These experiments and the addition of various kites and gliders lead Hyde and the team in an amazing adventure reliving the discovery of flight through the Wright Brothers' methods. It became clear to Kevin Kochersberger, an assistant professor of mechanical engineer at the Rochester Institute of Technology that the Wrights were excellent problem solvers and Hyde calls theirs a very scientific approach.
Meticulous attention to detail
Reproducing the Wrights' experiments and discovering how they developed their theories of flight is one thing, but it takes more to make an exact replica of the Wright Flyer. It takes determination to examine every detail.
For example, Hyde struggled to find a manufacturer that could reproduce the muslin used on the 40-foot wingspan of the original Wright Flyer, down to the thread count per square inch. A piece of the original muslin still exists and courtesy of Marianne Miller Hudec, a great-grandniece of Wilbur and Orville, Hyde and the team got to examine it. The original muslin was adapted from muslin called Pride of the West that was used to make women's underwear. Besides providing specifics about the material itself, the muslin also provided clues to the construction of the plane's wings. Hyde says it shows where the ribs pushed against the material leaving marks of their width. It shows the seams and how it was sewn.
The new fabric's porosity was especially important because if the new material were too porous, too much room would exist between the threads allowing too much airflow. If the weave were too tight, the flyer would have too much lift.The Wrights used a hatchet, drawknife, spokeshave, and gouges to make their spruce propeller.
Besides the muslin, the propellers also presented a challenge. Larry Parks, an aerospace engineer and expert woodcarver, worked tirelessly to make two precise and accurate Wright propellers for the replica. Parks' expertise in circa 1900 woodworking procedures and materials was essential in the recreation. After closely examining the 1903 propellers (as well as the 1904 versions), Parks determined that the specific woodworking tools used by the Wrights included a hatchet, drawknife, spokeshave, and gouges. Every detail was copied. The propellers each began as 50 pounds of spruce and ended weighing 9 pounds. Dave Meyer, an aeronautical engineer, supervised the computer imaging and evaluation of the propellers. He assisted in the design, building tools, and templates for Parks, and was a consultant throughout the process. Meyers can't help but be impressed by the Wrights' propeller, one of the earliest, being almost perfect by today's standards. The propellers are so accurate that when tested in NASA's full-scale wind tunnel, the results were astounding. The reproductions, when tested at a nominal rotational speed of 350 rpm, measured a thrust of 64.2 pounds. The Wright Brothers' static thrust measurements were 67.1 pounds (recorded in a notebook by the Wrights on Nov. 21, 1903 as between 132 and 136 pounds for both propellers together).
The steel chains that operate the props look like heavy-duty bicycle chain (for reasons I'm sure you could guess) and the steel propeller shafts are made similar to how a bicycle is manufactured.
This attention to detail and dedication to make the most accurate replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer is what will resurrect this ghost from aviation's past and make her fly again.
Wright brothers' first production aircraft helped start air racing era 100 years ago.
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