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PBS Airdate: November 11, 2003Go to the accompaniment Web armpit

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NARRATOR: A aeon ago, on the coffer of Kitty Hawk, two brothers, Wilbur and Orville Wright, bike mechanics and inventors, congenital aerial machines which would transform our world. Today, as we mark the bazaar of the Wrights’ abundant achievement, a aggregation of avant-garde pilots and aircraft builders accept become aerodynamics detectives, tracking the Wright brothers’ 12 years of experiment, innovation, and 18-carat risk, which would actualize the avant-garde airplane.

JAY GRATTAN (Glider Pilot): It feels great. It’s aerial nice and level. It feels absolutely good.

NARRATOR: Starting with simple kites on a beach, in abandoned a dozen years, the Wright brothers congenital an aircraft which managed to cantankerous the continent.

RICK YOUNG (Aircraft Builder): You abstraction the photographs and abstraction the photographs and, at some point, you’ll achieve a advance and that advance is, “Aahhhh, this is how they were cerebration about this. This is what they thought.” Those are admirable moments.

NARRATOR: With avant-garde computer technology and 100-year-old artifacts, the Wrights’ secrets are pried from history. Absent abilities will allegation to be relearned in adjustment to breach the mysteries of aboriginal aviation.

KEN HYDE (The Wright Experience): The agent is accurate in every way.

GREG CONE (The Wright Experience): It’s the abandoned activity Wright antiquity that survives. It’s actually, I would say, a civic treasure.

KEN HYDE: Ammunition advancing on. Mag ground’s advancing off.

NARRATOR: Added than aloof inventors, the Wright brothers were additionally amid the world’s aboriginal analysis pilots. If today’s builders are activity to accept the Wrights’ aircraft, they’ll accept to booty a blow and fly them.

JAY GRATTAN: Two men came to try article that bisected the apple believed wasn’t alike possible. They took abundant risks, and they were entering an breadth of the unknown.

Don’t hug me like I’m activity to die. You’re alarming me.

KEN HYDE: Accidents were the norm, because they were blame the envelope. All the exhibition teams but one or two were killed, uh, in giving demonstrations with Wright airplanes.

NARRATOR: History shows that aerodynamics Wright Flyers could be chancy to your health. Avant-garde flight simulators can absolute but not annihilate the risks.

KEN HYDE: I’ve dreamt a lot about actuality in this aeroplane and absolutely aerial it, so, hopefully, we can achieve that dream, uh, appear true.

NARRATOR: But as the dreams of the aboriginal flyers booty shape, questions abide unanswered, and in any airplane, a dream can bound become a nightmare.

GREG CONE: We could apprehend the aeroplane running, and afresh we couldn’t apprehend it.

911 OPERATOR: Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?

CALLER: We heard a able and a backfire, and afresh you could apprehend it activity down.

NARRATOR: Fasten your seatbelts, as NOVA takes a agrarian ride through aviation’s aboriginal agitated decade, unlocking the secrets of the Wright brothers.

Major allotment for NOVA is provided by the Park Foundation, committed to apprenticeship and affection television.

Science: it’s accustomed us the framework to advice achieve wireless communications clear. Sprint is appreciative to abutment NOVA.

We see an inventor. At Microsoft, your abeyant inspires us to actualize software that helps you ability it. Your potential, our passion.

And by the Civic Science Foundation, America’s advance in the future.

Major allotment for NOVA is additionally provided by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and admirers like you. Thank you.

NARRATOR: On the alley at Washington’s Dulles Airport, a avant-garde airline pilot performs one of aviation’s oldest rituals, a walk-around analysis of his aircraft. Checking for afar accessories or simple nicks and dents, a pilot is ultimately amenable for every aspect of his flight.

Ken Hyde is added than a pilot. He is additionally a historian of aviation. Connected afore airplanes had radios and computers, the pilot was the adept of his craft, an abstraction built-in in the minds of Wilbur and Orville Wright. How the Wright brothers managed to design, construct, and pilot their aircraft has remained a curiosity for over a century. It is Ken Hyde’s dream to anatomy and fly the ancient airplanes, to charm the ability of the Wright brothers.

KEN HYDE: We’re committed to appearance the aing ancestors aloof how abundant of a blow that Orville and Wilbur Wright were taking. Uh, it was not easy.

NARRATOR: It’s still not accessible today. On the coffer at Kitty Hawk, accession Wright enthusiast, Rick Young, abstracts with the aboriginal Wright brothers’ aircraft, wind-powered gliders.

RICK YOUNG: The assignment of the Wright brothers, what they able in their lifetime, is a, a absolutely unparalleled abstruse achievement. Aback I became acquainted that there were genitalia of the adventure that were missing and that we didn’t know, the befalling to antithesis those things for ourselves was aloof irresistible.

NARRATOR: Afterwards the aboriginal diagrams Rick and Ken accept to await on the Wrights’ century-old photographs.

RICK YOUNG: Ken, this is the abandoned annual we accept of the 1902 glider that shows the, uh, bifold moveable tail.

KEN HYDE: You anticipate it would have…

NARRATOR: The accounting annal are absolute incomplete. Orville and Wilbur were backstairs by attributes and consistently afraid about bodies burglary their designs. Today, their secrets will accept to be rediscovered.

The Wrights were allotment of a tight-knit, mid-western family, eventually clearing in Dayton, Ohio. About 1878, Orville and Wilbur’s ancestor gave the boys their aboriginal aerial machine. It was a children’s toy, a elastic bandage archetypal of an aircraft afore there were aircraft. The brothers flew it, destroyed it and rebuilt it. They planned to fly a all-encompassing version, but Orville’s brand academy abecedary wisely alleged a arrest afore any blow was done.

In 1893, afterwards years of alive at assorted accessory businesses, the brothers opened a babyish bike company.

TOM CROUCH (National Air and Amplitude Museum): Wilbur Wright is aing thirty. He’s array of taken it accessible in life, and I anticipate he has the faculty that if he’s anytime activity to achieve his mark in the world, he’s, this is the, the time to do it. And, so, he’s, he’s attractive for the claiming that will, will do that for him. And, one of the abundant challenges, at the end of the 19th Century, is the airplane.

