December 17, 2015

Today in History: First manned flight in Kitty Hawk by Wright Brothers (1903) - a sober second look at what this technology has wrought

John RobsonResident Historian

Surveying the short flight from the Wright brothers’ comic box kite lumbering 120 feet at Kitty Hawk in 1903 to the atomic bomb dropped by an airplane over Hiroshima.

Maybe we ought to stop and ponder how fast today’s cool new technological toys like self-teaching robots may transform into terrors beyond our capacity to control or anticipate?


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commented 2015-12-28 23:33:38 -0500
@ And if I may proudly say, I have produced a part for the F-18 USAF fighter jet’s telemetry display, about 25 years ago. It always made me very proud knowing a part I made in my Canadian factory was flying on every USAF F-18 fighter jet.
Minor correction for you:

USAF does not fly the F-18 – only US Navy and Marines.
commented 2015-12-21 22:00:26 -0500
This was fantastic. I thoroughly enjoyed this and learned a bit. Bringing history to life is so important. Thank for doing this. The commentary on the possible future is certainly something to ponder.
commented 2015-12-18 14:44:25 -0500
Very interesting and well done, John. History does teach us much, and technology does change people’s lives. The airplane certainly illustrates the latter point.
commented 2015-12-17 18:02:23 -0500
Good video. Please do an entire video on the red baron!
commented 2015-12-17 14:20:21 -0500
I enjoy the enthusiasm with which you bring history to life.
Thank you.
commented 2015-12-17 14:12:01 -0500
Thank you for highlighting this titanic moment in time for flight. I am an aviation enthusiast and a pilot. Have also visited Kitty Hawk and the aviation museum a number of times on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. I should say, what took place at Kitty Hawk for the first time in history on December 17, 1903 was controlled flight. Prior to this there were many who attempted to take to the air. Many leading to deadly crashes as they were literally flying by the seat of their pants in uncontrolled flight. The huge achievement by the Wright Brothers was controlled flight from whence the current aviation was born as a platform.

Some important facts about the Wright Brothers. They invented the first wind tunnel to test the better suited camber of the propeller which is actually a wing. Prior to this they used the principals employed in making boat propellers which was hand crafted, tested, adjusted until they thought they had the best propelling pitch. In the wind tunnel they could view the aerodynamics of the air foil and adjust it to achieve laminar flow. The Wright Brothers originally operated a bicycle shop. They went on to build an aircraft that used wing warping instead of the later modern ailerons to control roll. the canvas for the wings were stiched together using their mothers sewing machine still on display at Kitty Hawk. They studied how birds fly to mimic the warping of the wings in opposite directions which actually changed the camber and lift of the respective wings. They also built the most powerful air cooled horsepower to weight ration engine of the time needed to create as much thrust as possible giving lift for the wings.

Don’t forget a wing does not push the aircraft up, it pulls/sucks it up by changing the atmospheric pressure being lower atop the wing than the bottom. The higher camber forces air molecules to spread out over a longer distance becoming thinner than the denser closer molecules at the bottom shorter distance of the wing. This difference creates wing lift.

It is interesting to note why the first flight was shorter than the second, with each flight alternating between the brothers resulting in longer and longer distances. The answer is, neither had any flight experience. As they flew more, they were also learning how to fly and the reason for each flight being longer than the previous ones.

We can not forget the great contribution Canada has made to aviation. The Avro Arrow considered to be one of the finest fighter-planes way ahead of it’s time, was designed and built right here in Toronto. Next, Top Gun was once located at Base Borden near Barrie Ontario, not Miramar in the USA which came later. The best of the best dog fighters trained at Base Borden. Another huge Canadian invention was the g-Suit to assist the human body with blood circulation during extreme maneuvers that literally drains blood from the head, causing blackouts or g-LOC, gas induced loss of consciousness. Seven gs is about the maximum you can tolerate without a g-Suit. Each g multiplies your body weight. The suit squeezes the legs to force blood pressure back to the head. To be 100% correct, it is should be called an anti g-Suit as it is not a suit that creates g force, it combats it.

And if I may proudly say, I have produced a part for the F-18 USAF fighter jet’s telemetry display, about 25 years ago. It always made me very proud knowing a part I made in my Canadian factory was flying on every USAF F-18 fighter jet.
commented 2015-12-17 13:44:23 -0500
we’re still looking for our own affordable flying car/plane