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What’s Wrong with Aviation?

An Article by Albert S. Levino in Harpers Weekly, 1912 (with some modifications)

By 1912 aviation had some great inventors and many daring aviators, but had yet to produce a great commercial mind. Mechanically, the airplane had made swift strides in its brief tenure of life more than any other means of transportation did in twice the time. Commercially, the American airplane industry is not one bit better off today than it was three years ago.

This is the conclusion of a feature article in Harper’s Weekly.

The article postulates several causes for this state of affairs:

  1. Too much exhibition business, which has over exploited the airplane and failed to establish its practical value.
  2. Too much publicity, with too many promises impossible of fulfillment.
  3. The obsessing desire for quick profits rather than steady, normal returns.
  4. Failure to develop cheap but efficient and reliable power plants.
  5. Too many airplane manufacturers.
  6. No development of markets.

Crowds flock to the most dangerous turns of an auto race. Attention is always riveted on the "dip of death" in a circus rather than on a cleverly trained animal.

Robert Fulton’s Clermont once crowed the Hudson’s banks and Stevenson’s Rocket brought thousands to stare, deprecate, or wonder.

Only ten years have passed since a feature of Buffalo Bill’s show was a "horseless carriage."

We are all looking for thrills. But, once this appetite is satisfied it is almost impossible to arouse scientific or commercial interest in the thriller unless its performances have demonstrated the practicability of the device, and unless they have created a demand for it and made it an urgent necessity.

Airplane exhibitions once provided remunerative thrills. But people quickly learned that as the number of airmen increased, the number of accidents increased; that manufacturers were exploiting merely the novelty and not the usefulness of the product; and they could witness flights from outside the fence quite as well as if they paid a dollar to enter the aerodrome.

They began to look elsewhere than to the airplane for their amusement. Airplanes became too common to lead people even to turn their heads to look at them, let alone pay to see them.

The price of passenger flights fell in twelve short months from $500 to $25, $10, and even $5. Satiety had overtaken curiosity. The wonder of one year had become the commonplace of the next.

Unfortunately for the honest manufacturer, he soon had to cope with a factor even more discouraging than public apathy. The dishonest element that attaches itself to every new industry did not fail to grasp the opportunity presented by the art of flying.

Soon aviation was crowded with this irresponsible, get-rich-quick-gentry. Exhibition flyers frequently left the ground only when they cared to and then for such short flights as they cared to make.

Alleged self-styled aviators, incompetent in every respect, and with machines so badly constructed as to be dangerous to the spectators, cut to one-half the prices asked by good flyers.

Outrageous promises, that ranged from the agreement to land from any building in a city to the free carrying of passengers in machines which later proved unable to leave the ground with only the pilot aboard, were frequent.

President W. Linford Smith of the Pittsburg Aero Club was driven to comment:

"I favored disarmament with the coming of airplanes until I heard and saw at Brunot Island just how much trouble a capful of wind makes for these flying-machines. I now suggest that the only defense needed by war-vessels from air-fleets will be electric fans."

Undoubtedly the reader, as he opened his morning paper, has read from time to time the announcement that "John Jones, the famous aviator, will today fly over the city" or "will start on a record breaking cross-country journey" or "will fly to shore from the Hamburg-American liner Potsdam, leaving the vessel’s deck after she has passed forty miles out to sea."

Thereafter nothing more has been heard of John Jones’s promised flight. This has happened so frequently, there has been such a discrepancy between promise and performance by an all-too-numerous type of aviator, that nowadays the public is placing aviation statements on the same level as the "wolf, wolf" cry of the fabled shepherd.

It has been the marvel of many who know the care with which newspapers are edited that space is so forthcoming for almost any kind of statement so long as it was the magic word "aviation" in it.

The most nonsensical utterances of half-crazy inventors whose actions showed they had not the first idea of even the rudiments of human flight; lengthy descriptions of revolutionary machines which turned out to be abortive copies of standard types built by some chauffeur or street cleaner or shoemaker in a barn, hayloft, or cellar. Manifestly puerile statements are made regarding the future of the airplane, and how it will drive both railroad train and steamship out of business.

For these and similar absurdities, there seems to be a 365-days long silly season against which not even the sanest city editor appears immune.

Conceive any normal man swallowing the yarn that the Pennsylvania railroad had a new locomotive that would haul a twelve-car train without stopping from Chicago to New York in ten hours!

Yet is that half as stupid as the widely statement made a few months ago by a well known British airman, that an airplane with a 2,000-hp motor carrying 4,000 people will cross the Atlantic in 15-hours.

Maybe someday a man will go to bed in New York and awaken in London; also, there may come a time when a man will retire on earth and dress on Mars, but newspapers do not print serious articles in anticipation of the events.

Frank Coffyn, The Wright pilot who has carried more passengers that any other aviator in the world recently commented on the statement of a prominent cross-country flyer that he was going to start across the Atlantic next August in a hydro-biplane with himself and a mechanic as passengers and operators.

"He said he’s going to take 2000 gallons of gasoline with him," said Mr. Coffyn. "There’s a weight of 1,400 pounds to start with in fuel alone, not making mention of lubricant, food, etc. and Breguet, who managed last October to lift a total weight of about 1,400 pounds beside his machine stayed aloft for only 5-minutes!

Is it possible to cross the Atlantic in an airplane very soon? Why, it’s possible now --- but only Heaven knows when it will be accomplished!"

It is on such publicity that many aviation stock companies are formed. Generous promoters have dropped mines and covered carpet-tacks for the more lucrative airplane. Today the market is fairly flooded with $1, $5, and $10 shares of aviation shares of aviation stock, whose promoters offer anything from 7 to 50 percent dividends. Rich as is the future of the flying machine, the airplane industry can no more support get-rich-quick parasites than can any other business.

There is general recognition that the heart of the airplane is its motor. Yet, though the United States gave the flying machine to the world and today manufactures more automobiles than all countries put together, no American airplane motor has yet been developed that compares in efficiency with a French engine.

That foreign motor today holds every world’s record, excepting only Loridan’s duration flight. But its cost, particularly with 45 percent import duty added, practically prohibits its general use in this country.

What a field there is here for our automobile manufacturers! There is an Aladdin fortune awaiting the man who delivers a dependable efficient, economical 50-horsepower airplane engine, weighing not over 3-pounds per horsepower, for $1,000, or even $1,500. For the very best flying machine built today can be produced for $500 except for its power plant. And it is in the manufacture and sale of a reliable airplane retailing at about $3,000 that the biggest dividends will be found.

There are now in the United States six airplane-manufacturing firms. All six companies sold fewer than 20 airplanes in this country in 1911. The Wright, Farman, Bleriot, Nieuport, Breguet, and Deperdussin firms are the only manufacturers who earned $25,000 clear last year.

Suppose that the Wrights in this country or the Farmans in France – both tremendously wealthy firms - were to cut the price of their machines to $3,000. What would happen to the builders? The airplane has out stripped the industry. Its mechanism is far ahead of its commercial development.

I asked several men prominently identified with American aviation to give Harper’s Weekly their ideas as to what was the matter commercially. Here is what they said:

Wilbur Wright: "What my brother and I want to do is to conserve the business. What the average man, neither daredevil nor simpleton, can safely do with the airplane is the problem with which we are concerned. There is a splendid future for the flying machine, but conservative and sound business methods must be invoked to develop and sustain the industry. To my mind miscellaneous exhibitions and too much of the wrong kind of publicity are the chief troubles of aviation. No other industry would stand for these features. Aviation cannot."

Ernest L Jones, editor of Aeronautics, oldest American periodical in its field: "There are too many fakers in the business. The stock-selling crowd has scared away the conservative rich man who might back a well-run firm. There has been too little commercial development of the airplane and too much hip-hip-hurrah business."

"Including airplanes and accessories, not more than four American firms are doing business on a sound scale and basis. The others have been too busy getting the easy money and letting future development take care of itself."

Frank Coffyn, leading passenger-carrying aviator: "Almost every ill to which aviation in this country has fallen heir to is due to the exhibition circuit end of the game and to faking that has been done there and in publicity. It is curious, too, how much more national governments are bent on testing the merits of airplanes for war purposes than for trade or travel. Surely if flying machines meet the exacting demands of military authorities as machines of destruction, they are certain to be a great deal more useful and far more numerous in the occupations of peace."

Hugo Gibson, propeller manufacturer: "The support aviation gets today is on the basis of unreasonable profits from spectacular and death-invoking antics. Aviation is a science and requires an army of scientific workers, not nerveless incompetents or high-strung scatterbrains. Businessmen are needed in aviation, even more than engineers."

"There is no finer or more exhilarating sport than flying. And in the hands of careful, conservative pilots, knowing the exact capacity of their machines, the present-day airplane is considerably safer than the public has been led to believe it is. But trying to loop-the-loop, ego-born steep dives and the Dutch roll, excessive banking, spiral end-on turns, racing around one, or even 5-mile tracks, etc., are not the functions of the flying machine. Performing any or all of these "stunts" avails nothing in giving us the commercial airplane which may be relied upon as the automobile is today for pleasure and for trade."

The airplane has a future that neither expert nor lay mind can define. The serious, practical side of flying is an almost an unknown quantity because aviation has so far been mostly circus "stunts." Shorn of these features and the end of exhibitions and meets are fortunately now in sight. The airplane will come into its own.

 

Richard T. Whitcomb, Jet Age Aeronautical Pioneer

The First Flight Society inducted NASA retired aeronautics engineer Richard Whitcomb, who made supersonic flight possible, into the Paul E. Garber First Flight Shrine at the Wright Brothers National visitor’s center in Kill Devil Hills, NC, during celebration activities commemorating the 104th anniversary of flight on Dec. 17, 2007.

His portrait will be displayed in the flight room of the visitors’ center where it will join those of other aviation pioneers. The tradition began in 1966 with the portrait of the Wright brothers.

Whitcomb followed in the best tradition of the Wright brothers, who when confronted with the claim of experts that man could never fly, showed them that they were wrong.

Whitcomb was also faced with the claim that man could never fly faster than the speed of sound. Many in the aeronautical experts in the 1930s and 1940s believed in the existence of an invisible barrier in the sky that prevented aircraft from flying faster than the speed of sound, which was approximately 700 mph.

Government researchers at McCook Field in Dayton and others first identified the problem on aircraft propellers in the 1920s. When the tips of a whirling propeller approached the speed of sound, it lost efficiency because of a drastic loss of lift. They simply could not turn any faster.

The big problem seen by the experts was the problem of overcoming drag. Both the Wrights and Whitcomb used their intellect and wind tunnel tests to solve the problem of drag. Tom Crouch, senior curator at the Smithsonian’s air and Space Museum noted that "Whitcomb battled the enemy of drag and won."

The problem of drag facing the designers of supersonic aircraft was the large increase in drag associated with the formation of shock waves that occurred at speeds just below and above the speed of sound (transonic speeds). An airplane can experience severe instability at these speeds.

When an aircraft moves at the speed of sound, shock waves build up in front of it creating a single, very large shock wave. During transonic flight, a plane must pass through this large shock wave as well as contending with the instability caused by air moving faster than sound over parts of the wing and slower in other parts. The phenomenon is explained by the Bernoulli principle.

One day late in 1951 Whitcomb relates that he was thinking about the problem and trying to visualize the air passing over a body at transonic speed when he came to the startling realization that the air passing over a body at transonic speed behaved in a different way than the experts thought. He concluded that what really caused transonic drag was not the diameter of the fuselage alone, rather it was the drag rise created by the total cross-sectional area of the fuselage, wings and tail.

Since wings added most to this area, drag could be reduced significantly by tucking in or narrowing the fuselage where the wings attached and then expanding the fuselage at their trailing edges. Using this configuration the air would be displaced less violently, the waves and drag would diminish, thus enabling an airplane to pass more easily through the transonic zone.

He concluded that the same amount of air had to be replaced to get out of the way to make room for the plane, but with the trimmed down "wasp waist," the air would not be displaced in such violent shock patterns. The configuration became known as the "area rule." It was shaped more like an old-fashioned soda bottle.

His discovery was particularly timely because at that moment virtually all military fighters aimed at sustained level supersonic flight was doomed to remain below Mach 1 because of the incapability of the jet engines of the time to overcome the tremendous drag rise.

On August 1954, his ideas were confirmed in practice when a Grumman F9F-9 successfully breezed through sonic speed in level flight without the use of an afterburner, the first time this had been done.

Whitcomb was awarded the prestigious Collier trophy for his achievement and many other awards.

He continued to refine and extend his basic concept for commercial jets and well as military planes.

In the 1960s he conceived the "supercritical airfoil," an airfoil whose primary attribute was improved performance at high subsonic speeds.

In the 1970s he developed what is called "winglets." These are devices placed at the wingtips, normal to the wingspar, extending both upward and downward. The devices reduce wingtip vortices and the induced drag such vortices create. The aerodynamic efficiency of the wing is improved and fuel consumption reduced as well.

Tom Crouch notes that "Dick Whitcomb’s intellectual fingerprints are on virtually every commercial aircraft flying today."

Whitcomb’s personality was in many respects similar to that of the Wrights. He was a conservative and shy and didn’t like administrative duties. In the laboratory he was a creative radical and in some respects management didn’t know quite know how to deal with him, so they pretty much let him do what he wanted.

 

Hall of Fame Honors Foster and Ride

The National Aviation Hall of Fame located in Dayton, Ohio enshrined five legends of Flight in their class of 2007 on July 21, 2007. They are Walter Boyne, Steve Fossett, Evelyn Johnson, Sally Ride and Frederick Smith. They join 190 legends already honored in the hall of fame. Orville and Wilbur Wright were the first to be enshrined.

Here is a brief description of each honoree:

Walter J. Boyne

Boyne, 77, joined the Air Force in 1951. He flew bombers, B-50 and B-41 in combat, later was a Nuclear Test pilot flying the B-47 and B-52. After serving in Vietnam, he retired and in 1974 joined the National Air and Space Museum in Washington D.C. He eventually became director.

