of the Wright Brothers Invention Process
Wright Brothers' Invention Process:
The process which lead to the first successful
airplane is exactly the same process used by NASA engineers today
to solve problems.
(1899 - 1902) - Researched
How Things Fly
The first step in any new program or project is
research. The Wright Brothers first performed a literature search
to find out the state of aeronautical knowledge at their time. They
wrote to the Smithsonian and obtained technical papers regarding aerodynamics.
They read about the works of Cayley, and Langley, and the hang-gliding
flights of Otto Lilienthal.
They corresponded with Octave Chanute
concerning some of their ideas. They studied the problems which had been encountered
by previous flyers and they talked about possible solutions to the problems. They
looked for answers to the problems of flight by observing large gliding birds.
They decided that control
of the flying aircraft would be the most crucial and hardest problem
to solve and they had some ideas for solving that problem.
Today, NASA engineers are involved in all aspects
of research. Engineers use the Internet, read books, attend
conferences, and use videoconferencing technologies to solve new
problems of flight.
(1900 - 1902) - Developed
Flight Control Systems
The Wright brothers' ideas for flight
control were tested on a series of unpowered
aircraft between 1900 and 1902.
These aircraft were all flown
as kites to
obtain aerodynamic performance.
The Wright Brothers were kite enthusiasts and
they used the kite flights in the same way that modern engineers use wind tunnels
and flight testing to try out their ideas concerning flight control.
Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was chosen for their early flight experiments
because its consistent high winds off the ocean are perfect for
kite flying. The brothers correctly reasoned that a free flying object had
to be controlled about all three primary axes;
Their aircraft were built with movable surfaces on the
Control of the surface shape was in the hands of the pilot. They extensively tested
these ideas by glider flights
of the aircraft.
Today, NASA engineers at the Langley Research
Center use sophisticated models and wind tunnels to improve the
flight control of modern aircraft. These ideas are flight tested
at the Dryden Flight Research Center.
(1901 - 1902) - Tested
The early kite
experiments did not meet the performance goals which the brothers calculated before
the flights. In late 1901, the brothers began to doubt the data which they were
using to design their aircraft. They built a
tunnel and developed model-testing
to more accurately determine the lift and drag of their aircraft.
over two hundred different wings and airfoil
to improve the performance of their gliders. Their very
aircraft was based on their new data.
Today, NASA engineers at Ames, Langley, and
Glenn Research Centers use sophisticated models and wind tunnels
to study a variety of problems associated with modern aircraft design.
These tunnels and test techniques are only modern improvements on
the original work done by the Wright Brothers.
You can use a computer simulator
of the Wright tunnel to find out how it
(1900 - 1905) - Developed
Test Pilot Skills
Besides being airplane designers, and test
engineers, the Wright Brothers were the first pilots of a
heavier than air, powered aircraft.
They developed their piloting
skills by making over 1000 flights on a series of
at Kitty Hawk between 1900 and 1902. At the time of
their first powered flight, the brothers were the most experienced
pilots in the world. From 1903 to 1905, they continued to perfect
their piloting skills on a series of powered
Today, NASA test pilots at the Dryden Flight
Research Center continue the pioneering work of the Wright Brothers.
(1903 - 1920's) - Developed
The Wright Brothers were the first to fly a
heavier than air machine. This required the development of two other
pieces of technology; a light weight
and the propellers
to push the aircraft through the air.
The brothers based their engine
design on an early internal combustion
for an automobile.
The thin, high speed propellers which they designed were based on
tests and were unlike any other propellers being used at that time.
While the design of the airframe of the Wright aircraft remained
nearly the same for years, the brothers continually improved and
upgraded their engine design. Between 1903 and 1913 the engine power
increased from 12 horsepower to nearly 75 horsepower.
Today, NASA continues to perfect aircraft engines
and develop new methods for aircraft propulsion at the Glenn Research
(December 17, 1903) - The
The Wright Brothers were the first to fly a
controllable self-propelled, heavier than air machine
on December 17, 1903. A variety of activities and broadcasts will
celebrate this historic event.
(1904 - 1907) - Flight
It is important to note that the four flights of
1903 were only a chapter in the story of flight. The longest flight lasted
less than a minute and did not include any maneuvers.
continued to perfect their machine with a series of aircraft
built between 1903 and 1905. They moved their flight testing from
Kitty Hawk to their home town of Dayton, Ohio and flew their new
aircraft at Huffman's Field on the edge of town. With new, more
powerful aircraft, they were able to stay aloft for up to a half
hour, to fly figure eights, and to even take passengers up for a
ride. The age of the airplane had arrived.
Today, NASA Aeronautics Programs continue to
develop new ideas to improve aircraft performance and operation.
(1904 - Beyond) - Pushing
After the successful development of the first
airplane, the Wright Brothers continued to be involved in aerospace
technology. Orville was one of the original members of the National
Advisory Council on Aeronautics (NACA) which is the parent organization
of the current NASA.
In the spirit of the Wright Brothers, NASA
is attempting to use aeronautics technology to provide affordable
access to space. Lead by the Marshall Space Flight Center, this
aero-space initiative looks forward to the day when space travel
becomes as routine as air travel is today.
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