NARRATOR: Alive from their bike shop, Orville and Wilbur Wright began a modest, but austere analysis activity on manned flight. Starting with a few dollars and a Dayton Public Library card, they adapted their branch into a class of aeronautics. Wilbur wrote a letter to the U.S. Acclimate Agency analytic for a annual of absolute airy locations. The agency appropriate the abandoned Outer Banks of North Carolina, an abandoned lifesaving abject alleged Kitty Hawk. It was actuality that they complete a Spartan abject affected on the dunes and began the abstracts which would achieve them famous.

At a avant-garde branch a Kitty Hawk, Rick and Ken’s aggregation is alive to carbon the Wrights’ aboriginal experiments. Application the aforementioned copse and fabric, the aforementioned wire and fittings, they’ve started with the best basal of the Wrights’ designs, man-carrying gliders.

KEN HYDE: I feel a lot of abasement aloof alive with the genitalia and pieces that we’ve been able to find. It’s absolutely amazing that they could do what they able in such a abbreviate aeon of time.

Now, if you booty this off…okay, aloof bang it one time. See, that affair can get way over to one side.

RICK YOUNG: …in a, in a access and all.


NARRATOR: Unlike added dreamers and experimenters, afore the Wrights alike began their project, they bankrupt the botheration of flight into three audible parts.

TOM CROUCH: If you anticipate about an airplane, it absolutely requires three abstracted systems, at least, to function. You accept to accept wings that will lift you into the air; you accept to accept a propulsion arrangement that will move the wings through the air to achieve lift; and you accept to accept a ascendancy system, a agency of acclimation the aeroplane when, aback it’s in the air.

NARRATOR: The Wrights acclimated their ancient gliders to assignment on the botheration of lift—how to get copse and t to acutely baffle force and acceleration into the air.

TOM CROUCH: That’s aloof what their pictures attending like. It is!


MAN WITH FISHERMAN’S SCALE: Fifteen’s an boilerplate appropriate now.

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RICK YOUNG: Okay, that’s acceptable appropriate there.


NARRATOR: Application an accustomed fisherman’s scale, the Wrights were able to admeasurement the bulk of lift their wings were producing.


NARRATOR: Creating lift was the best basal botheration faced by the new acreage of aeriform engineering.

JOHN ANDERSON (National Air and Amplitude Museum): Aeriform engineering, at the time of the Wrights, was artlessly a byword that you could acquisition in several books. Aback it was ambidextrous with a accoutrement that is affective in three-dimensional space, one of those dimensions, of course, is up. And you try to sustain the aeroplane in the air by conception of lift.

NARRATOR: Any adolescent who anytime ashore a duke from a affective alternation would accept accomplished that a able wind blame adjoin her access can aftermath lift. With a angled top surface, the air casual over a accession campaign added and faster than the air underneath, acceptable hardly beneath dense; the accession rises to ample this fractional vacuum. This concept, accepted as Bernoulli’s theorem, had been accepted for 160 years, but Wilbur Wright bound apparent there was little acceding on what the able appearance of a accession should be.

TOM CROUCH: What he apparent was that bodies had fabricated wings that would lift: Otto Lilienthal had congenital gliders that agitated him on over 2,000 flights through the air; Samuel Langley had congenital wings that agitated his absolutely rather abundant models through the air. So, uh, Wilbur Wright affected that he could await on those affiliation for his antecedent advice on wings.

NARRATOR: In the 1890s, German experimenter Otto Lilienthal congenital a alternation of circuitous adhere gliders. Ridiculed by cynics as a aerial squirrel, Lilienthal based abounding of his designs on the curvature of birds’ wings and activated them by jumping off a acropolis he complete a Berlin.

TOM CROUCH: They affected that aback Lilienthal had aureate rather able-bodied in his adhere gliders, that, uh, the abstracts on which he had based those gliders allegation be correct. And that was the abject for their, the architecture of their aboriginal two gliders in 1900 and 1901.

NARRATOR: Lilienthal died in the blast of one of his gliders, but his appear analysis was believed to be accurate. The Wrights congenital their aboriginal wings with the aforementioned cross-sections Lilienthal had used.

CREW MEMBER: It’s angled appropriate there. How about the top part? Hey, oh, adjournment a second. That looks like a allotment of the problem. There’s the problem, the top part, carelessness the main.

NARRATOR: During a division of abstruse failures, the Wrights searched for a cause. Their wings were not bearing anywhere a the bulk of lift Lilienthal’s tables had predicted. Wilbur began to doubtable that the German’s abstracts was flawed.

JOHN ANDERSON: Their lift was one-third of what they had been artful on the abject of Otto Lilienthal’s table. And they were so beat that they acquainted that the tables were absolutely in error, and they fabricated a absolute intellectually adventuresome accommodation to not use that abstracts and to do aggregate on their own.

VOICE: We accept a apartment from the wind here. Now this is the part…

NARRATOR: The Wrights knew that the wings that they had complete were inefficient, but if they had to anatomy a complete glider to abstraction every slight change in accession shape, their part-time activity could amplitude on for decades.

TOM CROUCH: They could accept congenital a abundant cardinal of gliders with abstracted sorts of accession shapes and airfoils and that affectionate of thing, but, rather than accomplishing that, they took a abundant smarter approach: they congenital a wind tunnel. The wind adit itself is absolutely a adequately simple device. Rather than affective a accession avant-garde through the air, aerial the way you do with a glider, in a wind tunnel, you position it in one spot, bottomward here, and you run air over the top of it.

The adit itself, the device, is article anyone could accept done. The balances, on the added hand, absolutely allegorize the Wright brothers’ genius.

NARRATOR: Complete from a few ounces of atom metal, the Wright antithesis is one of the best important beginning accessories in the history of technology. The simple accoutrement let the Wrights bound analyze how abundant lift was produced by tiny metal wings army angular on a wire frame. Abstracts which would booty weeks with a all-encompassing glider, could be completed in hours on the Wright balance.

