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Replica of Wright 1900 Aircraft


Photo of the Orono Wright replica
Photo by Susan Latham

The scientists and engineers of tomorrow are working with today's engineers and technicians to retrace the steps of the Wright Brothers. A full scale replica of the Wright's 1900 aircraft has been built in a joint effort between the Orono Middle School of Orono, Maine, and the NASA Glenn Research Center in Cleveland, Ohio. The aircraft is to be used as a traveling exhibit, an educational tool, and eventually as a fixed exhibit at the Glenn Visitor Information Center.

In 2003, the world will celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first flight of the Wright Brothers' airplane. In reality, the brothers had been flying and learning to fly for several years before. They first arrived at Kitty Hawk in 1900 with an aircraft that was flown mostly as an un-piloted kite. Here's a picture taken in 1900 of the aircraft in flight.

Photo of the 1900 Wright aircraft
They had come to Kitty Hawk to test out their ideas concerning the control and maneuvering of an aircaft by warping or twisting the wings in flight. On the last day before heading back to Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur took his first glider flight in this aircraft. All of the subsequent Wright aircraft looked like this aircraft, with two wings separated by struts and held together with cables, with a stabilizer/elevator located in the front of the aircraft, and with the pilot lying on the lower wing.

During the winter of 2000, the 6th grade science students at Orono Middle School, built a full scale replica of the Wright's 1900 aircraft. Led by their teacher, Richard Glueck, the students shaped the wing ribs, connected them to the wing spars, sewed on the wing covering, built the struts, and put the aircraft together. Here is a picture of a spar and rib.
Photo of rib and spar of the Orono replica
Just like the Wright brothers, the students flew their aircraft as a kite, as shown at the top of this page. After the flight attempts, the kite was disassembled and the struts were given to the students as a memento. Mr Glueck then offered the wings of the replica to NASA and the Centennial of Flight Commission.

In late May of 2001, the wings arrived at the NASA Glenn Research Center. Technicians in Glenn's Prototyping and Outsourcing Branch reconstructed the aircraft to replace the struts and incorporate the wing warping used by the Wright brothers. The various stages of the reconstruction are shown in the photo gallery. The completed aircraft is shown in this photo:

Photo of the reconstructed Wright replica

The aircraft is currently being used as a traveling exhibit. It was shown at the Ohio Society for the Elevation of Kites (OSEK) free fly on July 8, 2001. It has been displayed at the Congressional Centennial of Flight Booth at the AirVenture Airshow in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, in late July, 2001. and at the Cleveland Airshow, Sept 1-3, 2001.

The aircraft is also used for educational purposes. The aircraft has been rigged to illustrate the Wright brothers' wing warping technique for roll control. To demonstrate this technique and other fundamentals of aerodynamics, engineers at NASA Glenn will attempt to fly the aircraft at the NASA Glenn Hangar.

Photo of the first attempt to fly the Wright replica
Computer predictions of the performance of the aircraft indicate that sustained winds of 15-20 mph are necessary to overcome the weight of the aircraft. On the first attempt to fly the kite, we only had sustained winds of 8-10 mph with gusts to 20 mph. During the gusts, the plane would lift, but not long enough to truly fly. We are currently (Aug 30, 2001) waiting for the higher winds of autumn to try again. On September 14, 2001, we will be conducting a videoconference from the NASA Glenn Hangar showing the aircraft and recent results.


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Re-Living the Wright Way
Beginner's Guide to Aeronautics
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Editor: Kelly Sands
NASA Official: Nancy Hall
Last Updated: May 10 2021

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