He has written more than 500 articles, 28 nonfiction books and four novels, all focusing on aviation. Several have appeared on the New York Bestseller list.

Steve Fossett

Fossett, 63, is a record setting daredevil who holds 116 records in five different sports. He has aviation records in jet and piston powered aircraft, gliders, dirigibles and balloons. He was the first to complete a solo balloon trip around the globe. Three years later he was the first person to fly a plane, the Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, solo around the world without refueling.

In February 2006 he flew the longest distance, non-stop aircraft flight in the GlobalFlyer. In August 2006, Foster and co-pilot, Einar Enevoldson, set a world glider altitude record of 50,671 feet.

Evelyn Bryan Johnson

Johnson, 97, took flying lessons in 1944. Three years later she began giving flying lessons. She has trained some 60,000 pilots giving her the record for giving more Federal aviation Administration exams than any other living pilot.

She is the 20th woman in the U. S. to earn a helicopter pilot’s license.

She has been inducted into the Flight Instructor’s Hall of Fame, Women in Aviation’s International Pioneer Hall of Fame and both the Tennessee and Kentucky Hall’s of Fame.

Sally K. Ride

Ride, 56, was the first U. S. woman in space when she flew aboard the space shuttle Challenger in 1983. She returned to space aboard the Challenger in 1984. She was scheduled for a third mission to space but it was cancelled by the Challenger accident in January 1986. She served on the board that investigated the Challenger accident.

Ride earned a Ph.D. in physics from Stanford in 1978. Dr. Ride is the author of five books, President and CEO of Sally Ride science, and an advocate for improving and emphasizing science education for young girls.

Frederick W. Smith

Smith, 62, is CEO and Chairman of FedEx Corporation. He began flying at age 15, working as a crop duster. While attending Yale University he wrote a term paper outlining his concept for a company guaranteeing delivery of time-sensitive material overnight.

After graduation he joined the marines and served two tours in Vietnam. He flew more than 200 ground support missions, earning a Silver Star, Bronze Star and two Purple Hearts.

In 1971 at the age of 27 he formed Federal Express based on his college term paper. It is today a $32 billion, 280,000-employee business with service in more than 220 countries and territories.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame is a non-profit organization that relies solely on membership, donations, grants, and sponsorships. It was founded in 1962 and later established by Congress.

References: Heroes and Legends, Winter/Spring 2007; Dayton Daily News, July 23, 2007.

 

First Female Space Tourist

Anousheh Ansari, 40, has purchased her $20 million ticket and rode the Russian Soyuz TMA-9 spaceship to the international Space Station on September 18, 2006. with her were Russian cosmonaut Mikhail Tyurin and Spanish-born U.S. astronaut Lopez-Alegria.

She is the fourth tourist to visit the space station.

Ansari, born in Iran, is an American entrepreneur millionaire from Plano, Texas.

As a young girl in Iran, she used to gaze at the stars and dream of some day flying into space. Her opportunity came when the Russians began selling tickets to the International Space Station in 2001 to raise money for their space program.

A Virginia based company, Space Adventures, brokers the tickets for the Russians. She has spent the last few months training for the trip at the NASA’s Johnson Space Center and at Star City outside Moscow.

Ansari is no stranger to space adventures. In 2001, she and her brother-in-law contributed most of the $10 million X-Prize whose objective was to spur commercial space travel. Burt Rutan’s SpaceShipOne won the prize in 2004.

Ansari can afford the steep ticket price. In 1993, she and her husband, Hamid, quit their jobs at MCI and started their own telecommunications company. They took a big gamble at the time. They cashed out their retirement funds of $50,000 to start the new company. Seven years later they sold the company for $750, 000.

She emigrated to the United Stated in 1984 at the age of 16. The Shah had been overthrown and as a woman she would have no opportunity to study science at an Iranian university. In America she received her bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and computer science at George Mason University and a master’s degree from George Washington University.

Ansari was listed in Fortune’s Magazine’s "40 under 40" in 2001 and honored by Working Woman Magazine as the winner of the year 2000 National Entrepreneurial Excellence Award.

While in the space station for eight days, she will be conducting blood and muscular experiments for the European Space Agency. She believes that entrepreneurial minds and money will speed innovation. She hopes that her example will spur others to explore space for the future of mankind.

She returned safely on Sept 29 in Kazakhstan.

 

Tough Cycling

Orville and Wilbur Wright not only manufactured bicycles, they were active cyclists who took long rides and participated in bicycle races. Wilbur describes one fun ride around the Dayton area of 31 miles. Orville won races and medals.

My son Don, is an aeronautical engineer who works for the FAA, enjoys riding bicycles and belongs to a racing team in Seattle.

This year he journeyed to Europe to participate in the 2006 Tour De France pre-race over the Alps. Some 8,000 cyclists took advantage of the opportunity. The route included three beyond category climbs, and one 1st category climb over a 104-mile ride including the leg killing combination of ascents and descents of the massive Galibier and Le Telegraph passes.

The official start of the race was at the bottom of the L’ Alpe d’Huez. As I am wrote this, I watched the Tours 15th stage in which Floyd Landis won the Yellow Jersey on this mountain. The 13.8-kilometer ride to the top includes 21 hairpin switchbacks. An estimated 1 million spectators watched.

Floyd Landis went on to win the yellow jersey in Paris for the Tour.

Here is the story in Don’s words:

"Whoo, I made it! Three beyond category climbs, a 1st category climb and 104 miles – more difficult than any single stage in the Tour. I think it was the hardest thing I’ve ever done. And I’ve concluded that a 39x27 is not a low enough gear for 16,000+ feet of climbing at grades of 7-11% for miles on end. A compact crank, or at least 38 x 28, would have definitely helped.

The start was pretty disorganized. I stayed in a hotel at the top of the Alpe d’ Huez. The start was in Bourg d’Oisan, at the base of the Alpe at 7:15 AM. We had been told that there was a free shuttle if you sign up in advance, but none of the people I talked to knew anything about it. That turned out not to be a big deal as it gave me the opportunity to descend the Alpe, something I had only done previously in a driving thunderstorm.

I flew down the switchbacks, passing plenty of other riders and a few cars, and was having a great time. It had taken me a little over an hour to go up it a couple of years ago; it only took 15-18 minutes to go down it.

The start was supposed to be in waves of a thousand every fifteen minutes or so. With a number of 3726, I figured that I would be starting around 8 AM. They directed all the riders down this side road into a big disorganized mass. At one point there was a diversion for numbers higher than 600. (There were more than 8,000 riders registered for this insanity.)

I saw a number of riders less than 600 take that lane, as it was not backed up like the main lane was. We progressed forward very slowly, then finally were able to get on our bikes and ride forward, still very slowly. At one point, the lane for the riders with numbers greater than 6,000 re-merged with the main lane – all the riders who went down that lane actually got a shortcut!

Suddenly, I was riding under what looked to be the start banner and realized that I had just started! Sure enough, it was around 8 AM.

We had about 10-15 miles of flat road before the first climb. People were generally going pretty slow, so I spent a lot of time trying to find my way around and through large groups of cyclists. We went by a couple of intersections with median strips where they had a policeman waving yellow triangular flags over their heads like at the Tour de France. Pretty cool.

When we started up, my plan was to take it easy up the first two climbs, hopefully saving something for the Galibier and the finish up Alpe d’Huez. Even though I was trying to go easy, I was steadily passing scores (hundreds) of riders who were basically spread across the entire width of the narrow road. Motorcycles with the race kept going up the left side of the road, trying to maintain a little space over there for any traffic that might be foolish enough to be coming the other way.

At the top of the Col du Glandon (which we did instead of Col de la Croix Fer because of road maintenance), things came to a halt. I followed some other cyclists who had gotten off their bikes and were hiking over the Glandon on foot above the road. There was a water stop at the top of the mountain, and I thought that was what had caused the jam-up. When we got back to the road on the other side of the mountain, there were police blocking the road.

The descent off of Glandon is very steep and tricky, with a sheer drop-off on one side. The police said that there had been an accident involving 5 cyclists. I never heard what had happened or how the cyclists were.

I ended up being delayed over an hour. I later heard a number of cyclists called it quits at that point and turned around. I was worried about how they would start us going again, and did not relish the thought of descending the Glandon with thousands of other cyclists at the same time. Fortunately, they let us off in small groups. As on Alpe d’Huez, I was not impressed with the descending skills of the other cyclists. I flew down that thing, again passing hundreds of cyclists on the long descent. The switchbacks were tight and unforgiving, but they were easy to see and slow down for.

On the flats between the Glandon and the Col du Telegraph, I again could not find a group going the speed I wanted to go. I couldn’t even find a group that was maintaining 20 mph. Finally, after passing a lot of groups, one group latched on to me, then some of their guys took some pulls. (Most of the riders were content to let anyone pull forever.) One guy finally came up and pulled for the last few miles at 25 mph – just what I was looking for. And he didn’t mind staying up there. At one point, I went up alongside him and told him we were doing a great job –- he just said that he flats.

At the base of the Telegraph, I was out of water, so I stopped at a bar to get some. It took me about 10-15 minutes just to get a water bottle filled. I started up the Telegraph, thinking that it was the shortest and easiest of the climbs, again passing other cyclists at a good clip. After a little bit, I came upon a sign that said 10k to the summit. I was hoping it was going to be more like 5k at that point, as I was starting to feel it. At 3k to go, I was really running low on energy, and for the first time, although I was still passing a good number of cyclists, I was also being passed by several groups.

Finally, the summit, and another good, though much shorter descent before the next climb, the monster Galibier (above 9,000 feet in elevation). I knew I was in need of some solid food (gels and Power Bars just weren’t cutting it at that point). I stopped at a little kind of drive-in food stand that was selling sandwiches and pizza. Pizza sounded good to me, so I ordered one. When it came, I didn’t realize how big it was going to be. I wolfed down half of it, then offered the rest to the other emaciated riders waiting in line for food. Then it was time to start the Galibier.

I remembered the Galibier from having ridden it a few years ago as very long, but not very steep. However, with the amount of energy I’d already expended, and the heat, which was making it very difficult to stay hydrated, it seemed a lot harder this time. It was here that I decided that my gear selection was inadequate – my normal cadence in my lowest gear resulted in a speed of about 7 mph, 6 mph was okay, but I was starting to get bogged down. 5 mph was a really slow cadence, and if I was under 5 mph, I felt like it was time to stop.

All those people I’d been passing had lower gears that would allow a higher cadence at lower speeds, saving their legs a bit for the distance. I ended up having to stop 2 or 3 times on the way up the Galibier. It was at this point that I started wondering if I was going to complete the ride. (Actually, I’d been wondering that since the day before when I took a little recon ride that my legs didn’t like too much, and started wondering about my gearing.) At the top, I took a quick stop for more water and some orange and banana slices that they had. I knew that it would be pretty much all downhill from there until Alpe d’Huez.

Again, the descent was loads of fun. The first part is more technical (and more exposed). I remember that the other time I’d done it, I thought I would never want to do it in a race because of the exposure – if you missed a turn on some of those turns, it was a long way down. But this time, maybe knowing what to expect, I didn’t think it was bad at all. The descents were definitely the most fun part of the whole event and well worth the price of admission by themselves.

I was again passing large number of riders, but when the road finally straightened out a bit, a group latched onto me and we started riding together. It was a good thing, too, because it was a headwind the whole way back. Even though it was downhill, when the grade lessened, the headwind was making it a bit difficult to go it alone. After a slight uphill that detached a number of in our group, five of us finally started riding in a continuously rotating paceline, which was necessary due to the wind.

We all stopped at the final food stop at the base of Alpe d’Huez. It was about 4:15 PM. If I hadn’t been delayed an hour at the Col du Glandon, I would have still had a shot at a gold medal if I could get up the Alpe in about an hour. Well, I could do that on fresh legs, but not on toasted ones like I now had. I was kind of glad that I didn’t have a shot at that because all I wanted to think about now was surviving.

It took me about a ½ hour to eat, drink, fill water bottles, and convince myself that I had better get started. I knew that the first 4 switchbacks were the hardest, at grades over 11%, so I set a goal of making it to switchback 17 before thinking about stopping (The numbers get smaller as you ride up the Alpe).

I didn’t make it. I had to stop at 18. Then I started having some chain skipping problems, so I had to stop a couple more times to deal with that. The places that I had remembered it as being less steep were still very difficult. What had taken me over an hour a few years ago (when I was not trying to go real hard) took me nearly 2 hours (1:45 to 1:50) this time, including about 3 or 4 stops. Some riders were walking their bikes, but most had those infuriating low gears that they could continue to ride in even though they were going just slightly faster than a walking pace. It was sure faster than I was going while I was stopped, though!

It eases off in the last couple of kilometers as you go through the alpine village at the top. The last kilometer really eases off, then it goes a little downhill through a roundabout, then around a left hand to an uphill finish. I was waiting for that and really kicked it up for the finish, jumping to the big ring for the little downhill and sprinting past some riders on the finishing uphill.

It was kind of cool in that they had the final 1 k blocked off with the Tour de France type fencing, and there was a grandstand set up with people cheering you on. There wasn’t any 1 k kite or banner, but the finish banner was pretty neat.

As soon as I crossed the finish line, I stopped and bent over my bike. Then I noticed that the place where your timing chip actually recorded your finish was a few feet further on, and all the people I had just passed were going by me to the electronic finishing lanes.

Oh well, what else? I rolled forward to the electronic finish and got my official time – 10 hours and 33 minutes – good enough for a silver medal (which you had to purchase).

Well, that’s it for my excellent adventure (for the old guy from Newcastle, Washington)."

Comment: I would say so! For a guy in his late 40s, his performance was simply amazing.

 

Flight Safety – June 2006

Two significant events concerning space flight and commercial aviation occurred in June 2006.