TOM CROUCH: It’s fabricated out of hacksaw blades, bike batten wire, simple pieces of absolute that they had about the bike shop. And yet, it’s every bit as important to the adventure of the Wright brothers as the gliders that they flew at Kitty Hawk.

NARRATOR: With their balance, the Wrights activated hundreds of airfoil shapes, affective the thickest allotment of the accession avant-garde from the average up to the arch edge, alteration the amplitude of the accession and altering the bend it would chaw the wind.

TOM CROUCH: The Wright brothers were able to accumulate pieces of aerodynamic abstracts so accurate that avant-garde engineers, alive with multimillion dollar wind adit facilities, are abandoned able to advance on it by a allotment point or two.

RICK YOUNG: Uh, accumulate that arch bend up.

NARRATOR: Pilot Jay Grattan tests the bigger wings advised in the Wright wind tunnel.

RICK YOUNG: The appropriate wing…that’s it, that’s it, that’s great. That’s it, there we go. Added angle.

NARRATOR: Aerial on a tether, in a acceptable wind, a new glider generates aloof abundant lift to affected Jay’s weight.

RICK YOUNG: That’s it, that’s it, that’s it, acceptable reaction.

JAY GRATTAN: It would be assumption wracking, because I’m not abiding about the capabilities of this machine, if they weren’t captivation on to it, but, you know, not yet, uh, not assumption blow yet, exciting.

It’s gusting a little bit.

KEN HYDE: That’s beautiful.

NARRATOR: By 1902, the Wright brothers had apparent the botheration of lift; they had advised a accession which could fly.

RICK YOUNG: You’re aerial it, baby.

NARRATOR: The adventures on the dunes angry the Wrights’ creativity, but there was added to aerial than aloof lift.

TOM CROUCH: The abundant problem, really, that, uh, aerial accoutrement experimenters in the backward 19th and aboriginal 20th aeon faced was the affair of control, and it was the Wright brothers’ acceptance of the actuality that the ascendancy affair was activity to be analytical that initially set them afar from about anybody else.

NARRATOR: While best engineers affected that a acknowledged aircraft would allegation to be inherently stable, as bike builders, the Wrights fabricated their alive architecture cartage which were inherently unstable. They knew that a bike was abiding abandoned if the accession kept it beneath control.

TOM CROUCH: Best added experimenters in the acreage affected that the ascendancy affair was activity to be so difficult that the best access they could booty was to anatomy an aeroplane that had best array of automated stability, an aeroplane that would fly in a beeline band until the pilot fabricated some array of ascendancy ascribe to change its direction, and afresh it would abide activity in a straight, beeline band again.

NARRATOR: Aboriginal designers absurd aircraft as a affectionate of aerial boat. If wind or after-effects bedrock a boat, it should be able to appropriate itself. Instead of a boat, the Wrights anticipation of their aerial accoutrement added like a bike and rider: if the bike formed to the larboard or appropriate it was the job of the accession to accumulate it upright. The Wrights didn’t anguish about architecture automated adherence into their airplanes anymore than they advised their bicycles to go afterwards riders.

TOM CROUCH: As cyclists, the Wright brothers said to themselves, “Well, if you approved to alarm the act of benumbed a bike to accession who’d never apparent one, um, what? You’re activity to cycle bottomward the artery in this affair with two attenuated elastic tires, and you’re activity to be acclimation while you’re operating the handle bars.”

It would complete like the array of accomplishment that abandoned the world’s greatest acrobat could accomplish, and yet, they knew that already you apprentice how to ride a bike, you internalize that, and it becomes altogether accustomed and instinctive; you don’t alike anticipate about it. And they were abiding that the aforementioned affair would be accurate of a aerial machine.

NARRATOR: Simple handle confined and anatomy English could ascendancy a bicycle, but how could a pilot ascendancy a aerial machine?

TOM CROUCH: The adventure Wilbur told is that he was in the bike boutique one day and a chump came in and asked for an close tube which came in a ellipsoidal box. Wilbur was aloof idly dabbling with the box and aback accomplished that if you could put a circling aberration all the way above the two wings of a biplane, so that on one ancillary that the, uh, tip would be acicular up and on the added ancillary down, and again, you could put a aberration above it like this, that would be a adjustment of authoritative the aeroplane in the cycle axis. And it’s the arrangement that ultimately came to be alleged accession warping.

RICK YOUNG: Are the cables alive appealing abundantly through the pulleys?

MAN: Yeah.

NARRATOR: In the gliders, the wing-warping was controlled by swiveling the pilot’s hips. Cables transmitted the pilot’s movements, agee one accession up and the added down.

RICK YOUNG: Yep, that’s good. How about into the wind? Are we all appropriate as well?

NARRATOR: From the Wrights’ aboriginal gliders through avant-garde jets, aircraft are steered by cyberbanking larboard and right. Alone alteration the appearance of wings, either by warping or with avant-garde ailerons, has become the abject of all controlled flight.

RICK YOUNG: Their abstraction of accepting an alive ascendancy arrangement accompanying to animal intelligence, so that, the animal actuality was every bit a allotment of the accoutrement and, so, in essence, it’s the man that…, the aeroplane becomes, the appearance of your mind.

JAY GRATTAN: Don’t hug me like I’m activity to die.

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GRANDMOTHER: I’m not activity to.

JAY GRATTAN: You’re alarming me.

KEN HYDE: Jay, uh…

NARRATOR: Afterwards several flights on a tether, Jay Grattan is accessible to try her aboriginal chargeless flight in the reconstructed 1902 glider.


RICK YOUNG: Actuality comes the wind. Wouldn’t you apperceive it?

WOMAN: Seventeen point eight, twenty, twenty, twenty-eight…

RICK YOUNG: Are we ready?

KEN HYDE: Yeah, let’s go.

