The truth about the Wright brothers
Table of Contents

The 2003 flying replica of Flyer I 1903 couldn't fly more than 115 feet (35 m)

The 2003 accurate replica [1] of the Wright brothers' plane, tested on December 17, 1903, was not able to do more than short flights. None of its takeoffs came close to the claimed 59 seconds flight performed on December 17, 1903. What the 2003 experiment really showed was that the plane from 1903 could have been theoretically able to take off and fly chaotically for 100 - 115 feet, no more. Flyer I was uncontrollable and not capable to execute a sustained flight. The tests from 2003 demonstrated that the Wright brothers had exaggerated, at best, the performances of their claimed 1903, 59 seconds flight.

1) "On November 20, 2003, Dr. Kevin Kochersberger piloted the 1903 Wright Experience Replica Flyer. With 15-18 mph winds he flew a distance of nearly 100 feet." 2) "December 3, 2003 test flight of the Wright Experience 1903 Wright Flyer Replica. Dr. Kevin Kochersberger was at the controls and piloted the Flyer for a distance of 115 feet. Slight cross wind after initial rotation which is compensated with slight wing warp."

The instability of Flyer I had been already predicted by prof. Fred Culick who tested in the wind tunnel another replica, different from the one that flew in 2003:

""They built it and then drew as they went along," said Fred Culick, professor of aerodynamics at the California Institute of Technology and chief engineer on Cherne's team. …" Cherne's group, working mainly on weekends in a warehouse donated by a rocket company in El Segundo, finished what they considered an exact replica. Then in 1998 they tested it at NASA's Ames Research Center near Sunnyvale, Calif. Three weeks of wind-tunnel tests of their Wright Flyer replica "clearly showed how unstable it was and how it can't be flown safely," said Culick."
Source: ^

"They carried the machine up on the Hill", John T. Daniels, eye witness

The fact that Flyer I 1903 just glided, aided partly by the engine, was confirmed apparently unwillingly by John T. Daniels, an eye witness, in a letter addressed to a friend:

"Manteo NC, June 30 —- 1933,

Dear friend,

I Don’t know very much to write about the flight. I was there, and it was on Dec the 17, — 1903 about 10 o’clock. They carried the machine up on the Hill and Put her on the track, and started the engine … and he went about 100 feet or more, and then Mr. Wilbur taken the machine up on the Hill and Put her on the track and he went off across the Beach about a half a mile …
John T. Daniels, Manteo NC, Box 1W"

Daniels twice wrote he had seen the machine being carried up the hill before each of the two flights he remembered. This information corroborates well with two pictures, allegedly taken on December 17, 1903:

1) The first flight on December 17, 1903. Flyer I taking off and just about to go down a slope [2]. 2) The forth flight and the last, December 17, 1903. Flyer I after it had landed in front of a large sand dune [3].

Also, it should be noted that the article "The flying machine of the Wright brothers" published in L'Aérophile, Jan. 1904, pag. 16-18 has a comment close to its end reading: "Mr. Orville Wright does not tell us the difference in height between the departure and the landing point."
The letter of John T. Daniels and the two pictures (1) and (2), allegedly made on Dec. 17, 1903, come to confirm what L'Aérophile had already suspected in Jan. 1904. The plane landed many meters below the takeoff altitude which disqualifies the flights of that day as true powered flights.

"the brothers only “glided” off Kill Devil Hill that day. Their first real flight came on May 6, 1908", Alpheus W. Drinkwater, telegraph operator

"Wilbur and Orville Wright are credited with making their first powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine on Dec. 17, 1903. But Alpheus W. Drinkwater, 76 years old, who sent the telegraph message ushering in the air age, said the brothers only “glided” off Kill Devil Hill that day.
Their first real flight came on May 6, 1908, he said."
Source: New York Times, Dec. 17, 1951.

