• Celebrating The Centennial Of Flight With Orville & Wilbur

    FlightSim.Com Celebrates The Centennial of Flight
    With Orville & Wilbur

    By Cap Mason

    How it all began.

    While some historians may dispute who was actually first to power a heavier-than-air machine through the skies, fact is the world of modern aviation was born December 17th, 1903 on a cold winter day in Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Without the ingenuity and courage of Orville and Wilbur Wright -- plus their determination to develop their new technology -- we'd still be earthbound. From that momentous day at Kitty Hawk, The Wright Company went on to build 19 different aircraft before licensing their designs to other firms.

    The first world wide web.

    According to Microsoft CEO, Bill Gates, "The Wright Brothers created the single greatest cultural force since the invention of writing. The airplane became the first World Wide Web, bringing people, languages, ideas, and values together."

    Having said that, it's no small wonder that Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight, features a wonderful model of the Wright Flyer.

    Now, you can duplicate the Wright Brothers' exploits with FS2004.

    Out of the nine historic aircraft featured in Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight, the Wright Flyer is by far the most challenging to pilot. To find out more about it, read Andrew Herd's wonderful review about the historic aircraft in FS2004 here.

    "...in many ways, the Flyer is the most interesting of them all, because it is the machine in which the Wrights solved the conundrum of how to make a controlled, powered, sustained flight. Others had made sustained, powered or controlled flights, but no-one had managed to do all three at once, and behind the Wrights' meticulous development schedule lay the uncomfortable knowledge that too many of their friends and acquaintances had died in accidents."

    If at first you don't succeed, let Orville fly it!

    The Wrights first tried to launch their Flyer on December 14, 1903 with Wilbur The world's first pilot also performed the world's first bonehead pilot error. Unfamiliar with the controls, Wilbur pulled the Flyer up too sharply on take off and learned the first lesson of ground school: the aircraft stalls when air stops flowing across the wings! Wilbur's flight came to an abrupt end when the Flyer stalled and crashed.

    Undaunted, the brothers quickly repaired the damage. Three days later, on December 17, 1903, they made history. Orville Wright made the first successful flight. Beginning at 10:35 AM, Orville flew the Flyer 120 feet in 12 seconds that changed the world forever. Wilbur got the hang of it and made a second flight of 175 feet. Orville made the third ascent and flew 200 feet. By noon, Wilbur was already a hot-stick pilot and broke his brother's record by flying an amazing 852 feet in 59 seconds.

    Snubbed by the Smithsonian.

    What's even more amazing is that the Wright Brothers' feat was actually snubbed by the poobahs running the Smithsonian Institution at the time. The brothers preserved their original Flyer and offered it to The Smithsonian but they were given the cold shoulder and turned down! The British, on the other hand, knew an amazing feat when they saw it and welcomed The Flyer. The Wrights shipped it off to the Science Museum in London in 1928 where it was on display until after World War II. The Smithsonian eventually realized the error of its ways and 46 years after the flight, brought the Flyer back across the Atlantic in 1949. Today it is proudly featured as the centerpiece of the magnificent Smithsonian Air and Space Museum as the world's first piloted powered airplane.

    1903 Wright Flyer 3-View Drawing

    An engineering marvel.

    The Wright Flyer was a biplane with a 40.3-foot wing span and a 48 sq-foot double horizontal front rudder. It also had 21 sq-foot twin movable vertical rear rudders, a 21.1-foot overall length and weighed just 605 lb. The right wing was 4 inches longer to compensate for extra weight of engine. Orville and Wilbur had not yet figured out how to bank an aircraft with ailerons. They used an ingenious wing-warping technique that actually twisted the wings to change the air flow and turn the aircraft. It was no simple matter and the pilot had to literally wiggle the plane into flying in the desired direction.

    The Flyer's panel was about as simple as it gets with just a crude anemometer to gauge wind speed and direction, a stopwatch and a distance meter.

    The Countdown to Kitty Hawk

    Microsoft, Ford and Eclipse Aviation have joined together to sponsor the EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk. It's a centennial celebration of the Wright brothers’ first powered flight. Led by EAA, presented by Ford Motor Company, and supported by Microsoft Flight Simulator and Eclipse Aviation, this year-long series of inspirational events features an interactive touring pavilion and the world’s most accurate re-creation of The Wright Flyer. The Countdown to Kitty Hawk will culminate in re-creating the original Wright Brothers' feat, in the re-built Flyer, at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on December 17, 2003—exactly one century after the first historic flight.