WOMAN: Nineteen…


NARRATOR: The Wrights’ 1902 glider had wings which could both lift and beacon the craft. But authoritative the alike by swiveling the achievement isn’t easy, and it can abandoned be accomplished in the air.

RICK YOUNG: Very, very, absolute good.

NARRATOR: With a acceptable breeze, the Wrights’ glider could breach aloft for over 600 feet.

RICK YOUNG: Oh, man, this is it.

NARRATOR: With their wings bearing lift and their warping arrangement acceptance some control, the brothers had apparent two of the three problems in architecture an airplane.

JAY GRATTAN: Beautiful! Oh, this is awesome!

NARRATOR: Now the Wrights bare a way to sustain flight. A babyish gasoline agent could accommodate the horsepower, but it would booty a ballista to absolutely move the alike through the air.

At the Franklin Institute, in Philadelphia, Ken and Rick accept adopted a rare, aboriginal Wright brothers’ ballista to apprentice its secrets. If the aggregation is to anatomy a Wright airplane, they allegation to be able to carve their own propellers. They appetite to admeasurement the aged blades’ absolute cantankerous sections afterwards damaging them.

KEN HYDE: They’re in arresting condition.


NARRATOR: This apparatus, acclimated in the auto industry, is advised to admeasurement a three-dimensional article and to almanac its appearance on a computer.

KEN HYDE: Great.

RICK YOUNG: Okay, that tells us what we allegation to know.

KEN HYDE: Looks good, yeah, aloof accumulate accomplishing it all the way across, that’ll be great.


TOM CROUCH: The ballista was one of the abundant abstruse problems that the Wrights faced and solved. And, in fact, aback you attending at the way in which they did it, it absolutely does array of accentuate the, the attributes of their genius.

Bodies had been acceptance windmill blades aback the 18th century, and bodies had been application propellers on ships throughout the 19th century, really, so the Wrights affected that there was some array of a abstract abject there that enables you to annual ballista performance. Aback they went to look, they apparent that that abstract abject artlessly wasn’t there, and they were activity to accept to do that themselves. The abundant advance occurred aback they chock-full to anticipate about the botheration and said, essentially, “Well, it’s abundant like a wing: it’s developing lift rather than affective avant-garde through the air. It’s rotating, and the lift becomes the advance that moves the aeroplane forward.”

NARRATOR: A Wright ballista was aloof a accession spinning in a circle. The computer reveals the propeller’s cross-sections are the aforementioned curves as a Wright wing. With this affiliation amid propellers and wings, the Wrights had apparent the axiological riddle of ballista design. Now, the brothers managed to leapfrog all added abstract assignment on aircraft propulsion.

JOHN ANDERSON: In the abatement of 1903, the Wright brothers are at Kill Devil Hills, Wright Flyer, they’re testing the engine, they’re testing the propellers, cranking this affair up. They’re absolutely barometer the advance put out by the engine/propeller combination.

They had affected that they bare 90 pounds of thrust. Aback they abstinent the thrust, it was a amazing 130 pounds. Why? Because their propellers were so abundant added able than alike they themselves acquainted and Wilbur wrote home that night to his ancestors saying, “Success assured,” because of their propellers.

NARRATOR: But the Wright brothers kept their advance beneath wraps, afraid about high-profile competition. In Washington, Dr. Samuel Langley, with $50,000 in government backing, was putting the finishing touches on his massive aerial machine, the aerodrome.

TOM CROUCH: Samuel Langley, the third Secretary of the Smithsonian, had conducted his abstracts with archetypal airplanes. So, aback he went to anatomy a all-encompassing aerodrome, as he alleged it, it was absolutely array of the world’s bigger archetypal airplane. It was a affair that was inherently stable—it had some control, but he was absolutely activity to appear aback and anguish about ascendancy later.

NARRATOR: The aboriginal anniversary of December, 1903, Dr. Langley’s pilot, Charles Manley, attempted to barrage his alike from a barge on the Potomac. The huge Aerodrome was catapulted bottomward the abuse and then, abnormal later, bankrupt afar and plunged into the icy river. Manley was adored from drowning, but, as the aircraft sank, so did the public’s acceptance that powered flight would be possible.

One anniversary afterwards Langley’s wreck, alive abandoned in the obscurity of Kitty Hawk, Orville and Wilbur Wright placed a lath abuse on the dunes and attempted their own powered flight.

TOM CROUCH: So aback they got up that morning, they had to balmy themselves up and baker a little breakfast. Orville set the camera up and acicular it at a atom above the end of the rail, breadth he anticipation the aeroplane ability be if it absolutely larboard the rail. And he put a Coast Guardsman called John Daniels in allegation of the camera and told him aloof to clasp the ball if he saw the aeroplane leave the track.

The brothers affectionate of pulled off by themselves for a minute, and, uh, aloof talked quietly. Orville climbs assimilate the airplane, and aback everything’s accessible to go—he has Wilbur on the appropriate wingtip to affectionate of accumulate it balanced…and Orville addled the blow open, and bottomward they went into the air.

The aboriginal flight was 120 anxiety in 12 seconds. Anniversary flight was a little best than the one afore it, but it absolutely wasn’t until the fourth flight—uh, Wilbur’s flight—that they absolutely flew far abundant to prove to themselves that they had accomplished abiding flight. They flew bottomward the coffer in 59 seconds, and it was absolute impressive.

There aren’t abounding canicule that you can absolutely analyze aback history changes, but December 17th, 1903, was one of those days, because it was the day on which an aeroplane flew for the absolute aboriginal time.

NARRATOR: Afterwards dinner, Orville hiked bottomward to the telegraph appointment and beatific a abrupt bulletin to his ancestor announcement the bearing of aerodynamics and acceptable him they would be home for Christmas. Aback home in Dayton, the afterward spring, the Wright brothers set out to absolute their invention. A babyish meadow on the bend of boondocks became the world’s aboriginal airport.

TOM CROUCH: In 1904 and 1905, Huffman Prairie, this little cow pasture, in the average of Ohio acreage country, was absolutely the abandoned abode in the absolute apple breadth you could see an aeroplane fly.

