Wright Again

Wright Again

A Buzzard on Big Hill - Friday, September 5, 1902

The History: The roof was tar-papered. Orville was ill and spent most of the day in bed. He wrote in his diary, "Saw buzzard soar on north side of Big Hill, standing in one position."

Wilbur responded to Octave Chanute's letter of August 26, 1902. He tells Chanute he will ask "the captain of our Kitty Hawk schooner [Captain Franklin Midgett] to be on the lookout" for the flying machines Chanute has shipped to them.

Wilbur regrets that they did not have enough time to create the drawings for Major Moedebeck's book. "Our time was so closely occupied", they barely had time to prepare for their trip to Kitty Hawk. [Wilbur is referring to the church matter his father, Bishop Wright, has been involved.] Wilbur tells Chanute that omitting the drawings is "no very great loss to science as it is our firm private conviction that our 1901 machine embodied some features in its proportions and curves that future experimenters should avoid rather than copy."

Who should experiment with Chanute's machines? Between Mr. Avery or Mr. Herring, Wilbur suggests the man who is most available. He once again tells Chanute they would prefer Mr. Avery in lieu of Mr. Herring who may have a "somewhat jealous disposition, and possibly inclined to claim for himself rather more credit than those with whom he might be working would be willing to allow."

The brothers plan to be at their campsite until October 25th. If Chanute can tell them how much time he has available, they will advise him of the best time to come.


The roof of their building is almost completed! Even modern roofs have tar on them. Today tar-paper is often referred to as "roofing felt" and may have tar or asphalt saturated within it. Roofing felt is placed under the roof shingles or other roof finishing surfaces (the external part of the roof that you see). The tar paper keeps out water that seeps through the finishing material but allows moisture from inside the house to escape.

Soaring is another word for gliding - to fly without power. In the case of a sailplane (a gliding machine) this means there is no engine for power. In the case of the buzzard, the bird's wings were outstretched but not flapping. (The flapping generates power.)

Orville commented that the buzzard was "standing in one position". Have you ever seen a bird do this? When? Why doesn't the bird move forward?

It is because the bird is facing the wind. The forces the bird generates and the forces created by the environment around it result in the bird remaining in one place.

Do you remember our example of the St. Bernard and Chihuahua? How is this similar to the buzzard remaining in one place? How is it different?

What information on speed and direction of the wind did the buzzard's flight tell Orville?


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