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.
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
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