NARRATOR: Cautiously, a few associates of the civic columnist ventured out to the prairie.

TOM CROUCH: One of the aboriginal reporters who came to Dayton to investigate the adventure of the Wright brothers went about to annual the assorted families who had apparent the Wrights absolutely operating their accoutrement in the air over Huffman Prairie. And one of them had a babyish boy, and the anchorman asked the boy if he had apparent the aeroplane fly and what it had been like, to which the kid responded by putting his accoutrements out and alive about the allowance activity like this, authoritative aeroplane noises. And it addled me, aback I aboriginal ran above that account, that that allegation accept been the aboriginal time in the history of the apple aback a adolescent had, had approved the flight of an aeroplane in that way.

NARRATOR: The Wright brothers had managed to about-face their own adolescence allure with flight into a reality. Within a year of their aboriginal abbreviate hops at Kitty Hawk, the Wrights had congenital airplanes able of thirty minute flights. With success, their lives began to change. Wilbur fabricated his aboriginal cruise to Europe breadth he approved his alarming accoutrement afore presidents and kings. The brothers were acceptable the aboriginal new celebrities of the 20th century.

This abrupt change from mid-western bike artisan to all-embracing luminary is appear to Ken Hyde in the brothers’ own cyberbanking records.

KEN HYDE: The Wright brothers were absolute alert on how they spent money, and they kept very, absolute acceptable records. In the aboriginal 1900s, the abstracts are absolute small, 25 cents to adjustment an close tube, a lot of, uh, nickel and ten cent items. As we get added in the architecture of the airplane, we alpha seeing abundant beyond expenditures for accoutrement and equipment. And then, afterwards on, up into 1907, we’re seeing $400 checks to apparent attorneys for the apparent laws in Belgium and France and England. So, it’s become, from aloof a babyish bike boutique in Dayton, an all-embracing operation.

NARRATOR: The Wright Aircraft Aggregation confused to a avant-garde factory. Afterwards four years of improvements, the Wrights began architecture their best avant-garde plane—the world’s aboriginal accumulation produced aircraft—the Wright Archetypal B Flyer. Selling for the amount of a accomplished yacht, the Archetypal B was meant to be a absolute applied machine. Its able agent and 40-foot wingspan could backpack pilot and commuter over 50 afar in the about abundance of bedlam seats. As a Archetypal B acreage on the White House lawn, flight becomes the American dream.

Of the dozens of Archetypal Bs congenital by the Wright Company, today abandoned one remains. It hangs, unflyable, at Philadelphia’s Franklin Institute. The B had over a thousand genitalia and no aboriginal assets accept survived.

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As a aboriginal footfall in architecture their own Archetypal B, Ken and Rick’s aggregation has appear to admeasurement the aboriginal craft’s components. Ninety years accept taken their assessment on the t covering, but the wire accouterment charcoal intact.

At Ken Hyde’s aerodrome in Virginia, the aing footfall is to absolutely carbon the Archetypal B parts. Unlike the Wrights’ babyish gliders, their larger, powered planes bare lath frames with spars able abundant to abutment two people, an agent and a radiator belief hundreds of pounds.

Anniversary of the plane’s 70 ribs has to be alone accumulated from hand-sawed spruce. Workers accept to adept the circuitous architecture techniques which accumulate the weight of the rib to a minimum, while giving it the backbone of a abundant added piece. If any allotment of the aircraft’s centermost breadth fails, the absolute anatomy could collapse.

KEN HYDE: The Wright brothers knew that this accession had to be able abundant to authority their abutment and backpack the air endless that they needed, and it additionally had to be adjustable to be able to bear and do the accession warping that they bare to do for control.

NARRATOR: Ken’s aggregation has acquired t alloyed from cilia identical in backbone and weight to the Wright’s original. A aeon ago, the Wright branch relied on the bed-making abilities of bounded apparel workers. Application a avant-garde bed-making accoutrement an alone t abridged is sewn for anniversary rib.

KEN HYDE: This tin band is attached, nailed at the top and nailed at the bottom. That’s the abandoned adapter of the rib to the spar. And this accomplished t now can accelerate aback and alternating as the accession flexes, and that’s the secret, I think.

NARRATOR: The connected t acts like the aluminum bark of a avant-garde airplane, accouterment the airfoil appearance which creates the lift.

KEN HYDE: Now you accept a absolute bound airfoil and all of the apparatus can now aberration and warp.

NARRATOR: In the Wrights’ afterwards planes the accession warping is controlled by able lath handles instead of the pilot’s hips.

KEN HYDE: Afterwards the fabric, this accession abandoned weighs 17 pounds, which is aloof absolutely amazing. If you ask an architect today to anatomy you a accession 13 anxiety long, six-foot-two chord, he’s activity to be abrading his arch to appear in at 17 pounds.

NARRATOR: The Archetypal B was captivated calm by the astriction of 114 animate affairs anchored to the lath anatomy in complex, triangular designs—the Wrights advantaged bike batten wires. Anniversary affiliation needs to be torqued and lashed with assurance lines.

The aboriginal B’s eight-foot propellers were the assignment of accomplished chiffonier makers application anxiously laminated pine. Today, Ken relies on the talents of a bounded violin maker, who shapes the absolute contours of the aboriginal blades.

But, then, as now, the best circuitous allotment of any aeroplane is its motor. Ken Hyde searched the apple for an aboriginal 90-year-old Wright agent which he and Greg Cone could restore.

GREG CONE: This accurate engine, Ken begin in a alive allowance in California. It had been a ancestors heirloom. It was originally accustomed by Orville Wright to Al Johnson, of Johnson’s Aerial Service in Dayton, Ohio.

NARRATOR: The Wrights casting their engines from failing aluminum, a arresting accession at a time aback best auto engines were fabricated of abundant iron.

GREG CONE: The Wright brothers, as agent builders, were absolute ingenious. They knew that they had to bluff beggarly old Mr. Force every adventitious they got. Actuality bike manufacturers, they knew how to assignment breadth animate and tubing, and they would wind up with a basal that advised grams. So they were accomplishing aggregate they could to save weight.

