Wright Again

Wright Again

First Flights Of The 1902 Glider - Friday, September 19, 1902

The History: Orville's personal diary records that the rear vertical tail was finished by 10:30 A.M. The 1902 glider is completed! They began their machine construction at their Kill Devil Hills camp on September 8th, eleven days ago. Now they are ready to test the glider!

With Dan Tate's help, they carried the glider out to Little Hill. In their first tests of the glider today, the machine was flown as a kite attached to cords. [Two pictures were taken of the glides. One is pictured below.]

Wilbur/Dan

September 19, 1902 - Testing the 1902 Glider as a Kite
Wilbur Wright is in the background, Dan Tate is in the foreground.
Photograph Courtesy Wright State University

About 25 glides were made that afternoon. Based on these tests the Wrights were convinced that the 1902 machine would glide at a 7° angle or less. [Last year's glider would soar only at a much steeper angles of 15-20 degrees.] Orville noted that the front horizontal rudder provided good control.

As well, they are looking for another improvement. The Wrights are studying how twisting the ends of the wings affects their ability to control the machine. They are not completely satisfied with their results in this area today. Yet, Orville writes, ".. but we are convinced that the trouble with the 1901 machine is overcome by the vertical tail". [Even though they have not been able to determine how the twisting of the wing's surface correlates to controlling the machine, they believe the new vertical tail has taken care of one of the 1901 glider's problems.]

Orville records the area of the upper and lower surfaces (the wings) as 305 square feet, the vertical tail is 11 2/3 square feet and the horizontal front rudder is 15 square feet.

They received a registered letter from their sister Katharine. Twenty-five dollars was enclosed.

Chanute responded to Wilbur's letter of September 12th and updates Wilbur on relevant information related to Chanute's visit to the Wrights' Kill Devil Hill camp. Chanute received a letter from Charles Lamson also dated on September 12th. The oscillating wing machine Lamson has been building for Chanute is almost finished. Chanute telegraphed Lamson and asked him to ship the machine to North Carolina immediately.

Chanute also has written to Augustus Herring, who has built and will test Chanute's multiple wing machine. Chanute has not received confirmation regarding Herring's availability to travel to the Wrights' camp and test the machines for Chanute.

Chanute asks for directions, when they can work at the camp and what equipment and supplies he should bring.


At 30 feet high, Little Hill also referred to as No. 3 Hill, was the smallest of the three hills the Wrights used for their testing.

The horizontal front rudder acts like a modern day aircraft's elevator. It is used to angle the flying machine up or down.

The rear vertical tail was 6 feet tall and fixed. Although it looks like a rudder, it did not move right and left like a ship's rudder which turns the boat.

The "trouble with the 1901 machine" Orville mentions deals with turning. Watch a bird fly and turn. What position are its wings in a turn? You will probably see that the right wing is lower in a right turn and the left wing is lower in a left turn.

That is exactly how the Wrights expected their 1901 glider to behave. Unfortunately that is not what happened in 1901. Instead sometimes the 1901 glider would turn in the direction of the high wing - just the opposite of what should have happened. The vertical tail was added in 1902 to change the aerodynamic forces and prevent this from happening.


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Last modified: Tue Aug 27 12:32:33 PDT 2002
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