The declaration of Alpheus W. Drinkwater corroborates well with the article "The Wright brothers in US and in France - The last tests of the Wrights' in US described by themselves", L'Aérophile, June 1908, pag. 222-223" ( ) where the two brothers talked, amongst others things, about a 337 m flight, against a 4-6 m/s headwind, that took place on May 6, 1908. As a remark, this is the first claimed powered flight mentioned by the Wright brothers after they stopped flying (also a pure claim) in October 1905.

The Wright brothers bought french engine Bariquand & Marre to power the planes they finally flew in front of credible witnesses in 1908

The articles, "Aviation in US. Seven french engines for the Wright brothers, L'Aérophile, Apr. 1, 1908, pag. 127" ( ) which says that the french company "Barriquaud-Mare" had just delivered seven 40 HP Antoinette like plane engines to the Wright brothers and "Progress of the Wright airplane experiments", Scientific American, May 23, 1908 ( ) that also talks about french engines, demonstrate, both of them, that the brothers needed in May 1908 far more powerful engines for far less spectacular flights than the ones allegedly performed in 1905. Also on Aug. 8, 1908, the Wright brothers using same french engines flew only 1 min and 45 sec in France, far from 38 minutes in Dayton in 1905 when a considerable weaker engine was used. These brothers have simply no credibility and only their officially witness flights can be trusted. The rest is their own fiction.

Wing Warping was not invented by the Wright brothers

Tom Crouch: "wing torsion … was first applied in practice by Edson F. Gallaudet in his 1897 craft, tested on Long Island Sound and now on public display at the NASM."

Wikipedia seems to support Crouch:
"Edson Fessenden Gallaudet (April 21, 1871 – July 1, 1945) was a pioneer in the field of aviation, being the first person to experiment with warped wings in 1896."

Wing-warping as a roll control method was used by Edson Gallaudet in 1898, according to . The Wright brothers simply obtained on May 22, 1906 a patent for something already tested in 1898 by somebody else. ^

How could an unqualified man have designed and built an engine in 6 weeks?!

About the engine that powered Flyer I 1903 various authors wrote that:
"The Wrights wrote to several engine manufacturers, but none met their need for a sufficiently lightweight power-plant. They turned to their shop mechanic, Charlie Taylor, who built an engine in just six weeks in close consultation with the brothers."

The article about Taylor ( ) also does not bring more light saying just that Taylor was a mechanic hired by Wright Brothers to repair bicycles and "He designed and built the aluminum water-cooled engine in only six weeks, based partly on rough sketches provided by the Wrights."

It is not uncommon for a mechanic to adapt a ready made engine to a specific purpose, but to design it from scratch and build it in 6 weeks is simply incredible.

Pictures from May 1908, The Wrights brothers' plane caught flying low in front of a tall sand dune

The images can be found here, (L'Aerophile, 1 July 1908 ). They still glided down the slope. How can I believe that the two brothers were able to fly about 40 minutes in 1905 in Dayton, Ohio over a flat pasture if they still needed a hill and strong winds to fly in May 1908.

In a letter published in L'Aerophile, in which the two brothers gave technical details about all their claimed flights in May 1908, they also specified the wind speed as being between 4 and 9 m/s. (see L'Aerophile 15 June 1908, ).

The Wright brothers had no contribution in correcting Smeaton's coefficient as some authors claim

Definitely, Wilbur Wright knew about the work of Samuel Langley regarding the determination of Smeaton's coefficient precise value. This is what Wilbur wrote to Octave Chanute:
"…Professor Langley and also the Weather Bureau officials found that the correct coefficient of pressure was only about 0.0032, instead of Smeaton’s 0.005…". Source, The birth of flight control, An engineering analysis of the Wright brothers’ 1902 glider - pag 703, middle of the first column,
It is self evident the Wright brothers took the true value of Smeaton's coefficient from Langley and they had no real contribution in correcting this constant as some authors have claimed.

