Who Were Wilbur and Orville?
1889 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
1899
The Breakthrough Concept
The Breakthrough Concept
The Wrights realized that if the wing on one side of the aircraft met the oncoming flow of air at a greater angle than the opposite wing, it would generate more lift on that side. In response, that wing would rise, causing the aircraft to bank. If the pilot could manipulate the wings in this way, he could maintain balance and turn the aircraft as well.
Wing-Warping
Wing-Warping


The brothers considered using a system of gears and pivoting shafts to angle the wings in opposite directions, but they quickly realized such a system would be too heavy and complex. Then they conceived the elegant concept of twisting, or warping, the wing structure itself, a method they called wing-warping.
The Significance of Wing-Warping
Controlling lateral balance aerodynamically with wing-warping reflected the Wrights’ focus on producing a practical airplane that could be developed further. They were not interested in merely getting off the ground with a dead-end design, simply for the credit of having made the first flight.
Wing-Warping
(front view)


Testing Wing-Warping
The Wrights were aware of earlier biplane designs, in particular the successful 1896 Chanute-Herring glider. That aircraft’s bracing especially drew their interest. Steel wires crisscrossed between vertical wooden struts that supported the upper and lower wings, creating a simple, rigid structure. The Wrights adapted this bracing system to their first aircraft, a kite they built in 1899 to test their control idea.
Go to the 1899 Wright Kite >>
Twisted Box Inspiration
The Twisted Box Inspiration
The brothers next had to adapt this concept to a structural design. Wilbur hit upon an idea while absentmindedly twisting a cardboard box from a bicycle inner tube as he chatted with a customer in the brothers’ shop. He observed that even when he applied a considerable twist, the box retained its lateral stiffness. It occurred to him that the same principle could be applied to a set of properly rigged biplane wings.

Chanute/Herring Glider
Chanute/Herring Glider
The 1896 glider built by Octave Chanute and Augustus Herring. Note the biplane wing layout, vertical struts, and bracing wires. As with Lilienthal’s glider, the pilot controlled the craft by shifting his body weight.