Wright Airplanes

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Wright Flyer I 

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1903 Flyer I – The Wright brothers first powered aircraft, and the first in which anyone made a sustained, controlled flight. As in their earlier gliders, it had a variable-camber twin canard in front to control pitch and a twin rudder in back to control yaw. Roll was controlled by warping the wings.
 


Orville checks the Flyer I as it rests on the launching rail on the sands near Kitty Hawk, NC..

The first flight of December 17, 1903.
1904 Flyer II – The Wright brothers second powered aircraft was almost a complete copy of the Flyer 1, but it had a flatter camber and stronger skids. It was not a capable flyer; the Wrights learned they learned they still had a lot of work to do before they had a practical airplane. Nonetheless, this was the first airplane to fly a complete circle, returning to the point where it took off. It was also the first aircraft on which the Wrights used their distinctive "bent-end" propellers.
 

Wilbur and Orville in discussion with the Flyer II and its hangar in the background.

The Flyer II flying over Huffman Prairie on November 16, 1904.
1905 Flyer III – The Wright's 1905 aircraft, their third powered machine, was the world's first practical aircraft. Both the canard and the rudder were extended out from the aircraft to make it easier to control. Semi-circular "blinkers" between the surfaces of the canard prevent the nose from dropping in a turn. With this aircraft, the Wrights were able to fly until their fuel ran dry. In 1908, they adapted the Flyer to carry the first airplane passenger.
 

The Flyer III being launched by catapult (the tall tower to the right) in June of 1905.

The Flyer III during one of its public flights on October 4, 1905.
1907-1909 Wright Model A – This was the aircraft that convinced the world that the Wrights had indeed flown. It was also the first two-seat aircraft, and the first Wright aircraft in which the occupants sat upright. Like all previous aircraft, the Wright built it in Dayton, Ohio; then shipped it to France in 1907. When they had hammered out a deal with some French industrialists, Wilbur put it together in 1908 and began to fly. Back in America, he demonstrated the Model A before millions of people in New York City, circling the Statue of Liberty..
 

A Model A on the launching rail with the catapult cocked in the spring of 1909.

A Model A rounds a pylon at the air races in Rheims, France in 1909.
1909 Military Flyer – Slightly smaller than the Model A, the Wrights sold this aircraft to the United States Army Signal Corp to become the first military aircraft. This was also the first aircraft the Wrights designed for speed – they did so because their contract with the US Department of War specified a minimum speed of 40 mph (64 kph) and granted them a bonus of $2500 for every 1 mph (1.6 kph) over the minimum. The Military Flyer turned in a top speed of 42 mph (68 kph). Once the US military  purchased the aircraft, it was used to train the first military pilots.
 

Orville discusses the next flight with Lt. Frank Lahm in front of the Military Flyer.

Wilbur watches Orville demonstrate the Military Flyer at Fort Myer, VA in 1909.
1909-1910 Wright "Transitional" Model A – Sometimes called the Model A-B, this was the first airplane that the Wrights built with an elevator in the back. However, they retained the canard in front, using both surfaces to control the pitch of the aircraft. It was used to train the first civilian pilots and was the one and only aircraft in which Wilbur and Orville Wright flew in together. They also gave their father Milton his only airplane ride in this machine.
 

The Wrights test an aircraft with an elevator in the front and the back.

The Wrights trained their exhibition students to fly on a Model AB at their flight school in Montgomery, AL.
1910-1914 Model B – Built by the newly formed Wright Company, this was the first mass-produced airplane.  It was also the first Wright airplane  without a canard. It had a single elevator in the back, just behind an enlarged twin rudder. Triangular blinkers were mounted on the forward skid struts. The airplane rested on wheels, dispensing with the need to launch the aircraft from a rail. Like all previous Wright aircraft, it used wing warping to control roll.
 

A Wright Model B rolling off the assembly line at the Wright Factory in Dayton, OH.

Charles Atwood takes off from a beach in his Model B.
1910  Wright Model R  – Also called the "Roadster" and the "Baby Wright," this small single-seat aircraft was built for racing. It had either a 4- or 8-cylinder motor and could achieve speeds of 70 to 80 miles per hour. The Wrights achieved these speeds not just by adding power, but also by reducing drag. The wings were short (reducing wing surface) and the wings were set closer together (reducing the length of the rigging wires.)
 

A close-up of the V-8 engine that powered the Model R.

The Model R ready to launch.
1911-1912  Wright Model EX –  Built especially for exhibition flight, this aircraft had a shorter wing span than other models, which gave the exhibition pilots more speed. It also had a single seat, which prevented them from taking passengers. This was a follow-on to the Model R, using  some of the same design technique to reduce drag. But it had longer wings and a standard Wright 4-cylinder motor. This was the first aircraft to be flown across a continent, crossing America is a series of harrowing flights that took 82 days to complete as the pilot, Cal Rodgers, met with one mishap after another.
 

The Wright Model EX "Vin Fiz" just before it began it's transcontinental flight from Sheepshead Bay, NY to Long Beach, CA.

A Wright Model EX turning round a pylon at an exhibition flight in Mineola, NY.
1912-1913 Wright Model C  – This aircraft replaced the Model B as the standard Wright Aircraft. It had slightly flatter wings and a  taller rudder for improved directional control. The blinkers became rectangular vanes attached to the front end of the skids. It was the first aircraft to use a Wright 6-cylinder motor, an elongated version of their standard 4-cylinder engine. They extra power and speed made the aircraft more difficult to fly. After a series of accidents, the US military decide to ground all "pusher" aircraft, including all Wright models.

A Wright Model C on the factory floor. Note that the rudder now rises above the top outriggers that hold the tail.

