the catapult tower
to the right of the hangar.
The best flight of the year was on 9 November 1904 when they flew
four circuits of the prairie, covering 3 miles or 4.8 kilometers.