The first concerns the Space Shuttle. The next flight of the shuttle is scheduled for July 1. Two NASA engineers voiced their concern that the shuttle isn’t ready to fly.

Bryan O’Connor, NASA’s lead safety official, and Christopher Scolese, its chief engineer voted "no go" when agency officials met recently at the Kennedy Space Center in Florida. In an unusual move the rest of the officials voted yes for an ontime launch including NASA Administrator Michael Griffin.

The concern of the two officials, who voted against the launch, was that the insulating foam that covers 34 metal brackets on the shuttle’s external fuel tank might dislodge during launching and damage the spacecraft’s protective heat shield beyond repair.

The July 1 launch was approved despite the objections because in the event of a damaged heat shield, the astronauts could stay in the International Space station until rescued by another shuttle.

The loss of the shuttle Columbia and its crew on Feb. 1, 2003 was caused by foam debris. NASA engineers have redesigned the fuel tank and removed most sources of large pieces of potentially damaging debris.

However, during the shuttle Discovery launch last July, a hazardous amount of foam fell from its tank. As a result NASA engineers have further reduced the amount of foam used.

O’Connor and Scolese believe that the foam issue is still not fully resolved. They note that their concern is with the fate of the shuttle and not the safety of the seven-man crew of Discovery who can remain in the International Space Station in an emergency.

Update: Charlie Camarda, a member of the astronaut corps and long time NASA engineer, was removed from his job for his safety views. He wrote an e-mail to his engineering team saying that he was most proud of all of them at the flight readiness review meetings "when you stood up and presented your dissenting opinions and your exceptions/constraints for flight."

Camarda told colleagues that he was forced out as director of engineering at Johnson Space Center after praising colleagues who dissented about going forward with the next flight of Discovery. He said he refused to step down from the high-level mission management team and "asked that if I would not be allowed to work this mission that I would have to be fired from my position and I was."

For his work at NASA, Camarda received seven patents and more than 21 NASA awards for his technical innovations and accomplishments.

Update: (July 6) NASA engineers and managers are optimistic that the shuttle has reached orbit with no damage and substantially less shedding of foam debris from the external tank than in previous flights. There will be additional examinations over the next few days.

The second event concerns commercial airplanes landing in wet or icy weather.

On Dec. 8 last year, a Southwest Airlines jet (Flight 1248) skidded off the runway on to a highway while landing at Midway Airport, Chicago and crushed a car, killing a 6-year-old boy.

At a two-day FAA hearing last week new regulations were announced that would require pilots to add a buffer of at least 15% to their stopping-distance estimates on wet or icy runways.

The new rules, according to FAA airplane performance engineer Don Stimson (my son), mandate that when conflicting or mixed assessments of runway conditions are issued, pilots must use the worse case scenario, effectively erring on the conservative side.

The pilots of Flight 1248 had calculated much shorter stopping distances for their landing at Midway, 5,778 feet under poor runway conditions to 5,253 feet under fair conditions. Midway’s longest runway is 6,522 feet long, but obstructions outside the airfield prohibit landing on the first 696 feet.

Under the new rules, a stopping distance of 8,535 feet must be available for a plane comparable in weight and landing speed to the Southwest 737-700 involved in the Dec. 8 accident based on conditions of the runway that day.

Pilots and safety board investigators rated the first half of the Midway runway as fair and the second half poor just before the accident.

The final report and safety recommendations are expected to be released in early 2007.

References:

New York Times, "In Opposing Launching, 2 NASA Officials Feared Shuttle’s Loss, Not Crew Safety," June 22, 2006.

Chicago Tribune, "Midway gets U.S. warning on snow; More runway needed in wet or icy weather," June 22, 2006.

Richmond Times-Dispatch, " NASA Official says his safety views cost job," June 28, 2006.

 

Opined That He Also Could Sail The Air

People were still trying to invent the airplane five years after the Wrights had flown.

The story of one such attempt August 8 was published in August 9, 1908 by the Inter-Mountain Republican newspaper in Salt Lake City.

Here is the article:

Opined That He Also Could Sail The Air

Finds His Wings Are Good Life Preservers But Not For Flying

Arioch Wheeler of Mianus, Conn., after weeks of reading about Count Zeppelin and Henri Farman, who are conquering the air, opined that he, Arioch, would make a flight, so he constructed for himself a pair of paper wings and today he suddenly left his turnip patch and made a wild dash for Hiram Johnson’s barn.

He clambered to the roof and blithely adjusted the wings.

Arioch then posed gracefully, took in the wind situation and then laid his course across the Mianus River, a stream 12 feet from the barn.

Some farmers were near by and saw the man perched on the roof. They yelled to him to come down but he merely stretched out his hands and shrieked,

" I am Count Zeppelin. I am going to fly."

In an instant Arioch had flung himself into the air --- and also into the Mianus River. The wings kept him afloat till he was rescued.

He has been advised to patent his wings and dub them life preservers.

 

Fossett Flies GlobalFlyer in Tradition of Wrights

Ever since the Wright brothers designed an airplane in Dayton that flew at Kitty Hawk, mankind has been fascinated with defying gravity and setting new records in the air.

Millionaire adventurer Steve Fossett, 60, is one of these people. On Thursday, March 3, 2005, he became the first person to fly around the world solo without stopping or refueling, landing in Salina, Kansas after a 67-hour, 23,000-mile trip.

Sir Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Atlantic Airways and longtime friend and fellow adventurer, was the primary sponsor of the adventure. The $1.5 million airplane, Virgin Atlantic GlobalFlyer, was specifically designed for this record-breaking flight. It was designed by Burt Rutan and built by Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites Company. Rutan built SpaceShipOne, the first private craft to fly into space.

The GlobalFlyer is no ordinary plane. It consists of three hulls attached to a wing that measures more than half the wingspan of a Boeing 747. Its wingspan is 114 feet with a wing area of 400-feet squared. Its length is 44.1 feet and has 7 feet of pressurized space for the pilot in a cigar-shaped cabin.

When all 13 fuel tanks in the hulls and wing are filled with JP-4 aviation fuel, the maximum takeoff weight is 22,000 pounds. The fuel load constitutes 83% of the total weight. It has a single engine turbofan airplane sitting atop of the cockpit.

It took most of the 12,300 feet of the runway at Salina to get off the ground.

With a lift-to-drag ratio of about 37, the craft has the performance of a sailplane while flying. Drogue chutes are deployed when landing to provide a reasonable approach angle for the low-drag craft.

The flight had some anxious moments. Within an hour or so of takeoff, for some mysterious reason, 15% of the precious fuel vanished. The loss of the fuel raised concern that Foster might not have enough fuel to complete the trip. A "go-no go" decision would have to be made at Hawaii since the plane flying East around the globe had Hawaii as the last landing opportunity before reaching California.

Fortunately, there were stronger-than-expected tailwinds that gave Foster confidence to decide to say, "let’s go for it." He crossed the California coastline on Thursday morning and had enough fuel remaining to make it to Salina, Kansas.

The craft cruises 285 mph at a high altitude of 45,000 feet, 12,000 feet higher than a typical jetliner. That enables it to catch the high altitude jet stream that flows eastward around the globe. A favorable jet stream is crucial to save fuel.

He did wear a parachute in the event of the worst case scenario that of ditching the airplane. Also, the GlobalFlyer was an excellent glider and could glide up to 200 miles without fuel before having to land.

Another problem that occurred early in the flight was with a faulty GPS navigational aid. The flight would have had to be discontinued if the GPS had failed. Fortunately the flight team was able to solve the problem.

Flight pioneers since the Wright brothers have put both their money and their lives at stake to surpass every speed and distance there was. The first successful flight around the world occurred in 1924, 21 years after the Wrights’ first flight. It was flown by two U.S. Army Douglas single engine open-cockpit World Cruisers, each with a crew of two. The flight took 175 days to cover 26,345 miles, stopping in 29 countries along the way for fueling and maintenance.

Aviation pioneer Wiley Post made the first solo global trip in 1933. He made seven stops along the way.

The first nonstop global flight without refueling was made in 1986 with a propeller driven airplane, the Voyager, by Jeana Yeager and Dick Rutan. Dick is the brother of GlobalFlyer and SpaceShipOne designer Burt Rutan.

Steve Foster is an unusual person who thrives on risk taking and has pursued other exploits and records besides flying in airplanes. These include swimming the English Channel, setting 21 speed records for sailing, participating in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, driving twice in the 24 hours Le Mans Car Race, and setting a ballooning record flying solo round-the-world in 2002.

Although he lives life on the edge, he is not foolhardy. Like the Wright brothers, the risks he takes are carefully calculated down to the minutest detail.

He is able to do these things financially because he has made millions as an investment executive in the high risk trading area of commodities and options.

Why did he want to be the first to fly nonstop around the world? He said, "That was something I wanted to do for a long time, a major ambition. I do these things because I want to do them for my self-esteem and my personal satisfaction." I can hear Wilbur saying much the same thing.

After the flight he added, "Believe me, its great to be back on the ground. That was a difficult trip. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done."

He noted sleep deprivation was one issue as was as the unappealing diet of 12 diet milkshakes.

What’s in the future for Steve Fossett? He didn’t say except that he has three projects in planning right now. We may never know what they were.

Unfortunately, thirteen months after he mysterious disappeared on a fight taken on Sept. 3, 2007, over the Sierra Nevada mountains, his airplane and remains were found. Apparently he had flown his Bellanca Super Decathlon  straight into a mountain on a cloudy day.

 

Not Again!

The January 2005 of Carolina Journal, a monthly journal of news, analysis and commentary, contained the following article:

Ohio Targeted for Aviation Claims

No longer able to tolerate its false claims based on the location of Wilbur and Orville’s origins, NC Attorney General Roy Cooper said he will sue the state of Ohio for claiming to be the "birthplace of aviation."

He said the "clearly false assertion" was undermining North Carolina’s long time reputation for being "first in flight," and therefore harming its tourism and ultimately, its esteem.

"As self-established arbiter of linguistic integrity," Cooper said, "I say Ohio’s motto is pure hogwash. They are ‘birthplace of aviators’ perhaps, but not aviation."

Cooper said he would demand that Ohio replace all license plates that promote the slogan, and that the state remove the phrase from all state advertising. He said it would be unethical for lawmakers there to not remedy the situation.

After all, the Wright brothers could have chosen the winds off lake Erie to test their plane, Cooper said. "But they came to the Outer Banks instead. So, if they don’t take care of this, then phooey on Ohio!"

Comment: I thought we saw the end of this debate before the centennial celebration, but apparently not. Ohio has the right to the claim of being "birthplace of aviation" for the clear fact that the Wright Flyer and its predecessor kites and gliders were conceived, designed and built in Dayton, Ohio.

The Wrights selected Kitty Hawk as the site for flight testing because of its wind, sand, and isolation.

I know Roy Cooper and think very highly of him. I voted for him. But in this case he is wrong. This argument about mottoes is becoming tiresome. It is time to move on.

 

NASA Jet Sets New Speed Record

A small, pilotless NASA experimental airplane set a new speed of almost 10 times the speed of sound on Tuesday November 17, 2004. It comes 100 years, 11 months, after the Wright brother’s first controlled flight. The NASA airplane, the X-43A, reached about 6,600 mph during a short flight over the Pacific Ocean that demonstrated that hypersonic flight is possible.

Orville’s first flight on December 17, 1903 was capable of a speed of about 34-mph in still air. On that day there was a head wind of 27-mph so that the ground speed was much slower. Wilbur had no trouble running along side the Flyer, steadying it, while it traveled down the launching rail.

During the early days of aviation, increases of flight speed were relatively slow.

To put this in perspective, by 1909 the Wright airplane demonstrated an average speed of 42.6-mph during the Army flight demonstrations at Fort Myer.

One year later the Wrights built an airplane designed for racing that demonstrated a significant increase in speed. It was clocked at flying over 77-mph with a new eight-cylinder engine. It was the Wright Model R, nicknamed the "Baby Grand."

Less than 24 years after the first flight at Kitty Hawk, Charles Lindbergh’s airplane, the "Sprit of St. Louis," was capable of attaining a maximum speed of 125-mph on his solo flight to Paris.

The development of the jet engine resulted in rapid improvements in speed.

An historic breakthrough in speed came on October 14, 1947, when Chuck Yeager became the first person to fly faster than the speed of sound (supersonic flight) flying the Bell X-1. His record-breaking speed was Mach 1.06, or 700 mph, and proved that airplanes can fly safely in the mysterious aerodynamic zone around Mach 1 formerly known as a "sound barrier."

The SR-71A Blackbird spy plane flew in excess of 2,200-mph, or Mach 3 in 1964.

NASA has been working for the last few years on hypersonic flight, or speeds greater than Mach 5. Among the technical challenges of flying this fast is the development of an engine that can stand the forces necessary to generate hypersonic speed. A conventional jet engine would fly apart at hypersonic speed.

Jet engines operate according to Newton’s Law, that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. That means that the faster the jet, the faster the exhaust has to be shooting out of the engine.

In a conventional jet engine the turbine blades that are used to compress air for combustion would fly apart.

The purpose of NASA’s research is to develop technology for a new type of engine known as a "scramjet" that can work at hypersonic speeds. Scramjet is an acronym for "supersonic combustion ramjet."

A scramjet has no moving parts and achieves compression by sucking in and compressing air at supersonic speeds. It reaches rocket-like speeds, but unlike rockets, it does not need oxygen to ignite the fuel supply. Instead it takes oxygen from the atmosphere.

For a long time experts thought that it was not possible to ignite the fuel in a supersonic air stream. It would be analogous to "striking a match in a hurricane."

NASA built and tested three unmanned vehicles containing the new engine. They tested three vehicles so that, like the Wright brothers, they could use the lessons learned from each succeeding flight to improve the next one.

Operational testing is particularly essential for the X-43A because, while the Wrights were able to effectively used their wind tunnel to design their Flyer, it is very difficult to test on the ground at hypersonic speeds. While the design of the engine is mechanically simple it is very complex aerodynamically.