Orville flew a Model C to demonstrate his "automatic stabilizer," the first autopilot.
1912 Wright Model D  – This was a light, fast single-seat aircraft that the Wright built in response to the U.S. Army's request for a "speed scout." By marrying their new powerful 6-cylinder engine with a short-wing airframe (similar to the Model EX), the Wrights achieved a top speed of 66 miles per hour. But the aircraft was difficult to fly. With the US military beginning to back away from the pusher configuration, it had no market. Only one was built.
 

The Wright Model D on the ground at Simms Station (Huffman Prairie).

The Wright Model D during a demonstration flight.
1913 Wright Model CH  – Although the Wrights and others had mounted floats on their Model B aircraft, this was the first dedicated Wright hydroplane. It was essentially a Model C on a single wide pontoon. Later versions had two slender "stepped" pontoons. The tail was supported by a smaller float mounted under the rudder.
It was a heavy lifter for a water-based aircraft, able to lift over 800 lbs (363 kg) off the surface.

An early Model CH at anchor on the Great Miami River.

A later Model CH with stepped pontoons. The steps helped the aircraft "break the surface" of the water.
1913 Wright Model E  – A one-seat exhibition machine, this was the first Wright aircraft with a single propeller. The tail booms were attached further out on the wings to make room for the 7-foot chain-driven propeller. It's simple design made it easy to set up and tear down, make it easy to transport. This was also the machine that Orville chose to demonstrate his automatic stabilizer for the first time.
 

The Wright Model E was intended as an exhibition aircraft – it could be set up and ready to fly in under an hour.

A Model E over Simms Station.
1913 Wright Model F  – The Model F marked a radical departure in design for the Wright Company. They dispensed with blinkers and curtains and added a fuselage. They moved the motor forward of the wings, created a semi-standard tail by resting the rudders atop the elevator, and hinged the elevator. (Earlier Wright elevators had simply flexed.) The fuselage was partially covered in aluminum, earning it the nickname, "Tin Cow."
 

A drive shaft ran from the engine in the nose between the seats to the chain drive.

The Model F had a pronounced wing dihedral to increase lateral stability.
1913-1914 Wright Model G – This was the only flying boat built by the Wright Company. It was designed by Grover Loening, first under the supervision of Wilbur Wright, then after Wilbur's death, under Orville's supervision. It was the last airplane project in which both the Wright brothers contributed to the design. As such, it was the end of the collaboration of genius that had begun the aviation industry.
 

An experimental version of the Model G makes a take-off run from the Great Miami River near Dayton, OH.

The Wright Model G on approach for a landing.
1914-1915 Wright Models H & HS – These two aircraft were very similar to the Model F, but the fuselage was streamlined so that it tapered back to the tail. The HS had a short wingspan, just 32 feet (9.75 meters) to give it more speed and increased rate of climb. The H had longer wings for an increased payload. This was the last Wright "pusher" and the last with a double rudder.
 

The Wright Model HS at Simms Station. Note the wheel spokes have been covered with plates. This decreased drag.

With its long wings, the Model H could carry over 1000 lbs (454 kg).
1915 Wright Model K – This was a seaplane, manufactured for the United States Navy. The Model K was Wright Company's first tractor airplane with the propellers facing forward. It was also the first Wright aircraft to use ailerons. And it was the last to use the distinctive Wright "bent-end" propellers, designed nearly ten years previously.

The Model K rest on its pontoons in the Wright factory.

The Model K taxies in the ocean water prior to take-off.
1916 Wright Model L – The Model L was a single place airplane, designed to fill the U.S. Army's request for a light, fast scouting machine.  This was the last aircraft manufactured by the Wright Company. Orville had sold the company by this time, but he may have had some small influence on the design since he was retained as a consultant for a short time after the sale.
 

The Wright Model L used the same standard control surfaces as the Model K.

The Model L did away with the chain drive. There was a single propeller mounted directly to the engine.
1918 Liberty Eagle – Orville Wright and Fred Nash designed this tiny unmanned biplane while working for the Dayton Wright Airplane Company, a manufacturing concern formed to produce airplanes for World War I. The Liberty Eagle -- nicknamed the Bug -- carried 200 lbs (91 kg) of explosives and was guided by a gyroscopic stabilizer. It was the first attempt at a guided missile.
 

A Liberty Eagle rests on launching trolley. The 4-wheeled trolley rolled along a straight stretch of track on take-off, allowing the biplane to build up flying speed..

Testing the 37-hp engine of the Liberty Eagle.
1919 OW.1 Aerial Coupe –This four-place cabin biplane was designed by Orville Wright for the Dayton Wright Airplane Company when World War I ended and the company attempted to switch from military to commercial aviation. The Aerial Coupe was luxury transportation with a roomy, well-appointed cabin. It also performed well, setting an altitude record in 1920. But it never found its market; only one was built. It was the last airplane designed by one of the Wright brothers.
 

The OW.1 Aerial Coupe on display next to another Dayton Wright airplane -- a peace-time version of the DH-4.

Dayton-Wright pilot Bernard Whelan (third from the left) and three passengers about to set an altitude record in the OW.1 Aerial Coupe.
Note: The Wright Company never made a Model I or a Model J. These were made by the Burgess Company which licensed Wright patents. In a letter to the Secretary of War dated 22 January 1914, Orville Wright claimed that the Burgess models infringed on these patents. Burgess was licensed to build only exact copies of Wright aircraft and the Burgess Models I and J, while based on Wright designs, incorporated other features.
 

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The Wright Story/An Unusual Childhood/A Life on Hold

Part of a biography of the Wright Brothers

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