While the Wrights still needed a propulsion system to realize their goal of powered flight, their latest aircraft embodied the basic aerodynamic, control, and structural requirements for human mechanical flight. To a great extent, the flights of the 1902 glider in its final form marked the invention of the airplane.
The 1902 Wright glider in air.
Kiting the 1902 glider
As always, the Wrights first flew their new glider as a kite. Its vastly improved lift performance was immediately evident, and it could sustain nearly level flight. Compare these photos of the three different gliders. The 1902 glider has a low angle of attack and nearly vertical kite lines, indications of a better ratio of lift to drag.
After the kiting tests, Wilbur and Orville began to fly the aircraft as a glider. The new fixed vertical rudder seemed to cure the control reversal problem they experienced in 1901—at least most of the time. Sometimes the reversal of the turn was even more sudden and violent. The Wrights called these episodes “well digging,” referring to the small crater left in the sand when the glider uncontrollably hit the ground.
Changes to the rudder
To solve the control reversal problem, the Wrights made the rudder movable, so its position could be coordinated with the wing-warping. They connected the rudder control cables to the wing-warping hip cradle, so a single motion by the pilot operated both controls. They also changed the original double rudder to a single rudder, as shown here.