Who Were Wilbur and Orville?
1899 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
1903
A Discouraging Flight
A Discouraging Flight
The 1901 glider was the Wright brothers’ second, and most problematic, in a series of three gliders leading up to their powered airplane. While larger than its predecessor—it had a 22-foot wing span and weighed 98 pounds—and capable of longer flights, it experienced puzzling problems with lift and control.
The 1901 Wright Glider Piloted by Wilbur Wright
William and Dan Tate assist Wilbur into the air, while Orville mans the camera.
Flight testing the 1901 glider
The Wrights continued with their gradual method of flight-testing. Launched by assistants on either wingtip, their initial glides were just a few inches off the ground. William Tate and his half-brother Dan came by often to help. The testing began to reveal unexpected problems.
Problems with control arise
Previously smooth and sure, the elevator control was now overly sensitive and erratic. When they warped the wings, the glider initially turned in the intended direction, then suddenly reversed itself. The Wrights were utterly baffled.
The Wright 1901 Glider in Flight
The Wright brothers achieved glides of more than 300 feets in the 1901 glider.
Problems with lift persist
The glider produced only one-third the lift that their calculations predicted. The Wrights suspected the large increase they had made in wing curvature (from 1 in 23 to 1 in 12) was causing both the lift and pitch control problems. They re-rigged the wings to a shallower curvature (1 in 19) by altering the tension on the wires running over the vertical wing posts. The responsive pitch control returned, but lift remained poor.
Results of the 1901 glider trials
The Wrights left Kitty Hawk discouraged. They had achieved glides of more than 90 meters (300 feet) in the largest glider ever built, but major problems with lift still plagued the aircraft, and new troubles with control appeared. Their goal of a practical airplane seemed more elusive than ever.
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Kiting the 1901 Wright Glider
The Wrights’ kite the 1901 glider. Note the high angle to the wind needed to keep the glider aloft, indicating that the wings are not providing enough lift.
 
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Stopwatch
The Wrights used this stopwatch to time the Kitty Hawk flights.
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