Who Were Wilbur and Orville?
1889 1900 1901 1902 1903 1904 1905
1899 Wright Kite
1899 Wright Kite
The Wrights combined their wing-warping control concept and the structural design of the Chanute-Herring glider in their first aircraft, a biplane kite with a 5-foot wingspan, built in July 1899.
To allow for wing-warping, they left the kite unbraced between the front and rear struts (vertical posts). It was controlled with four lines running from the top and bottom of the front outer struts to a pair of sticks held by the operator. Tilting the sticks in opposite directions caused the wing structure to twist.
No photographs exist of the 1899 kite; only a sketch of it illustrating wing-warping, drawn by Wilbur in 1912.

Visual Thinking
The development of wing-warping and the design of the 1899 kite illustrate how adept both Wilbur and Orville were at moving back and forth between the abstract and the concrete. They had a great capacity for creating conceptual models of a solution to a problem that could then be transformed into practical hardware.

Visual thinking was a critical aspect of this process. The Wright brothers’ use of graphic mental imagery to conceptualize basic structures and mechanisms was among the most important elements of their inventive method.
Flight Testing the Kite
Wilbur flew the kite at a nearby field in mid-summer. The only witnesses were a group of schoolboys, who were fascinated by the large, unusual-looking kite this adult in business attire was “toying” with.

The kite responded quickly and precisely to Wilbur’s commands. Having proven the soundness of their wing-warping control system, the Wrights began designing a full-size, piloted glider.
Go to Glider Trials at Kitty Hawk >>
Interactive Experiment Engineering the Wright Way >>
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