Monday, December 12, 2016

Remembering Wilbur and Orville Wright's Box-Kite Byplane, 1939

“Wings Are Fledged,” from the New York Times, Dec. 17, 1939

Thirty-six years ago this morning the brothers of the bicycle shop, Wilbur and Orville Wright, took their crude box-kite biplane out of its shelter on the dunes of Kill Devil Hill. A twenty-seven mile wind was blowing over Kitty Hawk. It was so cold that the brothers and their little knot of local believers had to warm their hands over a home-made stove fashioned out of a carbide can as they debated whether to brave so high a wind in the frail structure. It would make take-off dangerous, but then it would slow down the landing. They decided to try it. The machine lifted into the air forty feet from the start. It bucked in the bumpy gusts, but remained aloft for twelve seconds and traveled under its own power about 120 feet. Three other flights were made that day—a public demonstration, before five disinterested spectators, the truth of that ringing prediction of Da Vinci, now spread upon the great shaft of the Wright Memorial at Kitty Hawk, “There Shall Be Wings.”

Yesterday the third Wright Brothers Lecture was presented under the auspices of the Institute of Aeronautical Sciences by Dr. Clark B. Millikan of the California Institute of Technology, on “The Influence of Running Propellers on Aircraft Characteristics.” Today and every day the problems of stability and control under power, which the Wrights were able to master sufficiently to begin an epoch, are being further explored in great laboratories and wind tunnels the world over. Already they have been so resolved that man flies at more than 400 miles an hour and spans the continents and the oceans at will. The Air Traffic Conference of America predicts that the passenger county on our own domestic airlines will pass the 2,000,000 mark this year and reach 2,500,000 next. Truly a new dimension was won on the North Carolina sands that memorable day three decades and a half ago.

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