    KenClampingon03EAA has contracted Ken Hyde of The Wright Experience in Warrenton, Virginia, to build an authentic reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer. It is the most accurate of its kind and is scheduled to be complete in early 2003. >> >>

    To ensure the authenticity of the 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction and research from The Wright Experience, Ford Motor Company has provided technological expertise and major help for the project. >This included wind tunnel tests to re-create the Flyer's propeller as closely as possible.> >> >>

    At 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 2003, 100 years to-the-minute of the first flight, EAA and Countdown to Kitty Hawk presenting sponsor, Ford Motor Company, are scheduled to re-create the Wright brothers’ historic moment. It will mark the first time a truly accurate 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction has taken to the air at the site of the Wrights’ flight. Through a special partnership with the National Park Service, EAA’s 1903 Wright Flyer is the only reproduction scheduled to re-create the flight at the Wright Brothers National Memorial. >> >>

    Simming In The Wright Flyer

    Detail of the Wright Flyer sim showing the cockpit cradle, footrest and flight controls. Powered by a Pentium 4 PC and Microsoft Flight Simulator 2002, this sim accurately recreates the challenge to pilot America's first powered aircraft.
    Leave it to the Microsofties to come up with a new flightsim experience that is totally cool, and totally exhausting, too. Mad Max and I got a chance to fly the Flyer, in simulation of course, at the Museum of Flight in Seattle. The heart of the EAA Wright Flyer simulator is FS2002. The cradle, shown here, is a replica of the Wright Flyer cockpit. It flies just as the Flyer did. We used a waist cradle to control wing warping to turn and a stick in the left hand to control pitch. The throttle was a simple two-position control: full on, or off.

    Designed by the Microsoft team's aeronautical engineer, Mike Gilbert, the Wright Flyer is a handful, or should I say belly-full, to fly. As you can see from this shot of Mad Max, you lie face down in the cradle, plant your midsection in the wing-warping cradle, and wiggle the Flyer in the direction you want it to go. Hips left, she turns left, hips right, she turns right. Easier said than done. All I can say is, thank goodness for the invention of ailerons! It only took a little wiggle to start a turn and a massive and sustained yank in the opposite direction to recover before spinning into the ground. After applying full throttle, you had to pull back on the stick until she pitched up and became airborne, but then immediately recover before stalling. Flying The Flyer was exhausting, especially for us couch potatoes with bad backs!

    Mad Max Merlin in The Wright Flyer Sim

    "Pitch forward, now," Coached Mike Gilbert, Microsoft aeronautical engineer and designer of the EAA Wright Flyer sim. "Easy...That's good. Pitch left...more...I said PITCH LEFT!!!" (CRASH!)

    "Who put that hangar there? There weren't any hangars at Kitty Hawk!" observes FlightSim.Com Combat Flight Sim Editor, Mad Max Merlin as he tries his hand at piloting the Wright Flyer sim. Piloting a powered kite while lying prone and turning with your hips instead of a yoke is a true test of any sim pilot's flying skills. Look for The Wright Flyer sim at air shows sponsored by Microsoft and EAA.

    Just to make it more interesting, the Flyer sim adds a few challenges that Orville and Wilbur never had such as buildings, hangars, and plane-eating trees. A little friendly competition quickly emerged among the Microsofties and the journalists to see who could fly the Flyer the farthest and longest without crashing. It soon became a clash of titans between Mad Max and Flying Magazine's Lane Wallace. Max nursed the Flyer into the air, through the trees, over buildings and was on his way to the beach at Kitty Hawk, when he clipped a building and bought the farm. When Lane Wallace took the controls, this Flying Magazine pilot showed Max how it's done. She cleared the obstacle course, went feet-wet over the beach, and was on her way to Bermuda when the Flyer ran out of fuel and ditched. Truly an amazing feat of airmanship in a very cool application of FS2002 technology.

    The Microsoft-EAA Wright Flyer simulator will be touring the USA. Look for it at air shows and try your hand at wing warping.

    I found a fabulous model of The Wright Flyer in our freeware library for FS2002.

    This model by Paul Beardsley features an animated engine, controls, pilot and most flight surfaces. The download also includes a flight set to December 17, 1903 plus scenery of the test flight camp with its hangar, Orville and the launch rail at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

    Log in and download the file named: 1903flyr.zip

    Or, grab a copy of Flight Simulator 2004: A Century of Flight

    Fly the most historically accurate flightsim of the first powered aircraft along with all the other sensational historic and modern aircraft.