For Release: October 25, 2001
Langley Research Center
Office: 757 864-9886/Cellular: 757 344-8511
Old Dominion University
Office: 757 683-3580
RELEASE NO. 01-106
FULL-SCALE MODEL IN WIND TUNNEL
Engineers test Wright glider replica
Before they could learn to fly, the Wright brothers had to learn
to glide. A life-size reproduction of one of the aviation
pioneers early gliders is undergoing wind tunnel tests at the
Langley Full Scale Tunnel, owned by NASAs Langley Research
Center in Hampton, Va., and operated by Old Dominion University
(ODU) in Norfolk, Va.
During this experiment, which is being underwritten by the
Langley Research Center, engineers will take a number of different
measurements to determine how the Wright 1901 glider performed. The
22-foot wingspan aircraft was the second glider designed by Orville
and Wilbur Wright as they worked to create the first human powered
"Its fitting that we invest in wind tunnel tests to
document the Wrights discoveries. Orville Wright was on the
advisory committee that established NASAs Langley Research
Center in 1917, just fourteen years after that first historic
flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wright also visited Langley a
number of times," said Mike Finneran, head of NASA Langleys
Office of External Affairs. "Our first engineers built on the
Wright brothers early successes and helped advance aeronautics into
a modern science."
The wind tunnel tests are part of ongoing research being done by
ODU and the Wright Experience of Warrenton, Va. The Wright
Experience has been contracted by the not-for-profit Discovery of
Flight Foundation, also in Warrenton, to uncover and document how
the Wright brothers, neither of whom finished high school, managed
to conquer the principles of flight in five short years. None of
the Wrights first prototype aircraft were saved, nor were
construction documents and drawings.
To try to retrace the brothers ground-breaking steps to
flight, Wright Experience founder Ken Hyde and his team are
researching, reconstructing, testing, analyzing and documenting
authentic full-scale reproductions of many of the Wright
brothers aircraft and engines.
"Rediscovering the secrets of the Wright brothers to inspire a
new generation is what motivates The Wright Experience," said Hyde.
"Our journey will continue through December 17, 2003 with the
flight of a reproduction of the 1903 Wright flyer at Kitty Hawk.
Our ultimate goal is to build and test all of the Wrights
aircraft. It is the Wright Experiences mission to keep the
Wright brothers dream alive."
The 1901 glider was an important step in the Wrights
development of the Flyer, not because it was successful, but
because it wasnt.
"The 1901 glider was extremely difficult to control and it
didnt demonstrate flight-handling characteristics that were
consistent with theories used by the Wright brothers," said
Professor Robert Ash, Wright test program manager for ODU. "So
Wilbur and Orville decided they needed a different approach. They
built a small-scale wind tunnel to evaluate nearly 200 airfoil and
wing models. They started the worlds first successful wind
tunnel-based aircraft design program, a precursor to the systems
engineering approach used by the aviation industry today."
The Wright Experience and ODU have already built and tested a
number of reproductions of Wright propellers in their quest to
"reverse engineer" the 1903 Wright Flyer and other early Wright
aircraft. The reproduction of the Flyer is under construction at
the Wright Experience workshop.
For more information on the Wright Experience
please check the Internet at: http://www.wrightexperience.com
For more information on at the Langley Full Scale Tunnel please
check the Internet at: http://www.lfst.com
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Reporters are invited to observe the wind tunnel tests of the
1901 Wright glider reproduction and interview Ken Hyde and other
researchers Monday afternoon, October 29. Crews should arrive at
the Langley Air Force Base LaSalle gate by 1:15 p.m. so they can be
escorted to the Langley Full Scale Tunnel.
text-only version of this release