The first test flight failed because of a booster rocket problem. The second test established a new world speed record of Mach 7. The last flight, on Nov. 17, broke the previous record by flying at a spectacular Mach 10.

Here is the sequence of events during the last test flight:

Scramjets start to work only at about Mach 6 and therefore must be given a boost. A modified Pegasus rocket provides the boost.

The 12-foot long wedge-shape X-43A, attached to the nose of the Pegasus rocket, was carried under the right wing of a B-52B aircraft to 40,000 feet. It was then dropped about 50-miles off the southern California coast.

The solid rocket motor took the stack up to mach 10 at 110,000 feet.

The motor burned out after 7-8 seconds and pistons pushed the X-43A forward away from the rocket and the higher density of the X-43A made it pull ahead of the Pegasus rocket.

The X-43A engine inlet was then opened and in 3 seconds the engine started firing using hydrogen fuel maintaining a speed of Mach 9.65 at 110,000 feet. This continued for 10-12 seconds. The inlet door then closed 8-9 seconds later for the rest of the flight.

The X-43A then descended while performing maneuvers to test its aerodynamic characteristics. The craft splashed into the ocean after an approximate total flight time of 14 minutes and 850 miles.

What now? Any near term applications of scramjets will probably be military because that is where the money is and NASA has not funded a continuation of the $230 million program. The Wright brothers also received a military contract in 1909.

One of the advantages of a scramjet rocket is that it doesn’t require a heavy, huge oxygen container. Rockets combine liquid fuel with liquid oxygen to create thrust. The larger the rocket the larger the oxygen container in a conventional rocket.

Without the added weight and space, cheaper and easier space missions are possible such as flights to the moon and space stations. Airplanes can cross the Atlantic in 40 minutes.

The U.S. Air Force is researching how to use the technology to create cruise missiles that could reach enemy targets at lightning speed.

Few people in the early days of aviation saw the potential of the airplane. The Wrights themselves didn’t foresee jumbo jets routinely flying across the oceans or space flight.

After World War II, the Dayton Wright Airplane Co., then owned by General Motors, decided to stop building and selling airplanes because they thought there was no longer a profitable future for airplanes after the war.

What the NASA X-43A has done for hypersonics is equivalent to what the Wright brothers did for subsonics 100 year ago. It is amazing what has been accomplished in such a relatively short time.

 

Founder of the X Prize

It was an exciting moment on October 4, 2004 when SpaceShipOne completed its mission by flying seventy miles into space to win the X Prize.

The media contained pictures of Burt Rutan, the designer of the craft, the pilots Michael Melvill and Brian Binnie who flew the two flights, and Paul Allen who provided most of the funds. You had to look hard to find the short, smiling man who was responsible for the prize.

His name is Peter H. Diamandis, and he is an interesting story in itself. Diamandis became obsessed with space as a boy when he watched the Apollo moon landing. He too wanted to go there.

He decided to become an Aerospace engineer and attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) where he was active as a student in pursuing his interest in space travel.

His father was a medical doctor and his parents were not so sure he was pursuing the right career. His mother wanted him to be a doctor and follow in the footsteps of his father. To please her, after graduation from MIT he attended Harvard Medical School and earned his medical degree.

He now had two degrees but his passion was still space travel. In 1986, after the Challenger disaster, he concluded that the best and quickest way to open the space frontier was through the private sector.

From that time on he has dedicated himself to find a way to achieve the advancement of human spaceflight by making space travel accessible to everyone.

He had a vision, but how does one make it happen. He had supporters as well as many doubters. The break came when Greg Marynjak, a college friend and now the X Prize Foundation Director, gave Diamandis a copy of Charles Lindbergh’s autobiography "The Spirit of St. Louis."

The aviation legend, Lindbergh, was motivated by the $25,000 prize that Raymond Orteig established for the first nonstop flight between New York and Paris. Lindbergh’s triumphal flight on May 21, 1927 opened the way for rapid commercialization of flight.

Diamandis wasn’t so much interested in Lindbergh after reading the book as he was in the idea of a prize to motivate innovation. He reasoned, why not create a space prize and get some St. Louis businessmen to back it just as Lindbergh had done. He decided to call it the X Prize worth $10 million.

In March of 1996, he followed Lindbergh’s script and invited a group of St. Louis businessmen for drinks at the historic Racquet Club, using the same table used by Lindbergh a generation before.

Diamandis told them that St. Louis could be a "gateway to the stars" while showing them old clips of James Stewart playing Lindbergh in the movie, "Spirit of St. Louis."

It must have been quite a show. He picked up $25,000 from the seven businessmen in attendance. It was a great start.

On May 18th under the Arch in St. Louis, he announced the formation of the X Prize Foundation. The first privately financed team to fly a reusable spacecraft would win the $10 million dollar X Prize. Charles Lindbergh’s grandson, Eric Lindbergh, was there as a vice president and trustee of the X Prize Foundation.

Eric two years ago celebrated the 75th Anniversary of his grandfather’s famous flight across the Atlantic by duplicating the flight by himself.

Also in attendance in St. Louis was Burt Rutan, the ultimate winner of the first X Prize with his SpaceShipOne. He was also the first to register for the prize. Later he admitted that he didn’t think about designing a spacecraft until 1999. He begin a full development program two years later after Paul Allen agreed to provide most of the financing for the effort.

After the initial burst of enthusiasm, Diamandis found it hard to raise the prize money. The big corporations shied away because they were afraid that the mission would fail and they didn’t want their corporate name attached to a failed spacecraft.

Despite round the clock fund raising efforts by Diamandis, the X Prize Foundation was potentially looking at bankruptcy as 2001 began. Then by chance, Diamandis read a Fortune magazine article about a couple of Texan telecommunication entrepreneurs who were interested in space travel.

He rushed to Dallas and met Anousheh Ansari and her brother-in-law, Amir. Bingo! He received a commitment of more than $1 million. The X Prize race was still on, but now under the banner of the renamed Ansari X Prize and Anousheh Ansari became a board member of the X Prize Foundation.

In another interesting strategy by Diamandis, who is always thinking out-of-the-box, an insurance company will be the entity that actually pays the prize money. The X Prize foundation (Ansari) paid an insurance company, Bermuda-based XL Capital, for a special "hole-in-one" insurance policy in which the insurance company essentially bets against success. The insurance company lost and must pay the prize money.

The X Prize Foundation will award the X Prize at a ceremony in St. Louis on November 6th.

The X Prize, said Diamandis, is the beginning, it is not the end of space competitions. Twenty-six teams had registered for the X Prize and many plan to continue their effort to fly a spacecraft.

The one closet to launch is the da Vinci project. The team leader, Brian Feeney, hopes to try a launch by November 1.

Also, the X Prize Foundation has announced an annual X Prize Cup to be held in Las Cruces, New Mexico that will serve as an air show for spacecraft. Prizes will be awarded in categories such as: fastest turnaround time, maximum number of passengers per flight, maximum altitude, fastest flight time, and coolest ship. The event hopes to launch some fifty space flights over a 10-day period beginning in December 2006

SpaceShipOne was a suborbital achievement. The ultimate goal is for orbital flight. Robert Bigelow, who heads an aerospace company in Nevada, has announced a "Bigelow Prize" worth $50 million for 

See other articles on SpaceShipOne in archives/others.

 

Spacecraft Earns $40 Million

It took six years to develop, but for the second time in five days, a piloted reusable suborbital spacecraft, SpaceShipOne, flew into the fringes of space, nearly 70 miles (367,442 feet) above the earth, before gliding back to a safe landing in the Mojave Desert. In so doing it flew seven miles higher than the arbitrary line marking the beginning of space and won the $10-million Ansari X Prize and became the first privately developed plane to rocket into space.

The previous record for a space plane was held by the military developed X-15 that reached an altitude of 67 miles (354,200 feet) in 1963.

The X prize-winning flight on October 4, 1904 coincided with the 43rd-anniversary of the Soviet Union’s 184-pound Sputnik I that triggered the space race between the United States and the Soviet Union.

Also sadly, it coincided with the death of astronaut Gordon Cooper, 77, who flew the last Mercury mission-Faith 7 on May 1963.

There was jubilation close to that of the Wright Brothers achievement when the spacecraft landed. Some people have called the achievement a new era in flight and have compared the feat to the Wright Brothers historic flight, calling the Mojave the new Kitty Hawk. One observer remarked, "It feels a little bit like Kitty Hawk must have."

Unlike the Wright Brother’s flight nearly 101 years ago, which stirred little interest or press, the event was documented live on television and around the world, by many major news agencies, including CNN, ABC, Fox, Reuters, Associated Press, to name a few.

The X prize set requirements that included altitude (at least 100 kilometers), and vehicle reliability (the spacecraft flies twice within 2 weeks).

A piloted turbojet known as the White Knight carried SpaceShipOne to nearly 50,000 feet (above nearly 85% of the Earth’s atmosphere). There, SpaceShipOne fired its rocket for 84 seconds, climbing in a vertical trajectory at speeds of near three times the speed of sound. After reaching just under 70 miles above the Earth and experiencing several minutes of weightlessness, it coasted back into the Earth’s atmosphere where the pilot took over control and flew it as a glider to a landing at Mojave Airport.

It was a flawless flight in contrast to the two previous flights in which the pilot experienced control problems, but still completed the mission.

The X Prize foundation hopes to stimulate the same sort of proliferation of technologies and enterprise seen after the Wright brothers’ pioneering flight. Peter Diamandis, a businessman, established the X Prize eight years ago with the objective being to spur commercial space travel. He plans to present the $10 million dollar check to Mojave Aerospace Ventures in St. Louis on Nov. 6. Burt Rutan, the craft’s designer, and Paul Allen, Microsoft’s co-founder who provided some $20 million to support the project, founded the winning partnership known as Mojave Aerospace Ventures.

Anousheh Ansari, an Iran-born engineer who made a fortune in telecommunications provided most of the $10 million for the prize. The X Prize is modeled after the $25,000 Orteig Prize that was won by Charles Lindbergh in 1927 for flying nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean. Lindbergh’s grandson, Erik Lindbergh, is a trustee and vice-president of the X Prize Foundation.

Rutan says he will share the prize money with his employees at Scaled Composites, his company. The prize attracted more than two dozen teams from around the world.

The Wrights also privately financed their Flyer, although they weren’t millionaires.

Rutan has designed some of the oddest and innovative airplanes in the world over a career of 30 years. Like the Wright brothers, he is known for putting together known technologies into innovative ways to form new systems.

Rutan designed Voyager, a plane that flew nonstop around the world without refueling. He is considered by some as a national treasure.

The SpaceShipOne demonstrates two technological breakthroughs. One is a safer hybrid rocket engine, the first developed for human space flight since 1972. The second is the use of the ship’s movable tail section that folds up to serve as an airbrake as the plane descends.

After the prize-winning flight of SpaceShipOne, Rutan said: "Our success proves without question that manned space flight does not require mammoth government expenditures. It can be done by a small company with limited resources and a few dozen dedicated employees."

In 1908, there were only 10 pilots in the world, including the Wright brothers. By 1912, after Wilbur flew in France in 1909, there were thousands of pilots. Many of the pilots must have said to themselves that if two bicycles makers can fly so can I.

Only 434 people have flown in space and they were trained and funded by governments. We now have two space pilots that have been awarded commercial astronaut wings by the FAA – Brian Binnie and Mike Melvill, the two pilots that flew the prize-winning flights. They are two of four pilots that have been trained to fly SpaceShipOne.

Binnie said after the second prize-winning flight, "flying this vehicle is literally a rush."

Diamandis has announced the foundation of an annual X Prize cup to begin in December 2006 to maintain the momentum by sponsoring "space races." The event aims to launch 50 space flights over a 10-day period with cash prizes given for such categories as altitude, speed and passenger capacity.

"We have to one winner here today, which is spectacular. But it’s insufficient to have a monopoly once again. We need to have a competitive market. We need to push the envelope to go higher, further and faster."

The British billionaire tycoon and owner of Virgin Airlines, Richard Branson, has joined the effort by announcing that he plans to take tourists to space for a fee of around $200,000. He has formed a space tourism company named Virgin Galactic to license the technology from Rutan’s Mojave Aerospace Ventures and for Scaled Composites to build the first of five space-liners next year and fly paying passengers in suborbital flights as early as 2007. The first space-liner has already been named – V.S.S. Enterprise.

Branson plans to locate ships in several countries. He has already received 5,000 inquiries for tickets.

Profits generated will be used to develop a new generation of spacecraft capable of orbital flights capable of visits around the moon and space hotels.

Some critics have denigrated the use of SpaceShipOne as a vehicle for tourism. The Wrights, too, didn’t have a clear idea of how to use the airplane. The first uses were military. It took another 20 years for commercial travel by airplanes to become practical.

X Prize supporters hope to demonstrate that low-cost space travel is practical and profitable. Over time private ventures are expected to cut the cost of space travel through volume, innovation and attention to the bottom line. The first NASA space shuttle flew in 1981. It costs NASA over $1 billion for each launch of the shuttle.

Space flights are not without risk. FAA’s Blakey said, "There will be a bad day sooner or later. As long as potential passengers truly understand the risks, the government approach would be caveat aviator. This country was founded on people who are risk-takers."

Rutan says he intends to build commercial craft that are at least 100 times safer than anything that has ever flown man to space.

See other articles on SpaceShipOne in archives/others.

 

SpaceShipOne Flies Again

On Wednesday September 29th SpaceShipOne successfully flew again in the pursuit of the X Prize competition worth $10 million. One more successful flight and they will have won it.

Here is the criteria for the winning the prize: the winning team must privately finance, build and launch a spacecraft that can carry three people 62 miles above the Earth’s surface, return safely to Earth, and then do it again within two weeks. Some 26 teams from seven countries are vying for the prize. The 62-mile threshold is generally accepted as the point where the Earth’s atmosphere ends and space begins.