In May 1904, the Wright brothers just glided in front of journalists according to their own September 1908 account

This is what the Wright brothers themselves declared in 1908 about their witnessed flight attempts in 1904:
"In the spring of 1904 … the new machine was heavier and stronger … When it was ready for its first trial, every newspaper in Dayton was notified, and about a dozen representatives of the press were present. … When preparations had been completed … The machine, after running the length of the track, slid off the end without rising into the air at all. Several of the newspaper men returned the next day, but they were again disappointed. The engine performed badly, and after a glide of only sixty feet, the machine came to the ground. The reporters had now, no doubt, lost confidence in the machine, though their reports, in kindness, concealed it. Later, when they heard that we were making flights of several minutes' duration, knowing that longer flights had been made with air-ships, … they were but little interested."
Source: The Wright Brothers' Aeroplane, The Century Magazine, Sep. 1908, pag 649, columns 3 and 4,

Flyer I 1903 had a propeller placed underneath that revolved horizontally, according to an article signed Wilbur Wright and published in Feb. 1904

"One of the propellers was set to revolve vertically and intended to give a forward motion, while the other underneath the machine and revolving horizontally, was to assist in sustaining it in the air. … After the motor device was completed, two flights were made by my brother and two by myself on December 17th last."
Source, "The Experiments of a Flying Man", author Wilbur Wright, The Independent, Feb. 04, 1904, pag. 246, internet address

Definitely, the flying machine W. Wright talked about in the article is not the one with two pusher propellers, well known from pictures published for the first time in September 1908 in "The Wright Brothers' Aeroplane" that appeared in The Century Magazine (see , page 644 ).
In conclusion, two different articles, written by the same Wright brothers and published more than four years and half apart, talk about two distinct airplanes (two different Flyer I) as flying on Dec. 17, 1903. The brothers definitely lied in one of the two texts or in both. There is no way they could have told the truth in both articles.

Also W. Wright protested, claiming the article "The Experiments of a Flying Man" was not writtem by him it is intresting to remark that the Library of Congress does not list the article as a fake (see: ).

Flyer I with a propeller beneath appears in numerous publications as late as May 1906, and even latter, (see: ). WB do not seem to protest against their airplane being shown in various pictures with a propeller turning in the horizontal plane. The big trouble with these Wright brothers is that nearly each article, either written by them or other people (impostors or not), has problems, contains things impossible or hard to explain. WB and also O. Chanute, in a lesser proportion, fed the publications with lies or misled them and finally put the blame on somebody else.

Another inconsistency, an eye witness talks about flapping propellers. There is a large size article, "Fly Over St. Louis at 50 Miles an Hour.", Sunday Magazine - St. Louis Post Dispatch - April 21 1907, ", containing (amongst other things) a short witness account in its end (bottom right):
"Like a locomotive
By A. I. Root, Medina, O., Who Witness Several of Wright Brothers' Flights.
It was one of the grandest sights of my life. I stood in front of the machine as it came around a curve. Imagine, if you can, an aluminum locomotive, without wheels, but with 20-foot wings and big, flapping propellers, climbing up into the air right towards you. Such a tremendous flapping and snapping. Everyone was excited except the two Wrights. …".
First of all, none of the known airplanes made by WB resembles an aluminum locomotive and secondly they were not equipped with flapping propellers. A. I. Root (a real person) appear cited as witnessing a flying machine that has never existed. The entire article looks more like an investment scam. Most of the newspaper clippings ( see ) collected by the Wright Brothers, especially those between Dec. 17, 1903 and Aug. 8, 1908, look like unreliable articles one can find in tabloids.

The much celebrated 66% efficiency of the 1903 propellers not confirmed by wind tunnel tests

In a March 6, 1903 note, with calculations regarding the efficiency of their propellers, (see ) the Wright brothers simply applied a known elementary relation:

Efficiency_propeller=Thrust*Plane_speed/Power_available, 66%=90lbf*24mph/8.73HP

They simply needed a 90lbf propeller at 24mph considering a 8.73HP engine was available and they calculated that their propeller should be at least 66% efficient otherwise the required 90lbf thrust to keep the plane aloft would not have been reached. Their calculations show just how great the performance of the propeller should have been not how great it really was.

