Langley Aerodrome A

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    Langley Aerodrome A

    Piloted tandem-wing experimental aircraft built and unsuccessfully tested by Samuel P. Langley in 1903. Fifty-two-horsepower, five-cylinder radial gasoline engine turning two pusher propellers via geared transmission system. Percaline covering. Natural fabric finish; no sealant or paint of any kind.

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    Langley Aerodrome in Workshop

    The frame of the Great Aerodrome takes shape in the workshop on the second floor of the Smithsonian's South Shed in this photo taken January 31, 1900.

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    Langley Aerodrome A at the Udvar-Hazy Center

    The Langley Aerodrome A is on display at the National Air and Space Museum's Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center. The aircraft was Samuel Langley's attempt to build a full-sized, human-carrying airplane, which met with disastrous results, crashing on takeoff on October 7, 1903, and again on December 8. Langley was Secretary of the Smithsonian at the time.

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This object is on display in the Pre-1920 Aviation at the Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly, VA.

Pre-1920 Aviation

Samuel Langley's successful flights of his model Aerodromes Number 5 and Number 6 in 1896 led to plans to build a full-sized, human-carrying airplane. Langley's simple approach was merely to scale up the unpiloted Aerodromes to human-carrying proportions. This would prove to be a grave error, as the aerodynamics, structural design, and control system of the smaller aircraft were not adaptable to a full-sized version. Langley's primary focus was the power plant. The completed engine, a water-cooled five-cylinder radial that generated a remarkable 52.4 horsepower, was a great achievement for the time.

Despite the excellent engine, the Aerodrome A, as it was called, met with disastrous results, crashing on takeoff on October 7, 1903, and again on December 8. Langley blamed the launch mechanism. While this was in some small measure true, there is no denying that the Aerodrome A was an overly complex, structurally weak, aerodynamically unsound aircraft. This second crash ended Langley's aeronautical work entirely.