The SpaceShipOne team is planning on completing the second flight requirement on Monday October 4th, although they have until October 13 at 0834 to make the attempt.

On Sept. 29 at 0712 the SpaceShipOne rocket ship attached to the White Knight, the carrier airplane, left the Mojave, California runway before thousands of spectators. The White Knight with its payload climbed to about an altitude of 48,000 feet where SpaceShipOne detached from the White Knight and its rockets fired, sending SpaceShipOne roaring straight up for about 2 minutes. Its bright streak toward space could be seen from the ground.

Before reaching apogee the pilot, Mike Melvill, experienced some nervous moments as the spacecraft began to spin unexpectedly as it sped through space at nearly three times the speed of sound. Melvill said later that he figures there were at least 20 turns, with some of them at a high rate producing a corkscrew like flight path. "I’m not sure what kicked it off," he said. "It was probably something I did."

Rutan, the designer of the craft, didn’t think it was pilot error. Instead he suggested it was the result of the "dihedral effect" in which air buffeting the spacecraft at an angle causes it to roll.

The spin caused the worried flight controllers on the ground to advise Melvill to abort his ascent, but Melvill was close to the goal of at least 62 miles altitude and kept going a few more seconds before shutting down the engine eleven seconds earlier than planned.

He achieved 64 miles (337,500 feet). After landing at 0833 without further incident he said, "I did a victory roll at the top." "You just cannot describe what a feeling this is. Maybe I’m crazy."

The first test flight last June 21st also had control problems. In this instance, the craft unexpectedly rolled to the left and then to the right and developed trim problems as the craft experienced horizontal wind shear. That problem was fixed and a new engine was designed to provide 20% greater thrust.

Experiencing control problems with experimental craft is not new. The Wright brothers had their own problems with controlling the Flyer.

An interesting aspect of the flight is that employees of Burt Rutan’s company, Scaled Composites, contributed personal items to simulate the weight of two additional passengers to provide the 400 pounds required under the X Prize rules. All items were carefully weighed and sealed in boxes. The items included tools, toys, pictures of children, a prized watch and the ashes of Rutan’s deceased mother.

The X Prize is spurring private space flight. Just recently Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Airways, announced the formation of a new company, Virgin Galactic, for the purpose of offering space jaunts in 2007. He plans to license the technology from Mojave Aerospace Ventures, a company founded by Rutan and Paul Allen, the billionaire cofounder of Microsoft and investor in the SpaceShipOne venture.

Tickets will cost about $208,000 for a 2-hour flight. They expect to fly 3,000 new astronauts in the first 5 years. Only a few civilians have flown into space and they paid much larger sums of money to ride on ships operated by the Russian government.

The biggest hurtle to space tourism may be legal and regulatory rather than technical. The House passed a bill earlier this year creating a licensing system. A similar bill is languishing in the Senate. A bill may not pass this year.

Melvill is scheduled to speak at the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh on December 17th at a program observing the anniversary of the Wright brothers’ first flight.

See other articles on SpaceShipOne in Archives/Others.

 

SpaceShipOne, The Wright Flyer of Space Craft

On the beautiful morning of June 21, 2004, some 100 years after the first flight of the Wright Flyer, SpaceShipOne flew a short flight of less than 90 minutes into space 62 miles above the earth. It was one giant step for the entrepreneur spirit.

In 1903, the thought of people traveling in the air from city to city seemed impossible. Today space exploration, both private and public, is still just getting off the ground.

Rutan said, "today’s flight marks a critical turning point in the history of aerospace. We have redefined travel, as we know it. Our success proves without question that manned space does not require mammoth expenditures. It can be done by a small company with limited resources and a few dozen dedicated employees."

Rutan, 61, a college educated aeronautical engineer, founded Scaled Composites in the early 1900s. He has a reputation for his innovative approach to aircraft design. His genius seems to lie in his ability to combine a number of unrelated innovations into one design. 

His interest in airplanes started at an early age. He was a competition aero modeler as a teenager. Many people first heard of him when one of his designs, the Voyager, flew around the world nonstop on a 9-day flight. Dick Rutan, Burt’s brother piloted the plane in 1986.

SpaceShipOne started its flight attached underneath the belly of another one of Rutan’s unique planes he developed from scratch, named the White Knight.

Using a mother ship reduces the expense and danger of a rocket launch from the ground.

The White Night took off from a normal runway witnessed by thousands of spectators who lined the grounds of the Mojave Desert Airport. The two vehicles joined together looked like something out of a Buck Rodgers comic book.

The twin turbo-fan powered White Knight carried the SpaceShipOne up to approximately 50,000-feet altitude to start the space flight. At that altitude they are through about 85% of the earth’s atmosphere. (Note: Cruising altitudes for some jets is 35,000-feet).

The pilot of SpaceShipOne was Michael Melvill. Melvill was born in South Africa and later became an U.S. citizen. He has worked for Rutan for 26 years and has flown all kinds of airplanes.

When SpaceShipOne disconnected from the mother ship, it glided for about 10-seconds while Melvill trimmed the craft ready for the rocket boost. He then threw a switch that fired the rocket motor capable of generating 17,000-pounds of thrust that accelerated the craft to twice the speed of sound.

This unique rocket motor was designed from scratch by Rutan’s design team. They had never made a rocket motor before just as the Wright brothers designed and built their own original 12-hp engine for the Flyer.

The rocket fuel consisted of tire rubber as the fuel and laughing gas as the oxidizer. The laughing gas self-pressures at room temperature, eliminating the need for the complicated systems of pumps and pipes typical in rocket engines. This saves money and weight.

When the rocket motor fired, Melvill immediately commenced a pullout maneuver to point the nose vertically in order to fly straight up to sub-orbital space. The craft continued to accelerate straight-out for a minute or so until the rocket burned out at about 150,000-feet. At this point the craft was going twice the speed of sound, straight out and coasting. The pilot felt about 3-4 g’s.

From there it coasted another some 150,000-feet until it reached apogee, about 62-miles above sea level.

Unfortunately, during this phase a control problem developed. The Wright brothers also encountered control problems on December 17, 1903. They had great difficulty maintaining pitch control.

After motor ignition, Melvill’s craft rolled to the left and then rolled to the right and experienced trim problems as the craft hit horizontal wind shear. To make matters worse, he experienced a temporary failure of the left stabilizer trim motor. The failure was caused by the trim motor reaching the stop and blowing its circuit breaker, which automatically reset itself in 3 seconds.

He had to fight to stabilize the craft. He said later "It never ever did that before." He said he thought, "he was going to be a squashed bug."

He briefly considered aborting or trying a high-risk bailout. He quickly dismissed that thought because a bailout would have destroyed the craft.

Fortunately, the craft had built-in backup controls. He switched to them and was able to regain mastery of the controls.

Because of the control problem, the craft varied from its planned trajectory and the apogee occurred at 328,491-feet instead of 360,000-feet. It was still good enough to reach the threshold of space of 62-miles.

Just before apogee, the craft was reconfigured for the next phase. Melvill flipped a switch that started a very unusual and clever procedure. The switch activated pneumatic actuators that moved the tail and back half of the wing and reconfigured the craft into a "jack-knifed position" for re-entry into the atmosphere.

The transformation took 15-seconds and the back half of the craft moved up 65 degrees.

In this configuration the craft acts as a stable badminton shuttlecock as it follows a ballistic trajectory through the apogee and starts its fall back to earth. At this point the pilot has no control.

This hinged or "feathering" wing configuration is the most innovative feature of the craft's aerodynamic design. It provided a rock-solid stability at supersonic speed.

As the craft passed through the apogee, it picked up speed from zero as it fell back into the atmosphere. Melvill experienced weightlessness for about 3 1/2 minutes.

He had smuggled a package of "M and Ms" on board. He opened the package and let them go. "They stayed there spinning like little satellites."

The craft fell towards earth into denser and denser air. The "jack knifed" craft presents to the atmosphere its full whole belly and the tremendous drag it created slowed the craft as it fell.

He experienced about 5 – 6 g’s during the deceleration. Only an experienced pilot, like Melvill, could remain conscious at these g’s.

Melvill experienced another potential problem. He heard some disconcerting loud rumbling noises in the engine area and shaking during this phase.

During the fall, only moderate heat was generated from the graphite-epoxy composite materials of the craft. Some hotter sections were treated with trowel-on ablative thermal protection. The insulation material worked as designed to protect the craft from the 1,100-degree temperatures of reentry.

As Melvill neared 50,000-feet, he flipped a switch and the craft turned back into the normal configuration with a tail.

He dived out of that maneuver and began a peaceful ride, flying the craft as a normal glider. He was back at the airport for a perfect three-point landing in 10 to 15 minutes.

When Melvill got off the plane he said, "It was like nothing I’ve seen before. You really do get the feeling that you’ve touched the face of God."

He wore a good luck charm in the shape of a horseshoe on the left side of his spacesuit. He had given it to his future wife when she was still a teenager. She gives it back to him to wear for every flight.

Astronaut Buzz Aldrin of Apollo fame greeted him with "you have joined the club." The FAA presented him with the first commercial astronaut wings.

SpaceShipOne is designed for sub-orbital flight that begins at 62-miles altitude. It holds three people, has a wingspan of 16.4-feet and is 28-feet long. The aspect ratio of the wings is 1.7. It utilizes elevons, which is a combination of ailerons and elevators, for control. The craft is less than ¼ the size of the Space Shuttle.

The craft uses its tail and wings to fly like an airplane during the ascent stage after horizontal launch from the mother ship and again during the gliding approaches and landing.

It cost $20 million dollars to build. Rutan claims that is about what it costs NASA to make a paper study. Investor and philanthropist billionaire Paul G. Allen, co-founder of Microsoft, is the major investor.

Samuel Langley had a government contract for $50,000 in addition to use of the resources of the Smithsonian and failed when his Great Aerodrome crashed twice on takeoff in 1903. The Wright brothers were successful a few days later using only $1,200 of their own money.

Rutan’s group will win $10 million if they can win the "X Prize." To do that they must fly into space twice with the same craft within a two-week period carrying three people or equivalent.

There are 26 other ventures from seven countries that are also vying for the prize. One other team is reportedly close to attempting their first space flight.

The prize was established eight years ago for purpose of encouraging development of commercial space flight. A St. Louis group sponsors the prize. Erik Lindbergh, the grandson of Charles Lindbergh that flew from New York to Paris in 1927, is part of the group. SpaceShipOne’s flight is somewhat akin to Lindbergh’s pioneering flight that won the $25,000 Orteig prize.

The problems uncovered during the test program have been diagnosed and fixed. Rutan says they plan to fly again on September 29th followed by a second flight as early as October 4th.

One of the first commercial uses of SpaceShipOne will be for tourism. At first it will cost between $30,000-50,000 to experience the exciting ride and spectacular view. Melvill says it is a "mind-blowing experience."

Rutan expects the cost to come down to around $12,000 with 5-6 passengers within about 15 years.

When the Wright brothers flew, there were few people who could imagine the impact that their flight would have on the 20th century. The commercial airplane industry and intercontinental flight seemed far-fetched. Even the brothers thought that governments would be their main customers because they were the only ones that could afford to buy their airplanes.

Rutan expects his efforts will spark the imagination of a new generation of explorers and new industry of privately funded manned spacecraft just as Orville and Wilbur opened the door to flight itself. The incentive of commerce will eventually lead to cheap access to space.

Up Date: Northrop Grumman buys SpaceShipOne Maker. A spokesman for Northrop Grumman said that Scaled will continue in its current operating model as a separate entity within Northrop Grumman and that Rutan and Scaled management will remain in place. The partner ship between Scaled and the Virgin Group, which seeks to begin  suborbital tourist flights in 2009, remains unchanged.

 

See other articles on SpaceShipOne in archives/others.

 

Kitty Hawk Flyer Almost Lost in Flood

The Kitty Hawk Flyer was in storage behind the bicycle shop when a horrendous flood enveloped Dayton including the Flyer, threatening its survival.

The hard rain began on Easter Sunday March 23, 1913. Most citizens were unconcerned even though Dayton had experienced flooding six times in its past because of its location at the confluence of the Miami, Stillwater and Mad Rivers.

The next day, March 24th, the rain became a deluge. The Miami River was rising rapidly at a rate of over 6-inches per hour. Milton Wright, 84, had a premonition that the rain was worse this time and could cause trouble. He wrote in his diary, "I apprehended a flood. Felt the danger of it." His prescience would turn out to be right.

The next morning on Tuesday, the 25th, Orville and Katharine were late rising because they had just returned from a trip to Europe six days before. Unaware of the impending danger, they hurried off to keep an appointment leaving the Bishop home alone.

At 7 a.m. that morning an earthen dam collapsed upstream at Loramie Reservoir sending a wall of water towards Dayton. Factories blew warning whistles and church bells rang but most people didn’t know the reason for the noise and ignored it.

At 4 p.m. the levies protecting Dayton gave way to the roaring water. A wall of water 5-feet deep poured into Dayton. Observers say that more water poured into the city than over Niagara Falls. The water level climbed 12 to 14 feet in the downtown area.

Orville and Katharine were on high ground and safe, but they couldn’t return home. Electricity was out so there was no telephone service. They were greatly concerned about their father’s safety.

They were unaware at the time, but their next door neighbor rescued Milton by canoe and had taken him to safety at a house on Williams St. They had cause to be concerned because there was some eight feet of water at their home on Hawthorn St.

Fifteen square miles of the Dayton area now lay under 6 to 20 feet of water.

People scrambled to upper floors, rooftops and trees to escape the water. Some 15,000 people, nearly one-half of the city’s population had no shelter and were forced to endure rain and later sleet without shelter or drink. There was little food or drinking water. Swirling water, the consistency of pea soap, was contaminated from some 4,000 privies.

My father, then 12 years old, and my grandparents scrambled to their second floor.