This efficiency was never obtained by the people from Wright Experience project. The site says that many tests were effectuated and efficiencies between 75% and 82% were obtained which in not 66%. They also say they reconstructed, with the help of computers, the propellers using badly damaged parts of the original ones. However, in their reconstructions, they made some assumptions that could have alter the efficiency. In conclusion that 66% efficiency is not confirmed. When a team wants to replicate the results or predictions of some inventors the team has to obtain exactly the same results not much better!

In the article "The Wright Brothers' Aeroplane, O. and W. Wright, The Century Magazine, September 1908, pag. 648-649, ", WB themselves wrote:

"Our first propellers, built entirely from calculations, gave in useful work 66 per cent. of the power expended. This was about one third more than had been secured by Maxim or Langley."

The text is clear, the two brothers calculated and then obtained a 66% efficiency.

An advanced high efficiency propeller, made by Lucien Chauviere, can be seen in L'Aerophile from May 15, 1908, pag. 182 (see ). It is above the propellers presented by WB on Aug. 8, 1908 and clearly made before WB's propellers became known. Definitely, Europeans or other inventors did not learn from the Wright Brothers how to make efficient propellers. The opposite seems to be true.

The theory that (wing warping) ailerons made the flight possible is a pure myth. People flew without ailerons for 20 minutes before the moment the Wright brothers appeared with their ailerons.

The Wright brothers appeared performing public flights (starting with Aug. 8, 1908) in a time when other aviators had already flown for about 20 minutes.

It is a myth the planes of the two brothers were far superior to other flying machines of the time.

Their planes had essentially a single advantage "they could turn in place".

1) They were unstable.
2) They did not have wheels, once landed they were hard to transport.
3) They required a catapult to take off, a huge complication.
4) They were hard to fly. Only to keep such a plane fly straight line the pilot had to steer continuously the tail, wing warping ailerons and the front horizontal rudder!
5) They lack a horizontal tail which made them also unstable in pitch.

Beside this, the 1908 planes, the only about which we know with certitude they flew, had:
1) French engines Bariquand & Marre.
2) Dihedral stability, unlike the alleged Flyer I 1903 and like the french planes.
3) High efficiency propellers, like the french planes.

Just because the Wright brothers established some flight duration records in the autumn of 1908 (due to the high quality french engines they used) it does not mean they invented the airplane.
The theory that wing warping made the flight possible is a pure myth. People flew without manual roll control for 20 minutes before the moment the Wright brothers appeared with their ailerons.

Piloting "Flyer I 1903" is "like balancing a yardstick on one finger, two at one time. If you lose it, it goes — quickly, said Fred Culick …"

(1)"EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) — Aviation experts … have found the Wright stuff — in the hands of modern pilots … — is a little wrong."
(2)"I'd say it was almost a miracle they were able to fly it, said Jack Cherne"
(3)"Using that data, they created a computer flight simulator that shows the plane to be so unstable, it is nearly impossible to fly."
(4)"It's like balancing a yardstick on one finger, two at one time. If you lose it, it goes — quickly, said Fred Culick …"
(5)"Every pilot, his first try, crashed the simulator. It took less than a second, said Capt. Tim Jorris".
(6)"I thoroughly cannot imagine the Wright brothers, having very little experience in powered aircraft, getting this airborne and flying, said Major Mike Jansen. "My respect for what they did went up immediately the first time I took the controls.""
(7)"Modifications will include … . A computer feedback system will assist the pilot. We want the experience, but we don't want to kill ourselves, Cherne said."


The case of Gustav Whitehead as the first man to fly a powered plane is hopeless. His propellers had an efficiency of 237%! Impossible!

