Thursday, April 22, 2010

Airplane Encyclopedia: Wright Flyer III

The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright made the first flight with it on June 23, 1905. The Flyer III had an airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903, rather than the less effective 1-in-25 used in 1904. The new machine was equipped with the engine and other hardware from the Flyer II and was essentially the same design and same performance as Flyers I and II.

Note the elevators are in the front of the plane (and it's called a plane because the wings, at this point, are called planes).

They almost doubled the size of the elevator and rudder and moved them about twice the distance from the wings. They added two fixed vertical vanes (called "blinkers") between the elevators (but later removed) and widened the skid-undercarriage which helped give the wings a very slight dihedral. They disconnected the rudder of the rebuilt Flyer III from the wing-warping control, and as in most future aircraft, placed it on a separate control handle. When testing of Flyer III resumed in September, improvement was immediate. The pitch instability that had hampered Flyers I and II was brought under control. Crashes, some severe, stopped. Flights with the redesigned aircraft started lasting over 20 minutes. The Flyer III became practical and dependable, flying reliably for significant durations and bringing its pilot back to the starting point safely and landing without damage.

On October 5, 1905, Wilbur flew 24 miles (38.9 km) in 39 minutes 23 seconds[2], longer than the total duration of all the flights of 1903 and 1904. Four days later, they wrote to the United States Secretary of War William Howard Taft, offering to sell the world's first practical fixed-wing aircraft.

To keep their knowledge from falling into competitors' hands, the Wrights stopped flying and disassembled the airplane on November 7, 1905.

For this reason, when the brothers first went to France 2 and a half years later to show off their aircraft, they were scoffed at by the French who hadn't believed their stories. But... seeing is believing.

Having won American and French contracts to sell their airplane in 1908, they refurbished the Flyer with seats for a pilot and passenger and equipped it with upright control levers. They shipped it to North Carolina and made practice flights near the Kill Devil Hills from May 6 to 14, 1908 to test the new controls and the Flyer's passenger-carrying abilities.

On May 14, 1908 Wilbur took up mechanic Charles Furnas, making Furnas the first passenger the brothers ever flew. Orville also flew with Furnas for four minutes. Orville's flight with Furnas was seen by newspaper reporters, hiding out in the sand dunes, who mistakenly thought both Wilbur & Orville were flying together. Later that day, Wilbur was flying solo when he moved one of the new control levers the wrong way and crashed into a sand dune, suffering bruises. The Flyer's front elevator was wrecked and the practice flights ended.

Flyer III was left in the North Carolina hangar unrepaired. In 1911 the Berkshire Museum of Pittsfield, Massachusetts obtained virtually all of the components from both the abandoned Flyer and the 1911 Wright glider, but never assembled or exhibited them. The parts of the 1905 aircraft remained in Massachusetts for almost forty years, until Orville requested their return in 1946 for the Flyer's restoration as a central exhibit at Edward A. Deeds' Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio.

Some Kitty Hawk residents also possessed pieces of the 1905 airplane; Deeds and Orville also obtained many of these for the restoration. At the end of the 1947-1950 restoration process, craftsmen estimated that the 1905 aircraft retained between 60 and 85% of its original material.

The 1905 airplane is now displayed in the Wright Brothers Aviation Center at Carillon Historical Park and is a part of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The restored 1905 Wright Flyer III is the only fixed-wing aircraft to be designated a National Historic Landmark by an act of Congress.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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