The Secret of Flight 3: History of Early Flight

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(pleasant music) (jet engine roars) – [Narrator] The Secret of Flight, a series of programs on aerodynamics. Program Three: The
History of Early Flight. Your host is Dr. Alexander Lippisch. – This is a model of the first airplane who ever flew. A model of the Wright brothers’
airplane of the year, 1903. This historical event took place at Kitty Hawk in the dunes of North Carolina on the Atlantic Coast. It was December 17, and the Wright brothers, there are two of them. Wilbur and Orville Wright. They made at this day, at this morning, four successive flights with this machine. The first one, the first flight lasted 12 seconds. This is the first takeoff at this first flight, under the direction of Orville Wright. And the last flight on this day covered a distance of 852 feet, and lasted 59 seconds. They were all on the horizontal
course, all the flights, and the wind, they flew against it, was a gale of 24 miles per hour. So that if you compute this, and think that they would have flown the same thing in still air, then you come out as the last flight covered about the distance of 3,000 feet and was made with the speed
again, of 43 miles per hour. Now the question is, how did they achieve this magnificent performance at a time when practically nobody else could ever match such success? Well, if you go back and see what was there on aviation and on knowledge about aeronautics before
the Wright brothers. Well, we know for instance that in 1870, this Frenchman Alphonse Penaud showed this little powered
model of an airplane, which contains mainly all the features. Has the wing, it has
sharpened control surfaces, has a little motor, it has a propeller, and is driven by the
propellor through the air. And on the other hand,
there were several people who began to test models and there was one, the engineer Otto Lillienthal, who from tests with models, he concluded that it
would be the best thing to fly a man carrying glider, and test the results of his measurements with certain wing-shaped surfaces, cambered surfaces. You know camber is a
curvature of the wings, so it’s hollow underneath and round above, and he tested this with gliders and showed that in this way, you could get a certain amount
of experience in flight, even if you did not have an engine which would propel this
airplane in a horizontal course. Now from the knowledge of Lillienthal, others tried to fly manned gliders, and among them there was the American engineer, Octave Chanute, of whom you see here the picture, who actually contributed several new ideas to the construction and
design of such gliders. His main contribution is in my opinion the structural design of a biplane. The two support pole surfaces connected with struts and
braced out with wires. This was conceived by Chanute, because he was a structural engineer. He built several bridges, and designed all kinds of appliances for railroads and this way he knew how to build a light and strong framework. All this was known, and
when the Wright brothers began with their interest on aeronautics, which was in the years of about 1897, ’98, they discussed these things, and they drove exactly
the right conclusion of which when they found out that all this gliding with what we call today a hang glider, that means with a glider
where the man hangs in it, and controls the motions of the glider by shifting his own weight, would not be good enough to control a larger machine. And they invented at once, a control system which now made it possible that the man was fixed in a certain position and moved certain levers, and with these levers he could move the surfaces. He could point and swap the wings. This was the first model
they ever tested, as a kite. You know they could warp
the wings like this. They could shift the wings
forward and backward, and all this with certain mechanical helps and in this way, could be able to control larger machines. After they had conceived this, in 1899, they began to test gliders of their system and to be able to do this gliding with, at a spot where
they had good conditions. That means wind and free space, they found this spot in Kitty Hawk at the coast of North Carolina. Now, through these years, 1900, 1901, and 1902, they tested several
successive glider types, and improved it. Improved it so much that in 1902, they had a glider which performed exactly as they though it should be. It was completely
controllable, very stable, had a large wingspan, much larger than anybody
else had ever tested, and they flew in winds where nobody with a hang glider would
ever dare to fly in it. With this system developed, they were able to go on and
try to build a powered machine. Now, to build a powered
machine at this time, it was necessary first
of all to have an engine. And since nobody could
build them an engine, they built it themselves. And they built an engine better than anybody else could do it. A 12 horsepower engine, which
had the weight of 150 pounds. And they used exactly the
system of their 1902 glider, but they had to make
their powered machine. As you see here, this is
the same scale, larger, because the weight was larger, and the machine with the operator would weigh 750 pounds. That means they tried to fly with power loading of 62
pounds per horsepower, which it never in later
years was ever tested. And they tried to fly this machine against such a storm! Because you know, 24 miles
per hour on the coast with a December storm, which was there is not only a strong wind, but it contains lots of gusts and you must have a machine