A family at the corner of Herman and Taylor St. used a railing from a wooden bedstead as a battering ram to punch a hole through the 2nd floor ceiling into the attic. They then piled mattresses on a bed and placed a chair on top of that to climb into the attic. They then punched a hole in the roof to escape onto the roof.

All through the night the stranded people heard the firing of guns, shrieks and cries for help, some drowned, and buildings were tipping over. The floodwaters crested around midnight. The rain continued all night and it turned colder in the morning.

Orville posted signs asking for anyone who had news about Milton, to contact him. He and Katharine were relieved when they received word that he was safe.

Orville had new worries.

The terror of fire supplanted that of water. All over the city fires erupted from escaping gas. Some buildings blew up. The sky was filled with clouds of smoke. The entire business district was in danger of burning down. Orville could see buildings on fire hear his bicycle shop and believed it would all go up in flames.

The disassembled 1903 airplane was packed in crates in a shed behind the shop. Letters, diaries and their records of their glider trials, wind tunnel and propeller experiments were stored on the second floor of the bike shop.

On a shelf in a shed behind their house on Hawthorn St were stored the irreplaceable photograph negatives of their Kitty Hawk and Huffman Prairie flights, including the famous picture of the first flight.

Local government ceased to function. Into the breach stepped John H. Patterson, the president of the National Cash Register Company (NCR) and a friend of the Wrights. When he observed what was happening he converted the NCR, that was on higher ground and not flooded, to making flat bottom boats. The employees made some 275 boats at the rate of one every 15 minutes. Thousands of people were rescued by the boats from rooftops and windows.

The NCR buildings and a hastily built tent city on the surrounding ground were used to house and care for the refugees. Each person received a cot, pillow and blanket. The tents had wooden floors. They also received dry clothes, hot meals and medical attention.

Ohio Governor Cox sent National Guards Soldiers to Dayton and placed the troops under the command of Patterson who was given the rank of Colonel.

The NCR with 7,100 employees spent almost $2 million, 2/3rds of their company profit for the year, on the rescue. Patterson sought no reimbursement or tax deduction for the expenditure.

Orville wrote, "I do not suppose there has ever been a similar calamity where relief was so promptly afforded with so little waste. Dayton was very fortunate in having a man with the ability of Patterson to take this work in hand."

The waters receded on March 30. It had been 5 days of hell and everywhere there was ruin, waste, destruction and mud. It was estimated that 371 people died and there was close to $1 million property damaged including 14,000 homes destroyed or damaged.

There was wreckage piled almost to the roofs of houses, animals were stranded on roof tops, overturned street cars, wrecked grand pianos, 1400 dead horses, waste lumber, asphalt rolled into huge bales like carpet, horrible filth and pungent smell. Men waded through mud above their knees.

The Northwest Tower of Steele High School where Katharine had been a teacher collapsed under the pressure of the water.

Orville and Katharine returned home to happily find that their home and the bike shop survived. The records had little damage. The glass plate negatives had some water damage but were not a total loss. The famous photograph of the first flight was slightly damaged on the lower left corner.

The shed behind the bike shop survived intact and the Flyer was partially protected by a layer of mud. Orville cleaned off the top of the crates and put them back in the shed.

Orville wrote, "My personal loss has been slight, somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000. Hundreds of families and merchants in the city lost practically everything they had. This is probably the greatest calamity that has ever happened to an American city, as insurance policies do not provide coverage for damage by flood."

Milton returned home on April 4th after the house was cleaned. He recorded in his diary; "I walked home after dinner. Found Orville drying his bonds."

 

The White Mansion on the Hill

The NCR Corporation returned the Wright mansion, which is located in Oakwood, Ohio to the Wright family after 58 years of ownership.

The Wrights moved into their beautiful white pillared new house in Oakwood on April 28, 1914. It was designed for all of them, including their father, to spend the rest of their lives in comfort. For Orville, in particular, it served as a refuge from the dissonance of the outside world.

The family had lived at 7 Hawthorne St. in Dayton for forty-two years, but the neighborhood was beginning to decay so they decided it was time to move.

Orville and Wilbur originally had their eye on moving to a small lot within the city of Dayton located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard. Katharine didn’t like the location. It was too close to the center of the city. She wanted a wooded lot on a hill. The brothers grumbled for a while but acquiesced to her wishes. A United Methodist Church stands at the location today.

They found just what she wanted in Oakwood, a city adjoining Dayton to the South. Oakwood contains many affluent homes because John H. Patterson, the founder and President of the NCR Corporation (formerly, National Cash Register Co.) encouraged his executives to live there.

They purchased 17 acres with woods and a hill February 1912, near the corner of Park Drive and Harmon Road and began working together with the architectural firm of Schenck & Williams to design a house that they would all like. Construction began in August with ground preparation. The house, which cost $50,000, was completed in 1914.

Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture for the new house, leaving much of the old furniture behind in the Hawthorne Street house. They spent four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, buying household furnishings from Berkey and Gay Furniture Co.

It may have been Katharine’s dream, but Orville took over managing the project. He paid close attention to every detail of the construction and interior decorating. Some examples are presented below.

Orville didn’t like the shade of red on the mahogany interior doors. The painters couldn’t get it right to his satisfaction so he dismissed them. He experimented with different mixes in his laboratory in downtown Dayton until he got the color he wanted, then painted the doors himself.

Orville designed an unusual chimney for the living room based on the principle of a Pitot-Tube. It took some work to get it just as he wanted it.

He also designed his own private bathroom. Katharine and her father, Milton, shared theirs.

He designed and installed a special circular shower consisting of a complex system of pipes and showerheads that would spray soothing water over his bad back to ease the pain that plagued him since his near fatal airplane crash at Fort Myer in 1908.

He used a tarp that covered the 1903 Flyer at Kitty Hawk for his shower curtain. Beneath the bathroom floor, Orville installed protective shields to prevent any leaks from staining the ceiling below.

He used rainwater for hot and cold bath water because it was mineral free. He had it piped from the roof into a cistern. The water from this cistern was then pumped through a special filter to a second cistern. The filter removed sediment, color and odor.

Wilbur took little interest in the building project. Although he did once complain that too much space was being wasted on halls. The one thing he did want for himself was his own bedroom and bathroom. He got what he wanted.

Tragically, Wilbur died of Typhoid Fever in 1912 before construction began and never lived in the house.

They named the house Hawthorn Hill, after the name of their boyhood house on Hawthorne St. and also in honor of the prickly-needled Hawthorn tree that once stood in the middle of Huffman Prairie and the Hawthorn trees on their new Oakwood property.

The style of the mansion is Georgian- Colonial. They observed such a mansion on a trip to Virginia and decided that they wanted that style for their own house.

Two identical entrances consisting of pillared facades were constructed, one for Orville and one for Wilbur. Orville’s entrance was on the south side and faced a long circular driveway that wound up the hill to the entrance. Wilbur’s, on the north side, faced a downward sloping lawn.

Inside the house, a wide and elegant reception hall joined the two entrances.

The morning sun shown into Wilbur’s room window.

The windows in the house swing open to create cross-ventilation to keep the house cool even on warm days.

Bishop Wright lived in the home until his death in 1917.

My wife and I have been in the mansion several times and it is a comfortable house. The study was his favorite room and it has been left exactly like it was at the time of his death. Except for Orville’s study and his bedroom, the house has been updated and redecorated. His favorite overstuffed easy chair that he had modified to ease his discomfort is still there. He drilled a vertical hole in each arm of the chair for placement of a homemade book-holder that could be moved from side to side.

His reading glasses are still on his stand next to the chair. He removed one of the side pieces so that he could remove the glasses easily. Efficiency was an important consideration for Orville.

He tinkered with everything in the house. He installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls similar to those used in some modern houses today. Carrie Kayler, their housekeeper, who went to work for the family when she was 14 years old, wouldn’t use it so Orville cleaned the floors himself.

He also designed the basic plumbing, heating and electrical system. The controls for the heating system were in his bedroom. Orville designed special wiring that ran through a hole in the floor in the bedroom, then through the living room floor to the furnace in the basement. He was the only one who knew how to operate the controls.

A friend of mine relates the story of his boss at NCR being dispatched to deliver a package to Orville at his home. Orville answered the door with his sleeves rolled up and dirty hands. He invited him in and proceeded to the kitchen where he had dismantled the refrigerator. The parts were scattered on the floor.

The mansion was used for family weddings. Lorin’s daughters, Ivonette and Leontine were both married there.

The mansion was also was host to many distinguished visitors. They included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, General Hap Arnold, Charles Lindbergh, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, Carl Sandburg, Charles Kettering, John H. Patterson and Edward Deeds.

When Orville died in 1948, there were a number of proposals concerning the future of the mansion. One was for the Federal Government to buy it. A proposal was submitted to Congress, but nothing came of it because Congress didn’t want to spend any more money on national memorials.

Another proposal was for the City of Oakwood to buy it. The Oakwood City Council scotched the proposal because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money.

The Wright family didn’t have the money to buy it either.

Finally, the co-executor of the estate, Harold Miller, who was the husband of Lorin’s daughter Ivonette, listed the house with a real-estate agent.

The first day that the "for sale" signs went up in the lawn. The NCR came forward and purchased the house for $75,000. Edward Deeds, a long time friend of Orville’s and a top executive with NCR, was instrumental in the NCR purchase. NCR used the house for important corporate visitors. It is not open to the public because the neighbors don’t want the commotion and traffic and there is insufficient parking space.

It is fortunate that the NCR purchased the house because it has been kept in pristine condition. In 1991 it was listed on the National register of Historic Places and its appraised value today is $1,096,820. The market price is believed to be much higher.

One of the first moves by the NCR was to install a modern plumbing and heating system to replace the complex system that had resulted from years of Orville’s tinkering. Orville did all of the plumbing work himself; he never allowed a plumber to do any work in Hawthorn Hill.

The return of the house to the Wright family by the NCR after 58 years of ownership occurred on August 18, 2006. The date is significant because it comes on the 135th anniversary of Orville’s birthday that occurred on the 19th.

NCR’s president and chief executive Bill Nutti handed the keys to the house to Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece of Wilbur and Orville and Stephen Wright, great-grandnephew. They represented the Wright Family Foundation.

The Wright Family Foundation is a nonprofit fund established through the Dayton Foundation by the late "Wick" Wright, the Wright brothers’ grandnephew. Amanda and Stephen are the foundation’s trustees.

The foundation will assume the $75,000 annual cost of operating and maintaining the property.

Hawthorn Hill is not a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park Service and for the immediate future the policy of not opening the home for public tours will continue. This policy may change later on.

The White Mansion on the Hill

The NCR Corporation returned the Wright mansion, which is located in Oakwood, Ohio to the Wright family after 58 years of ownership.

The Wrights moved into their beautiful white pillared new house in Oakwood on April 28, 1914. It was designed for all of them, including their father, to spend the rest of their lives in comfort. For Orville, in particular, it served as a refuge from the dissonance of the outside world.

The family had lived at 7 Hawthorne St. in Dayton for forty-two years, but the neighborhood was beginning to decay so they decided it was time to move.

Orville and Wilbur originally had their eye on moving to a small lot within the city of Dayton located at the corner of Salem Avenue and Harvard Boulevard. Katharine didn’t like the location. It was too close to the center of the city. She wanted a wooded lot on a hill. The brothers grumbled for a while but acquiesced to her wishes. A United Methodist Church stands at the location today.

They found just what she wanted in Oakwood, a city adjoining Dayton to the South. Oakwood contains many affluent homes because John H. Patterson, the founder and President of the NCR Corporation (formerly, National Cash Register Co.) encouraged his executives to live there.

They purchased 17 acres with woods and a hill February 1912, near the corner of Park Drive and Harmon Road and began working together with the architectural firm of Schenck & Williams to design a house that they would all like. Construction began in August with ground preparation. The house, which cost $50,000, was completed in 1914.

Orville and Katharine purchased new furniture for the new house, leaving much of the old furniture behind in the Hawthorne Street house. They spent four days in Grand Rapids, Michigan, buying household furnishings from Berkey and Gay Furniture Co.

 

It may have been Katharine’s dream, but Orville took over managing the project. He paid close attention to every detail of the construction and interior decorating. Some examples are presented below.

Orville didn’t like the shade of red on the mahogany interior doors. The painters couldn’t get it right to his satisfaction so he dismissed them. He experimented with different mixes in his laboratory in downtown Dayton until he got the color he wanted, then painted the doors himself.

Orville designed an unusual chimney for the living room based on the principle of a Pitot-Tube. It took some work to get it just as he wanted it.

He also designed his own private bathroom. Katharine and her father, Milton, shared theirs.

He designed and installed a special circular shower consisting of a complex system of pipes and showerheads that would spray soothing water over his bad back to ease the pain that plagued him since his near fatal airplane crash at Fort Myer in 1908.

He used a tarp that covered the 1903 Flyer at Kitty Hawk for his shower curtain. Beneath the bathroom floor, Orville installed protective shields to prevent any leaks from staining the ceiling below.

He used rainwater for hot and cold bath water because it was mineral free. He had it piped from the roof into a cistern. The water from this cistern was then pumped through a special filter to a second cistern. The filter removed sediment, color and odor.

Wilbur took little interest in the building project. Although he did once complain that too much space was being wasted on halls. The one thing he did want for himself was his own bedroom and bathroom. He got what he wanted.

 

Tragically, Wilbur died of Typhoid Fever in 1912 before construction began and never lived in the house.

They named the house Hawthorn Hill, after the name of their boyhood house on Hawthorne St. and also in honor of the prickly-needled Hawthorn tree that once stood in the middle of Huffman Prairie and the Hawthorn trees on their new Oakwood property.

The style of the mansion is Georgian- Colonial. They observed such a mansion on a trip to Virginia and decided that they wanted that style for their own house.

