Wright Again

Wright Again

Gliding Angles And A Trip To Egypt - Saturday, November 15, 1902

The History: In Wilbur's previous letter he mentioned Orville had begun developing a new "testing machine" [wind tunnel equipment]. Since they may conduct additional experiments, Wilbur has suggested Chanute should not spend time on the calculations of the older 1901 experiments. However, Chanute urges Wilbur to complete the tables for the first series of experiments. Documenting their experiments may encourage a scientific society to provide financial support for the Wrights' experiments, "for I believe you should not be burdened with this expense".

Chanute tells Wilbur that he and his daughters will set sail on a steamer January 3rd from Boston to Egypt and will be gone for 4 months. Is there is anything he needs to take care of for the Wrights before he sails? Chanute suggests and encourages Wilbur to make a presentation regarding their work before the Western Society of Engineers.

The photographs Wilbur sent him are "superb". "They make me ashamed of mine", Chanute says. He is having copies of his photographs printed for the Wrights.

Chanute enclosed:

  • computations of the glides of Oct. 8, 1902;
  • gliding angles and tangents for the wind tunnel experiments;
  • gliding angles and cosines for the resultant pressures.
"If there are no mistakes in them, I will then make the computations."

As a "P.S." to his letter, Chanute conveys to Wilbur he has sent him a new London newspaper. He has subscribed for an extra copy if Wilbur would like it.


The Wrights did not accept funding from individuals, the government or societies to fund their work. They funded their own work. The Wrights determined that their experiments, gliders and the 1903 Wright Flyer (the first successful powered aircraft) cost about $2000.

In the above letter "gliding angle" refers to the angle between the gliding path of their machine and the horizontal. The words 'cosine' and 'tangent' are mathematical terms in trigonometry. Using math, the Wrights were able to determine the lift and drag forces on their machines.


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