Airfoil Collection

Photo of Airfoils

On any day, at any airport, in any city, people fly. Many people experience their "first" flight as a child or young adult. For some people, flying has become routine.

Stop for a moment and consider the wonder. How can an aircraft, loaded with people and cargo, possibly fly?

Over one hundred years ago, two brothers from Ohio first tried to answer that question. In 1901, Orville and Wilbur Wright tried to fly their first aircraft. The design, however, was not successful. While the craft did achieve liftoff, it worked only as a glider. After the failed flights at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, they realized that it was foolish to build full-size models for testing.

They decided to approach the problem scientifically. They spent countless hours in their workshop calculating forces and experimenting with wing shapes. They built a wind tunnel to simulate flight conditions. They were the first to make precise measurements of lift and drag forces. Soon, they determined that the commonly accepted value for the coefficient of drag was too high, explaining why their "first" flight failed.