Two identical entrances consisting of pillared facades were constructed, one for Orville and one for Wilbur. Orville’s entrance was on the south side and faced a long circular driveway that wound up the hill to the entrance. Wilbur’s, on the north side, faced a downward sloping lawn.

Inside the house, a wide and elegant reception hall joined the two entrances.

The morning sun shown into Wilbur’s room window.

The windows in the house swing open to create cross-ventilation to keep the house cool even on warm days.

Bishop Wright lived in the home until his death in 1917.

My wife and I have been in the mansion several times and it is a comfortable house. The study was his favorite room and it has been left exactly like it was at the time of his death. Except for Orville’s study and his bedroom, the house has been updated and redecorated. His favorite overstuffed easy chair that he had modified to ease his discomfort is still there. He drilled a vertical hole in each arm of the chair for placement of a homemade book-holder that could be moved from side to side.

His reading glasses are still on his stand next to the chair. He removed one of the side pieces so that he could remove the glasses easily. Efficiency was an important consideration for Orville.

He tinkered with everything in the house. He installed a commercial compressed air vacuum system that was contained within the walls similar to those used in some modern houses today. Carrie Kayler, their housekeeper, who went to work for the family when she was 14 years old, wouldn’t use it so Orville cleaned the floors himself.

He also designed the basic plumbing, heating and electrical system. The controls for the heating system were in his bedroom. Orville designed special wiring that ran through a hole in the floor in the bedroom, then through the living room floor to the furnace in the basement. He was the only one who knew how to operate the controls.

A friend of mine relates the story of his boss at NCR being dispatched to deliver a package to Orville at his home. Orville answered the door with his sleeves rolled up and dirty hands. He invited him in and proceeded to the kitchen where he had dismantled the refrigerator. The parts were scattered on the floor.

The mansion was used for family weddings. Lorin’s daughters, Ivonette and Leontine were both married there.

The mansion was also was host to many distinguished visitors. They included Alexander Graham Bell, Thomas Edison, General Hap Arnold, Charles Lindbergh, General Billy Mitchell, Admiral Richard Byrd, Henry Ford, Carl Sandburg, Charles Kettering, John H. Patterson and Edward Deeds.

When Orville died in 1948, there were a number of proposals concerning the future of the mansion. One was for the Federal Government to buy it. A proposal was submitted to Congress, but nothing came of it because Congress didn’t want to spend any more money on national memorials.

Another proposal was for the City of Oakwood to buy it. The Oakwood City Council scotched the proposal because they would have to propose a bond issue to raise the money.

The Wright family didn’t have the money to buy it either.

Finally, the co-executor of the estate, Harold Miller, who was the husband of Lorin’s daughter Ivonette, listed the house with a real-estate agent.

The first day that the "for sale" signs went up in the lawn. The NCR came forward and purchased the house for $75,000. Edward Deeds, a long time friend of Orville’s and a top executive with NCR, was instrumental in the NCR purchase. NCR used the house for important corporate visitors. It is not open to the public because the neighbors don’t want the commotion and traffic and there is insufficient parking space.

It is fortunate that the NCR purchased the house because it has been kept in pristine condition. In 1991 it was listed on the National register of Historic Places and its appraised value today is $1,096,820. The market price is believed to be much higher.

One of the first moves by the NCR was to install a modern plumbing and heating system to replace the complex system that had resulted from years of Orville’s tinkering. Orville did all of the plumbing work himself; he never allowed a plumber to do any work in Hawthorn Hill.

The return of the house to the Wright family by the NCR after 58 years of ownership occurred on August 18, 2006. The date is significant because it comes on the 135th anniversary of Orville’s birthday that occurred on the 19th.

NCR’s president and chief executive Bill Nutti handed the keys to the house to Amanda Wright Lane, great-grand niece of Wilbur and Orville and Stephen Wright, great-grandnephew. They represented the Wright Family Foundation.

The Wright Family Foundation is a nonprofit fund established through the Dayton Foundation by the late "Wick" Wright, the Wright brothers’ grandnephew. Amanda and Stephen are the foundation’s trustees.

The foundation will assume the $75,000 annual cost of operating and maintaining the property.

Hawthorn Hill is not a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Park Service and for the immediate future the policy of not opening the home for public tours will continue. This policy may change later on.

Great News:

With the help of Amanda Wright, Hawthorn Hill is now a part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. President Obama signed the bill on March 30, 2009.

 

Jesse Owens was First African-American Athlete Superstar

Today there are many African-American superstars who are serving as role models. In the mid-1930s there was only one international black hero and that was Jesse Owens. Jesse burst upon the scene in 1936 at the Berlin Olympics where he won four gold metals and made a mockery of Adolf Hitler’s claim that the German Aryan people were the dominant race.

Owens’s wife, Ruth, and three daughters attended the opening ceremonies of the annual Jesse Owens Track and Field Classic at the opening of the new Jesse Owens Memorial Stadium at Ohio State University.

The new track replaced the one that had circled the football field in the Ohio State football stadium known as the "horseshoe." The horseshoe had recently been enlarged as part of a renovation project that required removal of the running track.

The original structure of the horseshoe dates back to 1922. A little known fact is that Orville Wright, along with Katharine, attended football games at Ohio State and contributed to the $1 million campaign to build the horseshoe.

The Owen’s family was involved in the important decision to move the track that Jesse had made famous.

Young Prodigy

Jesse was born in Oakville, Alabama in 1913 of poor sharecropper parents. The Owens family moved to Cleveland in 1922 to find work. It was there in Bolton Elementary school that J. C. Owens received the name Jesse. The teacher mispronounced his initials, J.C., as Jesse.

It was in gym class in junior high school, that his track story begins. Students were timed in the 60-yard dash. When Coach Charlie Riley saw the raw, yet natural talent that young Jessie had, he immediately invited him to run for the track team. Although Jessie was unable to participate in after-school practices because of work, Coach Riley offered to train him in the mornings. Jessie agreed.

By the 8th grade, Jessie was competing in junior high meets. About a year after the training began, Jessie ran the 100-yard dash in 11 seconds. Then in 1928 Jesse set his first of many innumerable records: 6 feet in the high jump and 22 feet 11¾ inches in the long jump. Both were new world marks for junior high school.

Thus began a life-long relationship between Riley and Jessie. In Jesse, Riley found the surrogate athletic son he never had. For Jesse, Riley was the first white man he ever knew. Owens later in life said, "He proved to me beyond all proof that a white man can understand and love a Negro." "He trained me to become a man as well as an athlete."

At Cleveland East Technical High School Jesse became a track star with a time of 9.4 seconds in the 100-yard dash, setting a world record. He won 75 of 79 races he ran in high school.

Blossoming at Ohio State

Many colleges tried to recruit Jesse. In 1933, He chose to attend Ohio State University. There, his development continued under Coach Larry Snider who also became his Olympic coach. Snyder liked to say that Jesse’s style was so smooth and light that "he never bruised the cinders."

In 1935, Jesse had his greatest single day in track and field. At a Big Ten meet in Ann Arbor, Michigan, he set three world records and tied a fourth, all in a span of 70 minutes. He tied his own world record in the 100-yard dash and set new world records in the long jump, 220 and 220 hurdles.

Olympic Triumph

At the end of his sophomore year he participated in the 1936 Olympics known as the Hitler Olympics. Jesse was triumphant in the 100-meter, the 200-meter dash, and the broad jump and was a key member of the winning 400-meter relay team. The performance etched his name into history.

Hitler wasn’t pleased with his performance and never congratulated him. Unfortunately, President Franklin D. Roosevelt never did either.

Post-Olympic Setback

After the Olympics, Jesse turned professional and dropped out of school. This was not a good period in his life, as many lucrative job offers didn’t pan out. He worked a variety of jobs to support his wife and three daughters. One of the unusual things he did was race against racehorses in exhibitions and win.

He returned to Ohio State in 1940 as a student and assistant track coach but was dismissed a year later for poor grades in science and math. Unfortunately, the quality of his pre-college education was marginal. He never did graduate, but did receive an honorary doctorate from Ohio State in 1972.

Two of his three daughters also attended Ohio State. His daughter, Marlene, was the homecoming queen in 1960.

Final Triumph

Jesse became successful later in life and no longer had to scramble for lucrative opportunities. In fact his problem was just the reverse; that of deciding which offer to accept. He was a businessman and involved in many activities involving children including serving as Executive Director of the Chicago South Side Boys Club.

He was in great demand as a polished speaker. He honed his talents as a speaker while a student at Ohio State. One of the ways he made money was to speak to schools and service organizations on behalf of the school. He received $50 expense money for each speech.

In 1976, Jesse was awarded the highest honor a civilian can receive. President Gerald Ford awarded him with the Medal of Freedom. Ten years after his death his widow was presented the Congressional Gold Medal from President Bush for his humanitarian contributions to the "race for life."

Racism was alive and well in the 1930s and Owens experienced his share of it. He overcame racism and bigotry to prove to the world that African-Americans could be successful in sports and other endeavors. He considered himself an American first and a black man second.

Jesse died on March 31, 1980 at the age of 66 in Tucson, Arizona from lung cancer.

One of the letters in the Jesse Owens’s collection came from North Carolina. A young man wrote it on March 25, 1980 as Owens was dying.

"I wish you could get better but there comes a day when you go to sleep for the last time and I will keep you in my heart the rest of my life because there probably wouldn’t be a Boys Club if you wouldn’t have been born." Signed by "your fan, Lance C. Johnson," Boys’ Club of Wake County, NC.

On January 15, 2003, Owen’s daughters Marlene Rankine and Gloria Owens Hemphill unveiled the Wheaties box featuring their father in a ceremony at Ohio State University. Ohio State President, Karen Holbrook, said, "I am thrilled in honoring one of our most renowned athletes of all time, somebody who has inspired people for years and has literally changed the world. The legend of Jesse Owens is known and admired everywhere."

Where are Jesse’s Oak Trees?

Each gold medallist at the 1936 Olympics was given an oak sapling from the Black Forest as the living reminder of their achievement. Jesse received four.

Jeff Nagy of Columbus, Ohio has researched what has happened to these trees. The tree Jesse was awarded for winning the long jump was planted at his mother’s house in Cleveland, Ohio. It died.

The tree awarded for winning the 4x100-meter dash, Jessie gave to two of his teammates - Foy Draper and Frank Wykoff, both of USC. The tree died of root rot in 2002. A replacement was planted in April 2005 in Associates Park at an USC-UCLA track meet.

The tree awarded for winning the 200-meter dash still is alive near the Cleveland Rhodes High School near its football stadium. Jesse practiced and participated in track at this location because his high school didn’t have a track.

The fourth tree was awarded for winning the 100-meter dash. No one knows for sure what happened to this tree. All that is known is that Jesse intended to plant the sapling on the Ohio State University campus.

Various teammates and classmates of Jesse believe an oak tree adjacent to the south side of the main library is Jesse’s tree. Their opinion is given credibility by an urban forester that lives in the Columbus area. Steven R. Cothrel wrote in a report in 1988 that the suspect tree is 52 or 53 years old which would place its planting as 1936.

Jeff Nagy asked Owen’s daughter, Marlene Rankin, about it. She told Nagy, "The question of whether the oak tree on campus, is it the oak tree? I don’t know. I guess it just depends on if you want it to be it or not. If it can be traced back to 1936, then that’s good enough for me."

In the picture I’m standing next to the 100-inch base diameter, 50-foot tall tree. There is no plague or marker that identifies the significance of the tree.

A number of students walked by while the picture was taken. They appeared to wonder why I was having my picture taken besides this particular tree.

References: Jesse Owens by William J. Baker, 1986; Buckeye Sports Bulletin by Darrell Dawson, May 14, 200

 

Girly Pictures in the Wright Brothers' Bike Shop?

Did the Wright Brothers have girly pictures hanging on the wall of their bicycle shop? That is the interesting question that a photograph taken in 1893 presents.

The picture shows four men in a bicycle shop. The two young men in the center display a resemblance to Orville and Wilbur. On the wall in the background are a number of partially clad girls. Written on the back of the picture is the caption, "Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop-1893, Dayton, Ohio."

But, is it really Wilbur and Orville Wright? That is the question debated in an article that appears in the August-September 1987 issue of "Timeline" magazine, a publication of the Ohio Historical Society. Two experts on the Wright Brothers, Tom D. Crouch and Gerald S. Sharkey, wrote the article.

Differing Opinions

Jerry Sharkey, founder of Aviation Trail, Inc. in Dayton, was given the picture as a Christmas gift in 1985. He believes the picture is authentic.

Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Division of Aeronautics, National Air and Space Museum and author of the best seller "Bishop's Boys," doesn't agree.

The Wright family also doesn't agree and backs up Crouch. Of course, one could argue that that perspective is not surprising since they have a family reputation to protect.

Wilbur and Orville were sons of a church Bishop and a mother who viewed her fulltime duty as raising her children into healthy, strong adults with moral fiber and model Christian citizens. The brothers didn't smoke, drink liquor or use swear words and never worked or flew their airplane on Sundays. Moral ambiguity was not a characteristic of their behavior.

The following are some of the arguments pro and con about the authenticity of the picture.

Crouch is not convinced that the person who took the photo wrote the caption. He finds it peculiar that the four people featured in the photo are not named; instead the shop is identified.

Sharkey counters that as simple as it sounds, the inscription on the back of the photo is persuasive evidence. In 1893, the Wrights were famous and there would be no reason to mislabel the photo.

Crouch believes the shop looks too well equipped for this early date in their bicycle career. Their first two shops corresponding to the time frame of 1893 were occupied for a short time. Initially, they repaired bicycles and sold bicycles built by others. 

They were not building bicycles of their own brand until three years later in 1896. By then they were occupying their third shop There is nothing in the record to indicate that they had a well-equipped shop with tools driven by an overhead line shaft until then.

There were fourteen bicycle shops in Dayton during that time period. Possibly, the shop in the photo could be one of those, not the Wright Brothers' shop.