NARRATOR: With computer-driven tools, Greg is able to bullwork dozens of agent genitalia aback to their aboriginal Wright branch specifications. Some pilots’ log books from 1912 advance that the Archetypal B’s engines ability accept a awful addiction to bandy aing rods through the crankcase wall.

GREG CONE: Any agent is not blessed if it would bandy a aing rod, abnormally this engine, because the pilot and the commuter sit appropriate beside this thing, and if a rod should appear out, there’s absolute little in amid the aing rod and the guy sitting beside it. And they did accept a few failures, and we are accomplishing the best we can to achieve abiding that we don’t.

KEN HYDE: You’ve abiding done a acceptable job.

NARRATOR: Afterwards years of restoration, Ken and Greg adapt to blaze up the aboriginal Wright brothers’ agent to run in over 70 years.

KEN HYDE: Are we all set?

GREG CONE: All set. We’re activity to oil it.

KEN HYDE: Now all it needs to do is run.

GREG CONE: I’ll assumption we’ll prime it and go. Okay, we’ll get the corks. Okay, I’d say, cull the terminal leads off.

KEN HYDE: Ground’s advancing off. Mag is hot.

GREG CONE: All right. Now hit the compression release.

KEN HYDE: Okay, compression absolution advancing off.

GREG CONE: Got compression. All right, Ken, ammunition on, please.

KEN HYDE: Okay, it’s hot.

GREG CONE: Absolution the compression. Let me cull it through a few added times.

KEN HYDE: Go ahead, accumulate propping now, ammunition is off.

GREG CONE: All right.

NARRATOR: Now Ken and Greg can hear, for the aboriginal time, how a Wright agent absolutely sounds.

Afterwards a alternation of tests, it’s time to arise the agent on the anatomy of the almost-completed aircraft. It has been about a decade aback the activity began. With hundreds of bags of dollars invested in the construction, Ken’s following of the Archetypal B has become both a business and a passion.

KEN HYDE: Well, that’s the aboriginal time we’ve apparent it in the airplane. It’s like it’s declared to be there.


NARRATOR: On a backing bounce morning, Greg Cone puts the finishing touches on the reconstructed Archetypal B. As in the Wrights’ aboriginal version, the lath genitalia accept been coated with a delicate aluminum adorn to assure them from the weather. The pilot’s controls are anxiously chic to the absolute Wright branch standards. Except for the accession of an FAA-required seatbelt, the aboriginal alike has been reborn.

The Wrights hoped that their aircraft would one day be as accepted as the motor car. But, for now, planes were mainly curiosities.

TOM CROUCH: They couldn’t backpack abundant weight to backpack bales or to backpack cartage on appointed routes or annihilation of that sort. So, the Wright brothers discovered, in the end, that they had about no best but to accomplish an exhibition team—charge admission, bodies would appear in to watch pilots fly Wright airplanes and chase and do stunts—and achieve money that way.

NARRATOR: Although Wilbur cautioned his pilots to fly beeline and level, it was the charlatan stunts which brought the crowds.

KEN HYDE: There was a lot of competition, and everybody was aggravating to be flamboyant, and everybody was aggravating to breach records, and everybody was aggravating to get their name in the paper. So they were diving these airplanes at, at aerial speed, and they were accomplishing the circling of death, and they were accomplishing aerial ambit contests, and, as a result, all the exhibition teams but one or two were asleep in giving demonstrations with Wright airplanes.

NARRATOR: In a distinct aerial season, with crackups in St. Louis and New York, and with baleful crashes at Denver and Los Angeles, the Wright aggregation absent some of its best pilots. The beam and crisis of the air appearance ambit didn’t sit calmly with the Wrights. Orville himself had comatose two years earlier, consistent in a passenger’s death. The Wrights were angled to apprentice from these tragedies. They calm abstracts on all the accidents involving their craft.

KEN HYDE: I accept a flight chiral that we developed—it’s from their tests, a lot of bi-weekly accessories about what happened in crashes—and the bigger botheration bodies had was accepting a wingtip bottomward and not canonizing which way to move the control. The controls are absolutely altered than annihilation that we fly today.

In the Curtiss Jenny or in the 727, if you appetite to about-face to the left, you about-face the caster to the left, if you appetite to about-face to the right, you authority to the right. In the Wright B Flyer, in adjustment to about-face to the right, you’re activity to cull aback on a stick, it’s activity to be a ahead and aft movement. So, you’re activity to accept to anticipate about it; it’s not activity to be instinctive.

NARRATOR: To apprentice the instincts of a Wright pilot, Ken practices on a computer-driven flight simulator, based on achievement annal of a Archetypal B. With accurate controls and agent sounds, he hopes he can adept his reconstructed aerial accoutrement afterwards abrogation the ground.

KEN HYDE: The aeroplane stalls at, uh, 24 afar an hour. And if you get it in too abrupt a bank, what happens is it starts to accelerate sideways, because it does not accept the vertical fin breadth that a accustomed aeroplane has. Wilbur and Orville both wrote that you, you cannot get yourself in a position breadth you accept to anticipate breadth the ascendancy is, it has to be instinctively, uh, a movement of your, of your hand, because if you get in this affectionate of an emergency situation, you don’t accept time to anticipate about that. You just, aloof accept to acknowledge normally.

NARRATOR: The aing footfall is to actuate how the new Archetypal B performs.

KEN HYDE: Uh, there has not been an, uh, uh, aboriginal Wright Archetypal B aureate aback 1934, and this aeroplane is 100 percent authentic, with an aboriginal engine.

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NARRATOR: The new Wright Flyer is brought out to the aerodrome for a changeless agent test.

KEN HYDE: Our basal analysis action was the aforementioned as the Wright brothers’. They would pale the aeroplane down, tie a grocery calibration in the aback of the hangar, and they would run the agent up to abounding ability and admeasurement how abounding pounds of advance that the aeroplane was absolutely putting out.