By applying the well known relation:

Efficiency_propellers = Thrust_propellers * Speed_plane / Power_engine

to the particular parameters of Gustav Whitehead's alleged No. 22 airplane:

- max_Thrust_propellers = 508 pounds
- Speed_plane = 70 miles/hour
- Power_engine = 40 HP

(read the article "The Whitehead Flying Machine" (attached) )

the efficiency of the propellers results as being 237%. Impossible! Case closed! Gustav Whitehead lied, his alleged No. 22 airplane could not have flown.

508pounds * 70miles/hour / 40HP = 237%
(All quantities were transformed into international units before obtaining the efficiency.)

"American Inventor Magazine, 1 April 1902 (what a conicidence)

The Whitehead Flying Machine

Has the End been Finally Attained, and is the Dirigible Balloon to Go?

Editor, American Inventor

Dear Sir: Replying to your recent letter, I take pleasure in sending you the following description of my flying machine No. 22, the latest that I have constructed:

This machine was built in four months with the aid of 14 skilled mechanics and cost about $1,700 to build. It is run by a 40 horse-power kerosene motor of my own design, especially constructed for strength, power and lightness, weighing but 120 pounds complete. It will run for a week at a time if required, without running hot, stopping, or in any possible manner troubling the operator. No electrical apparatus is required for ignition purposes. Ignition is accomplished by its own heat and compression; it runs about 800 revolutions per minute, has five cylinders and no fly-wheel is used. It requires a space 10 inches wide, 4 feet long and 10 inches high.

The flying machine proper is built like my machine No. 21. of which I send you photographs, only instead of using acetylene gas for driving purposes I use the kerosene motor described above. Machine No. 22 is made mostly of steel and aluminum. There is a body 10 feet long, 3-1/2 feet wide and 3-1/2 feet deep, shaped like a fish, and resting on four automobile wheels, 13 inches in diameter. While standing on the ground the two front wheels are connected to the kerosene motor and the rear wheels are used for steering. They can be easily moved by the aeronaut. The body is well stayed with steel tubing and braced with steel piano wire. It is covered with aluminum sheeting and made so it will float like a boat in the water. On either side are large wings or aeroplanes shaped like the wings of a flying fish or bat. The ribs are of steel tubing in No. 22 instead of bamboo as in No. 21 machine, and are covered with 450 square feet of the best silk obtainable. In front of the wings and across the body is a steel framework to which is connected the propellers for driving the machine through the air. The propellers are 6 feet in diameter and have a projecting blade-surface of 4 square feet each. They are made of wood and are covered with very thin aluminum sheeting. The propellers run about 600 revolutions per minute under full power and turn in opposite directions. When running at full speed they will exert a thrust of 508 pounds. I measured this thrust by attaching the machine to a post by means of a dynamometer and running the engines at full speed. There is a mast and a bowsprit braced something like a ship's rigging to hold all parts in their proper relations to each other. In the stern of the machine there is a 12-foot tail, something similar to a bird's tail, which, like the wings, can be folded up in half a minute and laid against the sides of the body. An automatic apparatus serves to keep the equilibrium in the air.

This is illustrated in the diagrams, in which similar letters refer to similar parts in both the top and side views. H is the body of the machine containing the motor (not shown), and the wheels, II, on which it rests on the ground and supporting the tail, K. F is the bowsprit on which is mounted the lever C, supporting the small aeroplane E. The lever C is connected by the rod G to the pendulum B, which has at its lower end the weight A. It is obvious that the weight A will tilt the aeroplane E if the machine drops her bow. The leverage gained from the end of the bowsprit to the center of the machine is so great that the least change in the position of the aeroplane is instantly effective. By means of the handle D, such changes are under the immediate control of the aeronaut. I have not shown the wings in these diagrams.