Sharkey counters that it is not difficult to imagine that the shop was well equipped with tools and gadgets of every sort because they were tinkerers that collected such things over the years. The shop looks very cramped, which is consistent with their need to find larger quarters. Everything in the shop is neat. Bottles and boxes are lined up carefully on the shelves, a characteristic that is consistent with their almost compulsive need for neatness and preciseness.

Crouch doesn't think the young men in the photo look like Wilbur and Orville. He claims that Orville (right of center in the photo) didn't part his hair on the side shown in the photo. (Click image for larger version).  He also doesn't think that Orville's nose looks right. 

Wilbur shows some hair peeking out from his hat. Crouch says that this couldn't be possible if it were Wilbur because he had lost most of his hair on his forehead while still in high school. 

Wilbur is shown dressed in a sporty light suit. Crouch assets that in reality Wilbur was a conservative dresser. Also, his clothing doesn't look like he is one of the workers in the shop.

Sharkey responds that the two young men in the center of the photo are about the same age as the Wrights would be and about the same build. It is difficult to compare facial features because there are no known pictures of them during that time period.

Wilbur is possibly wearing a hat to conceal his high forehead. Wilbur is wearing a suit but it appears rumpled and carelessly worn, as he was likely to do. Orville in turn is wearing a fancy tie and vest that is consistence with his reputation of being somewhat of a dude.

The most compelling physical evidence of all, asserts Sharkey, is the absence of earlobes on Wilbur. The real Wilbur had this rare characteristic.

Another question that one might ask is what would their father, the Bishop and their sister think about the pictures. Their mother died in 1889. It happens that during this period of time their father was away from home traveling on church business most of the time and their sister Katharine was in college.

No Conclusive Answer

Crouch asked the FBI to examine the photo and compare it with other Wright Brothers' pictures. Because they had no scars or birthmarks, they were undecided. The mystery will have to go unsolved because there is no unassailable truth one way or the other. What do you think? Send me an e-mail with your thoughts. 

Boeing's Proposed New Airplane Resembles Wright Flyer

A prominent feature of the Wright Flyer that successfully flew at Kitty Hawk, NC is the forward protruding horizontal elevator or canard configuration. Most people are puzzled by the configuration because most modern airplanes incorporate the horizontal elevator into the tail of the airplane.

Sonic Cruiser

This may soon change. Boeing recently announced their concept for a new generation of commercial airplanes. They call it the "Sonic Cruiser." Their design employs canards in a fashion similar to that employed by the Wright Brothers in their early airplanes.

A canard configuration refers to any horizontal surface that is placed ahead of the wings.

The Boeing design team is focusing on an airliner that could operate above 40,000 feet at Mach .95 (95% of the speed of sound.) or greater over a range of 10,350 miles carrying 500 to 600 passengers. The Sonic Cruiser would save an hour and a half on a North Atlantic route and two and a half-hours across the Pacific.

The Sonic Cruiser also employs a double tail just like the Wright Flyer.

Lilienthal Killed

The Wright Brothers had very specific reasons for utilizing the canard configuration. First was safety. The Wrights were very familiar, even afraid of the kind of sudden, uncontrollable dive that killed Lilienthal, the famous German glider experimenter, in 1896.

Lilienthal had experienced a phenomenon known as a "stall." A stall occurs under the conditions of climbing when the angle at which the wing strikes the air is so great that the airstream passing over the top side of the wing breaks away and turbulence sets in. The wing immediately losses all lift. If a stall occurs too close to the ground for the pilot to recover, a fatal crash inevitably occurs.

The Wrights, as with all the other experimenters, were only vaguely aware of how wings reacted to the air pressure created by the wind flowing over them. The Wrights thought that the tendency of pressure on a wing in level flight was to turn the nose of the glider upward. Their forward elevator was designed to exert a counteracting nose-down pressure. Later they would find that the tendency was just the reverse, to nose dive, but their elevator would still work to counteract this pressure and provide fore and aft control.

Canard Prevents Fatal Crashes

They were lucky in that the canard design provided an unexpected additional benefit. Wilbur found this out to his good fortune while flying their glider in 1901. He was flying at about 30-feet when suddenly he lost forward speed and the nose of the glider moved upward. Adjusting the elevator was having no effect. Desperately, Wilbur moved his body forward as far as he could to bring the nose down. To the surprise of Wilbur and worried onlookers, instead of a neck-breaking dive, the glider gently "parachuted" to the ground.

Later in the day, he stalled again. This time the strong wind was blowing the glider backward in what looked like would be a deadly tail-slide and tumble to the ground. Again Wilbur was able to bring the glider to earth with a mush-like glide. The Wrights decided to keep the design with the elevator up-front, certain it provided protection from nose-dives.

An additional advantage of the canard design was that the elevator in front provided a visual indicator of the glider/airplane's attitude in flight. This is crucial as an aid for a pilot to maintain control of his aircraft and particularly important for the Wrights who were teaching themselves how to fly.

There is a downside to the canard design. It is very sensitive to movement. This often resulted in the Wrights experiencing undulating flight paths. The sensitivity increased with speed. When the Wrights began to build airplanes with speeds above 60 mph in 1910, they moved the elevator to the rear.

Foundation of Aeronautical Engineering

The Wright Brothers had started out to make some small contribution to aeronautical progress. But in three years of study and experimentation, the brothers had surpassed all other flight researchers. They established theories and practices of Aeronautical Engineering still used in all aircraft design today, including the space shuttle.

Lance Armstrong & the Wright Brothers Share Some Things in Common

Lance Armstrong recently won his seventh consecutive Tour de France. In doing so he has become the most accomplished cyclist of his generation and earned a position in the exclusive tier of world athletes who dominate their sport for years.

His speed was the fastest in the 102 years of the tour. He completed the 2,232-mile course in 86 hours, 15 minutes, 2 seconds for an average speed of 25.88 mph.

In Europe, and especially in France, cycling is considered a major sport and Armstrong’s achievement is a tremendous accomplishment. In this country most people consider cycling a minor sport although in recent years because of Armstrong, the Tour de France has become a must-see event for three weeks each summer. OLN-TV reported an average audience of 1.7 million, the largest in the history of OLN.

It wasn’t always that way. A hundred years ago Americans were bicycle crazy. Among those Americans were the Wright Brothers.

There are some common elements that Armstrong and the Wright Brothers share. This is the story.

Wright Brothers Bicycle, Father of the Airplane

The Wrights established a bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio in 1892, at a time when bicycles were popular and touted as a "boon to mankind" as well as a national necessity. Orville and Wilbur started the business because many friends were asking them to repair their bikes. Even then the Wrights had a reputation for having exceptional mechanical skills and they were well known in the bicycle community as well as avid bikers.

They were leaders of a local bicycle club and Orville had a number of medals for winning bike races. Wilbur did not race, but he did participate, sometimes serving as a starter.

The bicycle business was so good they decided to drop their existing printing business and concentrate on manufacturing and selling their own brand of high quality bicycles in 1896. Their bicycle business was destined to become the key to inventing the first powered airplane, the Flyer.

The funds from the business financed the construction of their gliders and the Flyer, as well as their trips to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. The Wrights never made more than $3,000 a year from their bicycle shop, but they were frugal with their funds. Inventing flight cost them the grand sum of $1,200.

Possibly even more important, they developed their successful concept for man-flight from their bicycle experience. They were the first to view flying an airplane as comparable to riding a bicycle. They knew that to fly an airplane, balance and control were important. One must learn how to do it just as one must learn to ride a bicycle. A pilot must bank turns just as a rider on a bicycle turns a corner.

The Wrights incorporated many bicycle parts in the Flyer. The propeller sprocket-and-chain drives were modified bicycle parts. So was the chain used in the wing warping linkage, spoke wire, tubular steel, ball bearings and later, bicycle wheels. A bicycle wheel hub kept the Flyer on a wooden rail until takeoff.

One of the critical considerations of designing an airplane or racing a bicycle is an efficient use of energy to accomplish the work required. The Wrights, unlike their competitors, used the scientific method to achieve this goal with the Flyer.

Their machine only required a 12-horsepower gas engine fed by a 2-½ quart fuel tank to propel the 605-pound Flyer. Their competitors, in the meantime, had much more powerful engines, but failed.

The Wrights accomplished this feat by designing a lightweight, but strong structure. The wings were contoured to provide maximum lift. Propellers were shaped to produce maximum thrust and a streamline design, including the pilot in a prone position, were employed to reduce drag (wind resistance).

In contrast, nine days before the Wrights won the race to be the first to fly, Samuel P. Langley, secretary of the Smithsonian Institution, failed to fly his "Great Aerodrome." An incredible 52-horsepower engine powered the machine but the power was wasted by a poor aerodynamic design and it crashed into the Potomac River like a rock after launching from a houseboat in the Potomac River.

Lance Armstrong, King of the Hill

Things didn’t look good for Armstrong back in October 1996. His doctor’s told him he had testicular cancer that had metastasized to his brain, abdomen and lungs. They gave him a chance of survival of between 40-50%. In reality, they thought his chances were much worse.

Lance Armstrong’s miracle recovery from advanced testicular cancer and his racing achievements are products of his choice of a high-risk form of chemotherapy (ifosfamide) and an intense physical training program. He went on to win the world’s most grueling sport less than three years later.

Efficient use of energy is as vital for Lance as it was for the Wright Flyer. Cyclists use up some 10,000 calories a day while racing.

Here are two vignettes that illustrate Lance’s challenge and success.

One of the key victories in the year 2001 Tour de France was the race up the Alpe d’Huez during stage 10 of the 20-stage race in which Lance beat Jan Ullrich, who won the Tour in 1997 and his main threat every year, by almost two minutes.

Ullrich is a powerful rider, but he weighs more than Armstrong. If two riders produce the same amount of power, but one weighs less than the other does, the lighter rider has the capability of climbing faster.

The strategy of Armstrong was to use his advantage in power to weight ratio to burst past Ullrich just as the riders started up the steep slope of the Alpe d’ Huez.

To set this up, US Postal’s Jose Luis Rubiera set a blistering pace in front of Lance allowing Lance to ride in his slip stream and save energy. Ullrich was next in line, but out of the slipstream, and had to use up additional precious energy to keep up. Once Rubiera could no longer set the pace, he moved aside and Lance, with a burst of speed, left Ullrich behind to win the stage.

The other vignette took place during the just finished Tour’s first stage 19-kilometer time trial.

Armstrong rolled down the starting ramp a minute after Ullrich, who has never been overtaken in a time trial. Armstrong got off to a slow start because his foot slipped off the pedal. No matter, A mile or so later Armstrong passed him on the right without so much as a glance. Ullrich never recovered from the shock.

Armstrong’s high cadence climbing style and strong aerobic engine gives him an advantage in the mountains. He has the ability to produce more power than the other riders do before he reaches his lactate threshold. The lactate threshold is the point at which lactic acid, a byproduct of chemical breakdown, accumulates in the muscles faster than it can be cleared, causing fatigue.

Armstrong trains specifically to raise his lactic threshold by endurance training. There are no short cuts. An athlete’s body will slowly change in response to stress placed on it. Fuel utilization becomes more efficient, tendons and ligaments grow stronger and muscle cells increase their ability to store and process glycogen, a source of energy in the body.

Armstrong trains predominately going uphill, keeping the intensity below the lactic threshold. The purpose is to push the threshold up by training just below the threshold. Training above the threshold has the opposite effect and reduces the threshold. Scientifically measuring a number of parameters such as heart rate, blood lactate and power measured in watts, monitors all of this activity.

He rides every day from two to eight hours and spends an hour three days a week in the gym. He also does some trail running.

Challenges become Opportunities

Both the airplane pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright and cyclist Lance Armstrong have had their critics. Critics said the Wright Flyer was too fragile and underpowered. People in Dayton used to mock their kite flying experiments. Many people didn’t believe they had actually flown at Kitty Hawk until years later. The French mocked them as "bluffers," than cheered Wilbur when he flew in France not far from Paris in 1908.

The French cheered Armstrong in Paris but some French have hassled Armstrong with spiteful rumors of drug charges. They believe that his heroic achievements were too good to be true without the use of performance enhancing drugs.

The Wrights and Armstrong both challenge the parameters of the physical world. One with machines the other with his body. They both view the physical challenges as opportunities, not boundaries and use the scientific approach to obtain success.

They both exhibited a single-minded commitment and passion that enabled them to succeed. The Wrights built gliders and an airplane that exhibited meticulous workmanship that probably exceeded that necessary for experimental purposes. Their approach mirrored their construction of quality bicycles.

Lance focused on such details as his diet, his training program, bicycle components, Jersey fibers, wattage produced during workout and heart rate.

Armstrong, 165 pounds, pushed his Trek bicycle design team to give him a lighter and more efficient bicycle. The design team used aerospace-pioneered software that predicted how air would pass over the carbon fiber bicycle most efficiently. Armstrong exclaims we’re "fanatics!"

Neither the Wrights or Armstrong have college degrees. Armstrong says that "what we do is hard work and hard works wins it."

Armstrong recently summed it up: "You have to have a basic gift and then it’s how you work with that gift, how you shape it, the work that you do, the intensity you do it in and then the motivation for the race."

On Sunday July 24, 2005, Lance Armstrong, 33, stood on the winning platform before an estimated 500,000 people on the Champs-Elysees while the U.S. National Anthem played. In the background were the Arc de Triomphe and the Eiffel Tower. He bit his lip to keep from shedding a tear. He had ridden a total of 15,174 miles in his seven Tour victories. He exclaimed,"Vive le Tour." Paused and added, "Forever"

President Bush remarked, "Lance is an incredible inspiration to people from all walks of life, and he has lifted the spirits of those who face life’s challenges. He is a true champion."

Lance says he now has two top priorities – his family and his cancer foundation. The latter has raised some $85 million.

His 5-year old son said at the end of the ceremonies – "Daddy can we go home and play?"

 
 

 
 

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