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Build & Fly The Wright Flyers

Practical Applications

Final Tuning for Wright Biplanes

Learning From the 1900 & 1901 Gliders

The First Powered Flight

TA Wright 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer

Advanced Wing Structure

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  *Printing Instructions

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In 1899 Wilbur and Orville Wright built and flew a kite with which to test their first theories of control. The brothers had requested "all that is already known... about flying machines" from the Smithsonian and other sources. Focusing their attention on control and control surfaces as essential to manned flight, they began a series of experiments. The new kite used wing warping to adjust for roll and turning, and an elevator to adjust for pitch.

The first experiments were successful, and the kite demonstrated it could dive, climb, and roll to the right or left when directed by the operator. The brothers now felt they were justified in turning their attention to a gliding machine capable of carrying a man.

Plans like the one above form the basis for all of the TA gliders. The 1900 plans are available on the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company web site

The Wright brothers chose to give their first glider a rectangular shaped wing, with less camber than Lilienthal and Chanute recommended. Although Otto Lilienthal had been killed in a gliding experiment in 1896, his work was well known in the U.S., and he had clearly demonstrated that human flight was possible.

Octave Chanute also built and flew manned gliders. Chanute's "Progress In Flying Machines" was one of the most influential works of the time, and one of the Wright brothers' sources.

The 1900 glider had a wing span of 17 feet, 5 inches, and a chord of 5 feet. It weighed just under 50 pounds. Like the 1899 kite, the 1900 utilized wing warping and an elevator to control pitch. The '00 was flown mainly as a kite, although the brothers were able to get several three to four hundred foot glides. The glider required twenty two mile per hour wind to become airborne empty, and more carrying a man, which the Wrights felt was too fast for safety.

The 1901 glider had a 22 foot wing span and a larger elevator. In spite of making longer glides in this craft, the brothers were discouraged. The wing did not develop enough lift, and their control surfaces were not working properly.

TA 1902 Wright Glider
  The drawings on this page may be copied or scanned and printed with the author of Build And Fly The First Flyers and Booger Red's Books Inc. permission for the express and sole purpose of building TA aircraft. Reproduction for any form of commercial gain is strictly prohibited.

Parts list for the TA 1902 Wright Glider.
  • A, B are wings.
  • C1-4 are wing struts.
  • D is the elevator.
  • E1,2 are elevator struts.
  • F Double tail rudder structure.
  • G is the tail assembly top strap.
Landing skids are full length toothpicks.
Tail support is 7/8 of an inch long, from the small end of a toothpick.
Lay the parts out with the printed side up on work surface.

Build the 1902 Glider without camber!  
Assembly Instructions
  1. Copy, scan and print, or trace the drawings on the previous page on 24 lb paper of any color.
  2. Bend and crease the drawing at the fold line (figure 21).
  3. Cut the glider parts out starting at the fold line. Make the strut folds for the feet before cutting the struts apart.
  4. Bending Toothpicks. For the next step select two similar flat toothpicks. Not all toothpicks have similar straightness, width, and thickness. Choose carefully because your aircraft will look and fly better. Grasp the flat, wider end of one of the toothpicks, and bend it three-eights of an inch from the end. When you hear and feel it crack, stop! We want the bent end to stay attached. We are building landing skids for your Wright glider. Bend the second toothpick landing skid to match the first.

      Bend the toothpick to a 45 degree angle or less and it will be less likely to break off. If it breaks, try again.

  5. Glue the inside struts in place 1/4 inch from the centerline, the outside struts 3/4 inch from the wing tips. Always use a small smear of glue on wing struts as excess amounts will warp the wing surface.
  6. Glue the toothpick landing skids 1/4 inch from the centerline, at a right angle to the wing. When in position, the trailing or small end of the skid should be 1/8 inch from the trailing edge of the wing.

      See assembly instructions for making strut "feet". The struts are positioned and glued in place, the strut feet bent to right angles from struts. The wings are upside down.

  7. Glue the tail support in place on the centerline, extending to the rear of the wing at a right angle, with a 1/8 inch overlap. Allow time to dry.
  8. Smear a small amount of glue on the strut feet, and lower the bottom wing assembly into place as shown at left. Press gently on the bottom wing over the strut feet to insure proper bonding.

    Lower the bottom wing into position, aligning it directly above the upper wing. Note tail assembly ready to hang.  

  9. Hang the tail as shown below, gravity holds it in place.

    While the glider is upside down smear glue on the tail support, hang the tail assembly on the tail support.

    Glue the elevator struts in place 5/8 inch from the leading edge of the wing.

    Glue the elevator struts in place 5/8 inch from the leading edge of the wing.

    The Wright glider will need some "up" elevator. Bend the leading edge upward, the rear edge down.

When Wilbur and Orville Wright built their 1902 glider, they had already built a kite (1899), and flown their 1900 and 1901 gliders. They had studied other pioneers' efforts, and used a wind tunnel to perfect their design.

The 1902 Wright glider was the first aircraft ever that had control over all three axes: yaw, pitch and roll. A single tail rudder controlled yaw, or right and left turns. This glider was first built with a double, non-steering rudder. The Wrights made almost 1,000 glides with this aircraft during September and October of 1902. When the change was made to a single, steer-able rudder, their glide times increased.  
Wright 1902 glider.

The Wrights called the elevator, which they placed in front of the main wings, a horizontal rudder. This "horizontal rudder" provided control over the pitch (up and down control) of their airplane.

Wilbur Wright discovered wing warping when he was able to visualize the top and bottom surfaces of a bicycle inner tube box as wing surfaces. When one end of the box was twisted down, the other end was twisted up. In this motion, Wilbur could envision the flight of birds and how to control roll. The bi-plane design provided strength enough to make wing warping work, while the longer, thinner wings developed far more lift than the 1901 glider.

The Wright 1902 glider had a 32 foot wingspan and was 16.1 feet long. It only weighed 112 pounds. The Wrights continued using this glider in 1903, while they worked on the powered flyer. When the single rudder was replaced with a double, steering rudder, they were able to increase their glide time again.

The '02 was the subject of the Wright's first and most important patent.

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