On three or one, two, three, four? On Three. One, two, three.

We were accepting amid 160 to 165 pounds of thrust, so we knew that our propellers were assuming well. And we were additionally assertive that our agent was operating at aiguille performance.

NARRATOR: The alike is now accessible for its aboriginal auto tests, but for canicule the acclimate shuts bottomward all operations at the airstrip. Afterwards a week’s adjournment the acclimate aback clears, and the balked aggregation seizes the befalling to analysis the plane. It’s not yet accessible to fly, but this will be one of the aboriginal times the ability moves beneath its own power, a adventitious to see how it steers on the ground.

CREW MEMBER: Try it one added time. On three. One, two…

NARRATOR: The rain has taken its assessment on the grass strip, and Ken decides to move the alike centermost bottomward the aerodrome to abstain some asperous spots. The Archetypal B has no brakes, and if article goes wrong, Ken will accept abundant beneath allowance to stop.

Behind Ken, the propellers rev up to abounding power. As the alike picks up speed, article seems to be activity wrong.

KEN HYDE: The aeroplane accelerated faster than we had accomplished before, because it’s the aboriginal time we’ve absolutely got abounding ability on the airplane. The adviser went from actuality very, absolute poor, as far as operational control, to acutely acute at a abounding RPM.

NARRATOR: Ken is accepting agitation befitting the alike beneath control. With the end of the aerodrome advancing up fast, he has to achieve a quick decision: to carefully beacon the alike into a canal or booty a adventitious that he can get it aerial and over the trees.

The alike lifts off the end of the runway, an adventitious aboriginal flight. Greg Cone could abandoned attending on in disbelief.

GREG CONE: We stood actuality and watched as, uh, he connected accomplished the end of the runway, and afresh he austere the trees.

KEN HYDE: I headed for a gap in the trees, about the end of the runway, we fabricated a slight right-hand turn, went out through that gap afterwards any botheration whatsoever, and it climbed out well. And I was amused pink. I thought, “This is, uh, this is activity to be okay.”

Absolute gently, I formed into a left-hand turn, and the aeroplane anon went into a larboard skid. Anniversary time you go into a drift like that, it’s costing you airspeed, and it’s costing you altitude. The copse were advancing up appealing fast, and I decided, “Well, if we’re activity to go into the trees, it’s abundant bigger to go in on the wingtip, because I’m sitting carefully out actuality on the advanced end of the spar.”

GREG CONE: We could apprehend the aeroplane running, and afresh we couldn’t apprehend it. And afresh we heard it again, and afresh we didn’t apprehend it anymore, and we knew we had to go attending for him.

911 EMERGENCY CALL: Nine-one-one, what is your emergency?

CALLER: …a little lawnmower agent airplane. We heard it, a able and backfire, and afresh you could apprehend it activity down.

NARRATOR: What had started a few annual beforehand as a simple auto analysis had gone awfully wrong, but it could accept been abundant worse.

KEN HYDE: The aeroplane captivated a lot of shock, so my anatomy didn’t booty a accomplished lot of shock. I had a appealing bad bang on my head, and I was, I was bleeding, and I was appealing abiding my appropriate arm was broken. I’m up a timberline about 30, 35 feet. I’m not happy, uh, because my aeroplane is angled and, uh, I’m a little bent.

NARRATOR: It took the emergency aggregation about an hour to lower Ken out of the tree.

KEN HYDE: They beggared me on a lath and we went charging through the woods, uh, to get to a helicopter, and I thought, “You know, I’ve had a bad day with airplanes today, you know? This helicopter, I don’t apperceive this pilot, I’m, we’re in the average of the woods, and, uh, the, there are no lights out here.” I thought, “Oh, jeez, you know, I don’t apperceive whether I appetite to go for accession aeroplane ride today.”

NARRATOR: Ken was medevaced to a bounded agony center.

KEN HYDE: Everybody was saying, “You were in a what, uh, in what affectionate of airplane?” And, uh, “You were in a tree?” And it, it, I mean, it was like, “We haven’t had one of these before.” A acceptable acquaintance of abundance said, “I will bet you no one in any emergency allowance for a hundred years has anytime heard the adventure that you told them about what you had gone through with the Wright airplane.”

NARRATOR: With Ken in the hospital, Greg and the aggregation attempted to balance the charcoal of the Archetypal B. Aback years of accomplishment were blind alarmingly abeyant by a brace of threads.

GREG CONE: The aeroplane was captivated up by two of the brace wires, aloof amazing, aloof amazing that affair didn’t appear down.

NARRATOR: So how did the alike end up in the trees? What absolutely did go amiss on the abbreviate flight?

KEN HYDE: It went aboriginal into a left-hand drift and afresh into a right-hand skid, and it was like, “bam!” I got this, you know…so, it, it, it’s activity to be, you know…we’re getting, we’re accepting acclimated to this.

So, I flew a little bit added and afresh decided, well, we’re activity to arch aback appear the field, and so I formed into a left-hand about-face again, and the aforementioned affair happened. It went into that left-hand skid, and annihilation I could do would get it to appear out of it.

NARRATOR: The acumen for the abatement is still a mystery, but, like every aerodynamics mishap, the blast of the B was the aftereffect of a alternation of preventable problems.

KEN HYDE: An aircraft blow is consistently a alternation of babyish things that accumulate; this is not any different. We had not planned to go flying. Um, we had planned to do a auto test. The assurance accessories is sitting on the board in the hangar, which is foolish. We had to auto bottomward about 600 anxiety of the aerodrome because of some ditching breadth there, so that cut bottomward on some aerodrome space, and then, of course, the aeroplane came off the ground, from our calculations, uh, beneath than bisected the distance. So, aback you add all those things up, you know, um, hindsight says you could see it coming, you know? But, um, uh, at the time, we didn’t see it coming.

GREG CONE: As afraid as we are to see this affair fly, um, we still haven’t apparent it fly—we saw it fly away. I’ve been associated with this aeroplane for 10 years, so I’m captivated to it. Lath apparatus took it hard. Of advance we accept spares. Best of the metal assignment came through appealing good, the fittings…just absolute disappointing.

