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Orville Wright diary (1903)

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Author Topic: Orville Wright diary (1903)  (Read 149 times)
Kara Sundstrom
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« on: December 18, 2007, 12:01:04 am »

Orville Wright diary (1903)
by Orville Wright


December 11
Arrived at camp about 1 o'clock. Spent afternoon in unpacking goods. Weather cold in morning but pleasant during most of day.

December 12
Set propeller shafts and got machine outside in afternoon with intention of making a trial. We did not have enough wind for starting from flat and not enough time to got to hill. So we spent some time in running machine along track to see what speed one man could give it. In a 40-ft. run the last 15 feet were covered in 1 ½ sec. In starting one time the frames supporting the tail were caught on the end of the track and broken. Weather warm.

December 13
Wind of 6 to 8 meters blowing from west and later from north. Air warm. Spent most of day reading. In afternoon Mr. Etheridge of L.S. Station[1], with wife and children, called to take a look at machine.

December 14
We spent morning in making repairs on tail, and truck for starting. At half past one o’clock we put out signal for station men, and started for hill, which took us about 40 minutes. After testing engine, with help of men (Bob Westcott, John T. Daniels, Tom Beacham, W.S. Dough, and Uncle Benny O’Neal), we took machine 150 ft uphill and laid track on 8º 50’ slope. A couple small boys, who had come with the men from the station, made a hurried departure over the hill for home on hearing the engine start. We tossed up coin to decide who should make first trial, and Will won. After getting adjustments of engine ready I took right end of machine. Will got on. When all was ready Will attempted to release fastening to rail, but the pressure due to the weight of the machine and thrust of screws was so great that he could not get it loose. We had to get a couple of the men to help push machine back till rope was slipped loose. While I was signaling man at other end to leave go, but before I myself was ready, Will started machine. I grabbed the upright the best I could and off we went. By the time we had reached the last quarter of the third rail (about 35 to 40 feet) the speed was so great I could stay with it no longer. I snapped watch as machine passed end of track. (It had raised from track six or eight feet from end.) The machine turned up in front and rose to a height of about 15 feet from ground at a point somewhere in neighborhood of 60 feet from end of track. After losing most of its headway it gradually sank to ground turned up at an angle of probably 20º incidence. The left wing was lower than the right so that in landing it struck first. The machine swung around and scraped the front skids (bows running out to front rudder) so deep in sand that one was broken, and twisted around until the main strut and brace were also broken, besides the rear spar to lower surface of front rudder. Will forgot to shut off engine for some time, so that the record of screw turns was mostly taken while the machine was on the ground. The engine made 602 rev. in 35 ½ s. Time of flight from end of track was 3 ½ sec. for a distance of 105 ft. Angle of descent for the 105 feet was 4º 55’. Speed of wind was between 4 and 8 miles.

December 15
Spent day in making repairs to front rudder and rudder frame. Wind 5 to 6 meters.

December 16
Wind of 6 to 7 meters blowing from west and northwest in morning. We completed repairs by noon and got the machine out on the tracks in front of the building ready for a trial from the level. The wind was gradually dying and by the time we were ready was blowing only about 4 to 5 meters per sec. After waiting several hours to see whether it would breeze up again we took the machine in.

December 17
When we got up, a wind of between 20 and 25 miles was blowing from the north.

We got the machine out early and put out the signal for the men at the station. Before we were quite ready, John T. Daniels, W. S. Dough, A. D. Etheridge, W. C. Brinkley of Manteo, and Johnny Moore of Nags Head arrived.

After running the engine and propellers a few minutes to get them in working order, I got on the machine at 10:35 for the first trial. The wind, according to our anemometers at this time, was blowing a little over 20 miles (corrected) 27 miles according to the Government anemometer at Kitty Hawk. On slipping the rope the machine started off increasing in speed to probably 7 or 8 miles. The machine lifted from the truck just as it was entering on the fourth rail. Mr. Daniels took a picture just as it left the tracks.

I found the control of the front rudder quite difficult on account of its being balanced too near the center and thus had a tendency to turn itself when started so that the rudder was turned too far on one side and then too far on the other. As a result the machine would rise suddenly to about 10 ft. and then as suddenly, on turning the rudder, dart for the ground. A sudden dart when out about 100 feet from the end of the tracks ended the flight. Time about 12 seconds (not known exactly as watch was not promptly stopped). The lever for throwing off the engine was broken, and the skid under the rudder cracked. After repairs, at 20 min. after 11 o'clock Will made the second trial.

The course was about like mine, up and down but a little longer over the ground though about the same in time. Dist. not measured but about 175 ft. Wind speed not quite so strong.

With the aid of the station men present, we picked the machine up and carried it back to the starting ways. At about 20 minutes till 12 o'clock I made the third trial. When out about the same distance as Will's, I met with a strong gust from the left which raised the left wing and sidled the machine off to the right in a lively manner. I immediately turned the rudder to bring the machine down and then worked the end control. Much to our surprise, on reaching the ground the left wing struck first, showing the lateral control of this machine much more effective than on any of our former ones. At the time of its sidling it had raised to a height of probably 12 to 14 feet.

At just 12 o'clock Will started on the fourth and last trip. The machine started off with its ups and downs as it had before, but by the time he had gone over three or four hundred feet he had it under much better control, and was traveling on a fairly even course. It proceeded in this manner till it reached a small hummock out about 800 feet from the starting ways, when it began its pitching again and suddenly darted into the ground.

The front rudder frame was badly broken up, but the main frame suffered none at all. The distance over the ground was 852 feet in 59 seconds. The engine turns was 1071, but this included several seconds while on the starting ways and probably about a half second after landing. The jar of landing had set the watch on machine back so that we have no exact record for the 1071 turns. Will took a picture of my third flight just before the gust struck the machine.

The machine left the ways successfully at every trial, and the tail was never caught by the truck as we had feared. After removing the front rudder, we carried the machine back to camp. We set the machine down a few feet west of the building, and while standing about discussing the last flight, a sudden gust of wind struck the machine and started to turn it over. All rushed to stop it. Will who was near one end ran to the front, but too late to do any good. Mr. Daniels and myself seized spars at the rear, but to no purpose. The machine gradually turned over on us. Mr. Daniels, having had no experience in handling a machine of this kind, hung on to it from the inside, and as a result was knocked down and turned over and over with it as it went. His escape was miraculous, as he was in with the engine and chains. The engine legs were all broken off, the chain guides badly bent, a number of uprights, and nearly all the rear ends of the ribs were broken. One spar only was broken.

After dinner we went to Kitty Hawk to send off telegram to M.W. While there we called on Capt. and Mrs. Hobbs, Dr. Cogswell and the station men.

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