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Saturday, January 14, 2012

The Wright Way to Invent a Plane

In this post, I'm going to tell you how the Wright Brothers invented the Flyer.

How does one invent a plane? Well, there is a bit more to it than sitting on the toilet and getting inspired and shouting "Eureka!” In fact, inventing is HARDER than chewing on a concrete toffee. In this post we’ll find out how the Wright Brothers got it Wright and why nearly everyone else ended up grumpy, wet … or dead.

Fearsome Flying Flops:

Back in Victorian time’s lots of inventors dreamt of making a flying machine. Trouble is, most of them had little idea of the forces that affect flight, and their planes were as useless as a giraffe with a sore throat.

Flying Fact File:
Name: Gliders
The Basic Facts:  
1.     Gliders are towed into the air and their wings produce enough lift to fly. Gliders have long wings to gain as much lift as they can.
2.     Gliders gradually glide down to Earth but they can stay up longer if they find a rising column of hot air called a thermal. Thermals rise from hot rocks or tarmac.
3.     A hang-glider is a one-person glider with an A-shaped wing.
The Fearsome Details:
Two leading glider pioneers – Otto Lilienthal and Percy Pilcher – met fearsome fates.

The Wright Brothers:

When Orville Wright (1871-1948) and his brother Wilbur Wright (1867-1912) were little, their dad gave them a toy helicopter powered by a rubber band. They loved it so much that they broke it. They built a new one but their teacher took it away. Just think about it!. That teacher set back the tide of human progress by years!

The Wrights get busy:

From 1899 onwards the Wright brothers spent all their spare time building and testing gliders and planes until they had built a plane that could fly. And that’s not all…
·        .They invented a lighter and more powerful petrol engine.
·        .Plus a new, more powerful propeller.
·        .They built a wind tunnel (that’s a machine in which wind is blown through a box in which aerofoil shapes are tested to see which gives the maximum lift)
But I hear you asking “Who funded all this if they weren’t building bicycles anymore?” 
Well, three cheers for Katherine Wright who ran the business and gave the Wright Brothers the money to build gliders.
They had also realized that it wasn’t enough to just build a plane that would that would fly but they had to control it as well. And so they invented wing-wrapping, which means flexing the wings to alter the amount of lift they provide. By doing this the Wrights could tilt and turn their plane in mid-air.
And they did all this by trial and error – testing, testing and testing till their designs worked. In all they tested…
·        .Hundreds of aerofoil shapes in their wind tunnel.
·        .Their third glider nearly 1,000 times.

Samuel P Langley:

Although they didn’t know it, the Wrights were in a race to build the plane and their rival was scenting success. His name was Samuel .P. Langley (1834-1906) and he was an astronomer who got hooked after going to a scientific talk. Langley built a plane that cost thousands of dollars and was launched from on a giant catapult on top of a boat. Langley also said that everyone he worked with had to be smartly dressed and wasn’t allowed to swear. But his plane crashed into the river twice and the soaking pilot was cursing. I bet he said, “MIND YOUR LANGUAGE!” after he died some people claimed that his plane might have flown and they flew it! But the plane had been altered and it didn’t count! Too bad!
And what’s more, we’re getting ahead of our story.  After 1903, when Langley’s plane flopped in the river, the Wright’s plane, the Flyer, wasn’t a flyer. It hadn’t even got of the ground.
And to tell what happened, let’s peek at Orville Wright’s secret diary.

The story will be continued in the ‘The Wright Way to Invent a Plane - Part-2’

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 Taken from "Horrible Science: The Fight of Flight" . 

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