A Trip Back in Time: Wright Flyer

A Trip Back in Time Building a Wright Flyer By Emily Refermat Join EAA at Kitty Hawk, Dec. 17, 2003 to see this 1903 Wright Flyer replica take to the sky. When 100 years has passed, it's nice to be able to stop and look back on where...



Engine of myth
Charles Taylor, without whom this story would not be complete, was the original aircraft mechanic. He built the engine using his mechanical mind and scraps of paper that have long been lost. It was up to two new brothers, the Hay brothers (Steve and James), to rebuild the Wright engine and give power to powered flight. The Wright engine was rebuilt from scraps of designs and replicas with only the slightest changes. For example, the outside diameter of the piston and the inside diameter of the piston were both recorded as 4 inches on the Wright plane. Due to this impossible specification, the piston is three-thousandths of an inch smaller.

The aluminum and copper engine is water-cooled. Its horizontal inline cylinders have a liner, 4-inch bore, 4-inch stroke, and tubular connecting rods. Iron tubes screw into the aluminum crankcase. The engine does not have a fuel pump or carburetor. Instead the gas runs through a fuel line from a tank mounted on the wing strut and vaporizes as it drips onto the hot engine block. Also without an oil pump, the engine needs to be preoiled, not being meant to run for a long time. And there is no exhaust pipe or muffler; the exhaust comes out by the pilot who is only inches away. The engine weighs approximately 180 pounds.

In the Wright Flyer the pilot lays on his or her stomach inches from the engine.

Teach the pilot to fly
Flying the new Wright Flyer will no doubt be as challenging to the pilot of today as it was for Orville and Wilbur. No current aircraft would have prepared the four chosen pilots for what they will find themselves doing while flying the Wright Flyer. The Wrights placed the pilot lying down on the stomach on the lower wing, inches from the engine to reduce drag. A wooden lever controlled the elevator and cables moved the wings for the aircraft to turn - "wing warping" is what the Wrights called it.

Northrop-Grumman is sponsoring the training of the pilots selected to fly the Wright Flyer. The training involves both simulator training and actually flying a replica of the 1902 Wright Glider to prepare them. The pilots include Ken Hyde, Chris Johnson, Kevin Kochersberger, and Terry Queijo.

Bihrle Applied Research is putting out a simulator for the public using military simulation to bring a "realistic representation" of the Wright designed aircraft characteristics.

Simulator Microsoft Æ Flight Simulator at the 2003 NBAA show.

Microsoft, one of the sponsors of the EAA Centennial Celebration, has created a 1903 Wright Flyer simulator called "Microsoft Æ Flight Simulator: A Century of Flight" which has been touring with the replica. The pilot in this simulator will operate the airplane with a hip cradle, in a horizontal position using hand levers and a shifting of the hips to control virtual takeoffs and landings. A giant projection screen with the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk completes the effect.

A vision of the past
Now, once again, the Wright Flyer is ready to fly. With a spruce and blonde ash frame, it stands 7 feet high on two sled-like runners (the Wrights didn't add wheels to their planes until 1910). The 40-foot 4-inch wingspan (the 4 extra inches are on the right wing to balance out the weight of the engine) has precisely 120 curved ash ribs and is covered with muslin. The Flyer weighs 605 pounds without the pilot.

Two propellers that rotate in opposite directions sit behind the wings, powered by a 12-horsepower, four-cylinder engine, allowing the Flyer to travel approximately 30 mph. The elevator is mounted in the front of the aircraft and two vertical rudders bring up the rear on its tail. It stands waiting, ready to fly.

If on Dec. 17, 2003, you are at Kill Devil Hills in North Carolina, you will see something no one has seen for 100 years - the Wright Flyer, or the most accurate replica, will again take to the sky. It will be the culmination of not only 100 years of powered flight, but also the thorough research and hard work of all involved in making the Wright Flyer fly again. Hope to see you there.


Additional ReSources
Popular Science (www.popsci.com)
"Rebuilding the Genius Machine"
"Rev to Glory" vol. 180 no. 10

EAA www.eaa.org
EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk http://www.countdowntokittyhawk.com/
The Wright Experience www.wrightexperience.com

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