Aviation's Attic

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  Aviation's Attic 
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With the Wrights      in America 

The Wright/     Smithsonian    

The Lost Flights    
of the Wright    

They Wouldn't    
Believe the    
 Wrights Had    

  The 1909    
Wright Glider

Kate Carew's    

Charles Flint    

Flying Objects

A Pilot    
Could Want

1906 Aero Club    


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istory is an endless storehouse of treasures, and pioneer aviation is one of its richest rooms. Small wonder that pilots like to spend hours "hangar flying," sharing tale after tale . Any aviation story worth telling is rich with adventure and discovery. After all, these are tales about men and women who fly, a unique and awesome ability that mankind has only developed in the last century.

Part of our job at the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Company is to dig up pioneer aviation stories, brush them off, and share them with you. In doing so, we organize that information so that it presents a coherent picture of the lives of the Wright brothers and the history of early aviation. But we occasionally find unique and interesting treasures that don't quite fit  the categories we've developed. Rather than ignore these odd gems, we've decided to bring them front and center. Here, then are a few of the unique and precious oddities that we've discovered in the far corners of aviation's attic.


With the Wrights in America

Griffith Brewer learned to fly at the Wright Flying School. He was an English balloonist and patent attorney who knew Wilbur and Orville throughout their entire aviation career. He met Wilbur in France in 1908, the two became fast friends, and Wilbur treated him to an airplane ride, making him the first Briton ever to fly in a powered airplane. A few months later, he met Orville when the younger brother joined Wilbur in France, and Brewer hit it off with the other Wright as well. Later, Brewer organized the British Wright Company, representing the Wright's interests in England.

He also traveled to Ohio -- thirty times in all -- to visits the Wrights in Dayton. In this short piece, he describes his first visit to Dayton, Ohio, sharing interesting details and insights about the  Wright factory, their flight school, and life at the Wright home. 

Griffith Brewer at Simms Station.

The Wright-Smithsonian Controversy

For nearly thirty years, Orville Wright and the Smithsonian Institution were at loggerheads over who invented the airplane. In 1914, Glenn Curtiss in partnership with the Smithsonian, dusted off the 1903 Langley Aerodrome, updated it, and made a few hop-flights. The Aerodrome was a manned aircraft designed by the late Smithsonian secretary, Samuel P. Langley, who  tried and failed to fly it in 1903, just before the Wright bothers made their first successful flights. The Smithsonian, after Curtiss flew a much-modified Aerodrome, claimed that the original aircraft could have flown before the Wright Flyer and that the Langley Aerodrome was in fact the first aircraft "capable of flight." This set off a controversy that nearly lost America one of its dearest national treasures.

The modified 1903 Langley Aerodrome in flight near Hammondsport, NY, 17 September 1914.

The Lost Flights
of the Wright Brothers

Thanks to several generous souls, we have uncovered 14 vintage photos of the Wrights and their first pupils flying at Huffman Prairie and in Sedalia, Missouri. The photos document the period when the Wright brothers had begun to question the stability and efficacy of their distinctive "tail-first" or canard design. They show how Wright pilots experimented with and compared with front elevators,  back elevators, and elevators in both the front and back. They also capture the moment just before he Wrights adopted the conventional aircraft configuration with the main wings forward and the elevator and rudder in back, forming an empennage or "tail."

Flying the Wright Model AB.

They Wouldn't Believe the Wrights Had Flown: A Study in Human Incredulity

In this article Fred Kelly, the Wright brothers' only "authorized" biographer, examines the popular myth that the Wrights were secretive, hiding their early aeronautical experiments from the eyes of the public. Kelly makes a convincing argument that they were not. Instead, he presents evidence that this was an excuse that American journalists adopted to cover their embarrassment for having completely overlooked the biggest story of the twentieth century. The truth of the matter was that the American media – in fact, the world media –  just couldn't bring themselves to believe that men had flown.

The Virginian Pilot breaks the news of the Wright's first flights.

The 1909 Wright Glider

In 1909, several aviation enthusiasts in England had Thomas W. K. Clarke build an updated version of the 1902 Wright Glider that they could use for training while waiting for their powered aircraft to be built. With Orville Wright's input, Clarke came up with a cross between the 1902 glider and a Wright Model A. This was possibly the first "flight trainer" ever made.

In 1910, Clark deigned and built  three additional biplane gliders, including one that he advertised as an update of the 1896 Chanute-Herring glider, one of the gliders that  had inspired the Wright brothers. You could buy a Clark glider as a kit for £10.50 or fully assembled for £34.00.

Flying a Wright glider in England.

Kate Carew's Interview

The first  woman journalist to become famous for her interviews takes on Wilbur and Orville -- and shows a completely different side of the brothers other than the sober persona they projected to the world. Kate Carew (her real name was Mary Williams) had a playful interview style that she used to put her subjects at ease. The Wright brothers apparently anticipated the fun and went at her with some playful jibes of their own.

Carew also drew these caricatures of the brothers.

Charles Flint Remembers

One of the most successful wheeler-dealers of all time -- the man who created IBM -- remembers how difficult it was to sell the Wright airplane. Flint is best remembered as the "father of trusts" -- he invented the corporate conglomerate. He believed that smaller companies, each with unique ideas and assents, could be combined to make large, stronger, and more profitable organizations. He proved this by bringing together companies to found U.S. Rubber (1892), American Woolen (1899) and the company that would become International Business Machines (1911).Flint also put together other famous deals, and perhaps his most famous was the sale and licensing of the Wright airplane to investors in Europe.

Charles Ranlett Flint.

Unbelievable Flying Objects

It's amazing how many bad ideas a group of aeronautical engineers can generate when they really put their minds to it. This was especially true in the earliest days of aviation when no one really knew what an airplane should look like. Over the years, we've collected a large assortments of "flops" – aircraft built in the pioneer era of aviation that never got off the ground. Some were simple constructions, some were absurdly complex, some looked nothing at all like an airplane. They all shared one common trait – the were intended to fly, but never did.

You can wind it up, but it won't take you anywhere.

Everything a Pilot Could Want

A mail-order catalogue for the discerning 1912 pilot and aircraft-builder – engines, tires, fitting, goggles, even plans for a Bleriot XI – an amazing 20 pages of industrial aviation stuff from a time when the aviation industry was only 3 years old!

Great prices, too.

The Aero Club of America 1906 Exhibition of aeronautical Apparatus

The newly formed Aero Club of America hosts a trade show in New York City, showing the very latest in aviation equipment from both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, including the crankshaft and flywheel from the "fabled" Wright Flyer. This unique trade show, the first of its kind in America, was a pivotal event for the Wright brothers and American aviation. Although they did not attend personally, the show started an important ball rolling. Before the show, there was little to distinguish the Wrights from the dozens of scientists, entrepreneurs, and crackpots who claimed they were close to solving the "flying problem." But the show attracted the attention of some powerful men who, after some investigation, found that the Wrights had indeed solved it.

A turning point in American aviation.

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