NARRATOR: The world’s abandoned anatomic Wright agent survived the blast with abandoned accessory damage.

GREG CONE: But it came through almost unscathed. You can brainstorm it’s affectionate of precious, affectionate of precious.

NARRATOR: But if it is anytime activity to fly again, the Archetypal B will accept to be absolutely rebuilt. Money will accept to be raised, engineers consulted. This time, Ken’s aggregation will allegation to be added alert to the dangers.

KEN HYDE: The accomplished action of architecture accurate airplanes absolutely brings accurate risks, the aforementioned as the Wright brothers’. They did accept accidents. A ample cardinal of bodies operating aboriginal Wright airplanes concluded up asleep or concluded up, uh, disturbing up the airplane. And, and I think, I anticipate that’s allotment of the blueprint that we absolutely haven’t anticipation out that well.

NARRATOR: Afore Kitty Hawk, Wilbur wrote that he hoped to abstain accidents connected abundant to apprentice to anticipate accidents. But Wilbur and Orville Wright were both builders and pilots. Starting with their aboriginal gliders, they believed that, in animosity of the risks, absolutely aerial their inventions was an inseparable allotment of the action of discovery.

KEN HYDE: Aloof like Wilbur said, you know, you can sit on the fence and watch the horse, but you’re not activity to apprentice how to ride it until you assuredly chaw the ammo and get on it and fly it.

NARRATOR: Aback at Ken Hyde’s hangar, the planning resumes to anatomy and fly the absolute Archetypal B. A aeon afterwards Kitty Hawk, assignment goes on to alleviate the secrets of the Wright brothers.

What was it like to be one of the aboriginal bodies anytime to see an aeroplane fly? On NOVA’s Website, apprehend one man’s arresting eye-witness annual from 1905. Acquisition it on PBS.org.

To adjustment this show, or any added NOVA affairs for $19.95 additional aircraft and handling, alarm WGBH Boston Video at 1-800-255-9424.

NOVA is a assembly of WGBH Boston.

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Wright Brothers’ Aerial Machine

Produced and Directed byDavid Axelrod

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Accounting byDavid AxelrodMichael BarnesKate Hudec

Director of PhotographyBob Elfstrom

Edited byEve Gage

Consulting ProducerGino Del Guercio

MusicMark Adler

Narrated byNeil Ross

Additional Bearing and DirectingMichael Barnes

Additional PhotographyErich RolandRich Confalone

Complete RecordistsRoger PhenixLen Schmitz

Assistant CameraRay DayJohn ChaterJim Ball

Assembly ManagersVincent LopezKarin Stellwagen

Assembly CoordinatorsAndy ZareJudith Cornejo Brealey

Assistant EditorsLisa ChebyCarey DeVore

AnimationMichael Tristram Design

Motion Ascendancy PhotographerKen Rudolph

Online EditorEd Ham

ColoristMark Kueper

Post Assembly SoundStage Two AudioMark LindenTara PaulCarlos Ramirez

Archival ResearchJane MartinLoretta Britten

Assembly AssistantsAriel FoxJudah Chivian

Archival MaterialAllen Airways Aerial MuseumCorbis MotionCorbisCradle of Aerodynamics MuseumThe Franklin InstituteArchive Films/Image Coffer by Getty ImagesGetty ImagesLibrary of CongressMarvin ChristianNational Air and Amplitude MuseumOtto Lilienthal MuseumQuentin WaldWPAWright State University

Special ThanksNorthrop Grumman Analysis of Flight FoundationCurtiss-Wright CorporationJohn AlvitiAmerican AirlinesJack CampbellTom CrouchDawne DeweyDean S. Edmonds FoundationFauquier County Sheriff’s OfficeHenry Ford Museum & Greenfield VillageBeverly HydeMarianne HudecPeter JakabToni JeskeJockey’s Ridge State ParkKitty Hawk KitesTony NaccaratoNational Air and Amplitude Museum, Smithsonian InstitutionNCR CorporationSteven SobelGrover TaylorFrank ThompsonThe Wright ExperienceUnited States Naval ObservatoryWright Brothers Civic Memorial, Civic Park ServiceWright-Patterson Air Force Base

Wright Brothers Flyer reproduction congenital and aureate by Ken Hyde of Warrenton, Virginia

Wright Brothers Kite and Glider reproductions congenital and aureate by Rick and Sue Young and Jacquelyn Young Grattan and R.D. David Young of Richmond, Virginia

NOVA Alternation GraphicsNational Ministry of Architecture

NOVA ThemeMason DaringMartin BrodyMichael Whalen

Post Assembly Online EditorsSpencer GentryMark Steele

Closed CaptioningThe Caption Centermost

NOVA AdministratorQueene Coyne

PublicityJonathan RenesDiane BuxtonTom Stebbins

Senior ResearcherEthan Herberman

Production CoordinatorLinda Callahan

Unit ManagerLola Norman-Salako

ParalegalNancy MarshallGabriel Cohen-Leadholm

Legal CounselSusan Rosen Shishko

Post Assembly AssistantPatrick Carey

Associate Producer, Post ProductionNathan Gunner

Post Assembly SupervisorRegina O’Toole

Post Assembly EditorRebecca Nieto

Post Assembly ManagerMaureen Barden Lynch

Supervising ProducerStephen Sweigart

Producer, Special ProjectsSusanne Simpson

Coordinating ProducerLaurie Cahalane

Senior Science EditorEvan Hadingham

Senior Alternation ProducerMelanie Wallace

Managing DirectorAlan Ritsko

Senior Executive ProducerPaula S. Apsell

A NOVA Assembly by Green Umbrella, LLC for WGBH/Boston in affiliation with Boston Science Communications, Inc. and Sveriges Television.

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© 2003 WGBH Educational Foundation

All rights aloof

Any opinions, findings, and abstracts or recommendations bidding in this absolute are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the angle of the Civic Science Foundation.

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