which is fully controllable, otherwise you wouldn’t be able to fly in such weather. Now, they took off this machine not from wheels as it is done today, but they built themselves a monorail, as you see it here in this picture. This is the rail from which they took off, and they placed the
machine on a little trolley which runs along the rails, and they hooked the machine on before they took off. Then they started the engines, and after they are running, they ran off, the machine and it moved by the thrust of the
propellers against the wind and after about 40 feet of
running on the rail itself, he lift the machine up in the air and flew against this strong wind, which was at this time as
we know, 24 miles per hour. So that actually the
machine over the ground had only a speed of 10 miles per hour. Now, this, these first flights, which showed that it was possible to fly a powered machine with this low horsepower, and to control it in strong winds was the beginning of the further tests of the Wright brothers. See after they had performed this in the December of 1903, they transferred their experimental work to a place which was near
their hometown in Dayton, Ohio. And there, they operated improved aircraft in the years 1904 and 1905, and towards the end of the year 1905, they actually had solved the flight problem most completely, since they were able to circle
their fields many times, and fly times of well until the fuel ran out, or until the water supply
in their radiator ran out actually about 40 minutes or so. That means it proved completely that they were able to
control their machine very efficiently, and to fly around as they wanted to do it. So, these years are the beginning of aviation. And the work which the Wright brothers did necessarily initiated several other people to try to build also flying machines. As you know, when one man has
shown that it is possible, then there is much more confidence to do it yourself, and more confidence on others
that they would be able if they would build a good engine to fly with such a machine. See, the Wright brothers themselves now did not only experiment and build and design this first flying machine, but they also made very extensive tests in a small wind tunnel, which they built in their shop in Dayton. Actually these tests are
the first wind tunnel tests, practical wind tunnel tests on wing surfaces, on different shapes of wing surfaces, on different shapes of the cross sections. That means wing sections, and all this. And they derived from these experiments a very keen knowledge of
the design of such aircraft. On the other hand, when
they wanted to build their powered machine, there was nobody who could
ever make them a propeller. Nobody knew anything about a propeller for an aircraft. So they not only had to build a propeller, or to design it, but they had to make a propeller theory, and to find out which way a most efficient propeller
had to be shaped. And they solved this problem
in a very complete way, and actually put two propellers at the rear of their surfaces. Two very large propellers so that they would have
a very good efficiency, and by adhering them to the engine with bicycle chain, and crossing one of the chains, you see? One of the chains is crossed. They had counter-rotation
on the propellers so that they would eliminate the torque of the engine completely. All these features on the Wright machine show that they had a
very extended knowledge of designing an efficient aircraft. Much more than anybody
else had at this time. Now, after having solved the problem, well they went to negotiate with different governments whether they would be interested to buy their invention. Well, what they found out was this, that nobody believed that
they could ever do it. So finally, it came out
that they had to show it. They didn’t want to show it, because they thought well when we show it, then somebody else sees it and then we have all the trouble that they imitate what we have done. But nevertheless, in the years 1906 and 1907, all their negotiation
didn’t lead to anything, so that finally in 1908 they had to go and demonstrate the machine. And now to demonstrate it in this country, to the government and to
the Army Signal Corps, and on the other hand
to show it in Europe, they had to separate. And Wilbur Wright went over to Europe to France, and then to Le Mans to demonstrate flights there while Orville Wright went
to Fort Myer near Washington to show the flying machine which was on a contract with
the Signal Corps of the army. We have from this time a few films of these early flights. Now when you see these films, you must be aware that the speed of the films at this time was not what we have today
in the modern camera, because the films were not very sensitive. So what you see goes much faster actually than as it was done. Their speed of taking the film was probably 12 or 16 frames per second, and you see it today with
24 frames per second. So therefore don’t bother that they fly so fast, and that people move like in a Charlie Chaplin film. This is only due to these old films. But you see there, first of all, their device to take off. Now, see they didn’t want
to take off from wheels, because they found out