In order to start flying, the motor is set in motion, and then connected to the front wheels which drive the machine forward at fearful speed. When ready to go up, a spring is released which stretches the wings and the propellers are started by means of a lever which stops the ground wheels and turns the power into the propellers. It takes about 20 yards run with the extra weight of a man (about 180 pounds) before the machine leaves the ground.

This new machine has been tried twice, on January 17, 1902. It was intended to fly only short distances, but the machine behaved so well that at the first trial it covered nearly two miles over the water of Long Island Sound, and settled in the water without mishap to either machine or operator. It was then towed back to the starting place. On the second trial it started from the same place and sailed with myself on board across Long Island Sound. The machine kept on steadily in crossing the wind at a height of about 200 feet, when it came into my mind to try steering around in a circle. As soon as I turned the rudder and drove one propeller faster than the other the machine turned a bend and flew north with the wind at a frightful speed, but turned steadily around until I saw the starting place in the distance. I continued to turn but when near the land again, I slowed up the propellers and sank gently down on an even keel into the water, she readily floating like a boat. My men then pulled her out of the water, and as the day was at a close and the weather changing for the worse. I decided to take her home until Spring.

The length of flight on the first trial was about two miles, and on the second about seven miles. The last trial was a circling flight, and as I successfully returned to my starting place with a machine hitherto untried and heavier than the air, I consider the trip quite a success. To my knowledge it is the first of its kind. This matter has so far never been published.

I have no photographs taken yet of No. 22, but send you some of No. 21, as these machines are exactly alike, except the details mentioned. No. 21 has made four trips, the longest one and a half miles, on August 14. 1901. The wings of both machines measure 30 feet from tip to tip, and the length of the entire machine is 32 feet. It will run on the ground 50 miles an hour, and in air travel at about 70 miles. I believe that if wanted it would fly 100 miles an hour. The power carried is considerably more than necessary.

Believing with Maxim that the future of the air machine lies in an apparatus made without the gas bag, I have taken up the aeroplane, and will stick to it until I have succeeded completely or expire in the attempt of so doing.
As soon as I get my machine out this Spring I will let you know. To describe the feeling of flying is almost impossible, for. in fact, a man is more frightened than anything else.
Trusting this will interest your readers, I remain, Very truly yours,
Gustave Whitehead

Bridgeport, Conn.
The Editor, hardly able to credit the account above given that a man has actually succeeded in flying: in a machine heavier than air, wrote again to Mr. Whitehead for confirmation. Mr. Whitehead's reply follows.

Editor, American Inventor
Dear Sir: Yours of the 20th received. Yes, it was a full-sized flying machine, and I, myself, flew seven miles and returned to my starting point.
In both the flights described in my previous letter, I flew in the machine myself. This, of course, is new to the world at large, but I do not care much in being advertised except by a good paper like yours. Such accounts may help others along who are working in the same line. As soon as I can I shall try again. This coming spring I will have photographs made of machine No. 22 in the air and let you have pictures taken during its flight. If you can come up and get them yourself, so much the better. I attempted this before, but in the first trial the weather was bad, some little rain and a very cloudy sky, and the snapshots that were taken did not come out right. I cannot take any time exposures of the machine when in flight on account of its high speed.
I enclose a small sketch showing the course the machine made in her longest flight. January 17. 1902.
Trusting this will be satisfactory, I remain, yours truly.

Bridgeport, Conn.
Newspaper readers will remember several accounts of Mr. Whitehead's performances last summer. Probably most people put them down as fakes, but it seems as though the long-sought answer to the most difficult problem Nature ever put to man is gradually coming in sight. The Editor and the readers of these columns await with interest the promised photographs of the machine in the air. The similarity of this machine to Langley's experimental flying machine is well shown in the accompanying illustration, reprinted from a previous issue. Mr. Langley, it will be remembered, was the first to demonstrate the possibility of mechanical flight. Ed."

Original article:

"The Whitehead Flying Machine", American Inventor Magazine, 1 April 1902

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