you needed too much power. They didn’t have that. So they built themselves a device which is a launching device to take off again from rails. And they had a derrick tower with a big weight on it, and this was then guided to a long rope on their track, which was here, and pulled now the machine which was standing on this trolley. This will be their machine, so and then after they run the engines, they unhooked it and took off with this launching device. In some of the pictures, you see this, and you see how they pull this big weight. I think it was 1,200 pounds up with several men, and I remember very well myself. I have seen Orville
Wright flying in Berlin. When we waited for flights, the first thing that we knew we were near to something like this was when the men came and pulled the big weight up. Now you see it in the film, and let’s watch the film. Now to show you some of the most successful airplanes from the early days of aviation, besides the airplane
of the Wright brothers, we have here some very beautiful models of these airplanes, and let’s look first at the most successful competitor with the Wright brothers. This is an airplane from Glenn Curtiss. He worked together with
Herring and Graham Bell. This machine actually
represents his airplane from the years 1909. It called the Gold Bug. It’s propelled by a four cylinder 35 horsepower engine. A design of Curtiss himself. It is also known as the
so-called Albany Flyer because with this machine, Curtiss flew from Albany to New York and won several prizes, among them the prizes from
the Scientific American, and also competed very successfully in airplane meets at Reims in France. You see, this machine contains mainly the same features
as the Wright machine. It has in front the elevator, which he can move with this wheel there. It has instead of warping the wing it has separate aerial
surfaces on both sides, which is the same as the wing warping, and it has back there the rudder and has also a pusher propeller. But he took off from wheels. Now, this was the most successful American besides the Wright brothers. In Europe, this was mainly the success and focus in flying was mainly done by the Frenchmen. And this represents here a model of the airplane of Henri Farman, who made with this airplane, the first flight in one circuit of the length of one kilometer in the early days of 1908. I think it was in January. This machine had no lateral control. It had only the elevator in front, and the rudder at the rear and he tried with the dihedral. You see this has a little dihedral, with the dihedral to make
turns only with the rudder, which was quite difficult. It is propelled by an eight cylinder Antoinette engine, which had 50 horsepower, and you see again the features which they had taken
from the Wright brothers. The elevator in front, and the biplane design. Now the tail must remember you of the tail of a kite, you know? The Hargrave kite, the box kite, was in some way also a model of the first airplanes, or at least some people derived from this type of kite their airplanes, and then this way they had such a surface back there. Now besides Farman, the most successful Frenchman was, as you know, Louis Bleriot, who in 1909 with this little machine, which is much smaller than all the other
early types of aviation, crossed the Channel from Calais to Dover in I think it was July, 1909. Now, this machine is different. You see, it is a monoplane. Its had also the wing warping, and has a tractor propeller driven by an Anzani engine of, as I know, about 25, 30 horsepower. This engine air cooled was not a very reliable one, but at least he could cross the Channel after a rainstorm cooled his engine in such a way that he reached the coast on the other side. He wouldn’t have reached it if the rain didn’t cool the engine. He had contributed to aviation
one very important thing. You see, he had a stick instead of having these handles and all these other things. He had one stick, a wheel with a stick and on this the wires
which go to the surfaces, and by moving the stick around, he controlled the airplane. Therefore he is in some way the inventor of the modern type of airplane control. Now, I can only tell you a little bit about these early flights, and these early developments, but if you are more interested, and you should be, in the history of aviation. Aviation which is so exciting, you might find a very
good source of information in these books which I have here. Of course, these are the papers of Wilbur and Orville Wright which were now printed and edited by McFarland from the aeronautics division of the Library of Congress. This is an exciting story, and even if this is a big volume, I will tell you that you’ll read it with more interest than the most exciting mystery story you ever have read. Another book which tells
in a very nice manner about the first time of aviation and about the performances
of the Wright brothers, and also their personal life, which I cannot mention here, is this book from Fred Kelly, “The Miracle at Kitty Hawk.” In our next lecture, I will tell you something more about the discovery of the dynamic lift, the means of the evolution of the cambered wing section. To give you just a little glimpse in what we will see, I have here in the tunnel, one of these sections and then we have the smoke lines on, then we can see the flow pattern, which we will discuss in our next lecture. Until this time, goodbye
and auf wiedersehen. (pleasant music) – [Narrator] You have just seen
The History of Early Flight, the third in a series of programs explaining the secret of flight. Your host has been Dr. Alexander Lippisch, director of the Aeronautical
Research Laboratories of the Collins Radio Company. This program was produced for the Educational
Television and Radio Center by the State University of Iowa. (jet engine roars)


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