12 Seconds That Changed the World

Webcast Questions:

Wilbur Wright Photo - Portrayed by Tom Benson.

Wilbur Wright answers the e-mail questions
that did not get answer during the event.

Q: I was wondering way you chose Wilber to fly first? Why not Orville? I'm not putting down Wilber but I was just wondering.
-Chris Peixoto

A: We flipped a coin on our first try, Dec. 14, 1903. I won the toss, attempted the first flight, but crashed on take-off. It took 3 days to repair the airplane, and then it was my brother's turn on Dec. 17. We each made 2 flights on that day.
-Wilbur Wright (W.W.)

Q: Did you like making this and why or why not?
Jordan, Grade: 6, Lima, OH

A:We liked it very much. It was hard work, but very rewarding work.

Q: Question: How did you choose to design the propellers?
Joe, Grade: 6, Indiana

A:The propeller design took several months to work out. We went to the library to get information, but the information only described boat propellers. We had a lot of friendly arguments between us. Gradually we settled on long, thin, high speed propellers which we built and tested in our bicycle shop in Dayton.

Q: How many planes in all did you make? How did you feel to watch your invention change and grow throughout your life? What do you feel is the most amazing thing about flight that has changed since your first flight?
- Mrs. Root, Alison and Taryn

A: From 1900, to 1905, we built 6 individual aircraft. It was very rewarding to watch how airplanes evolved from our crude, slow, one man aircraft, into modern, high speed airliners that anyone can use to visit people in other parts of the country. The most amazing changes involve the size of the aircraft, and the speed and altitude at which they fly. Truly amazing!

Q: Did you feel pressure from the other pilots who were close to creating an airplane? The American Langley was receiving help that ended up not being successful.

A: Not really. We had our job to do, and we concentrated on trying to do it, more than worrying about what other people were doing. Besides, we knew that Langley didn't have a system of flight control on his aircraft and we did. We also had the best tables of wind tunnel data in the world, so we knew that our design was better.

Q: How much money did you make from your sale of your airplane to the French military?
- Anwatin Middle School

A: We originally sold our aircraft for about $25,000 a copy. That was a lot of money in 1908. We were making very good money on the sale of aircraft to the French and to the United States' Military in 1908, but the biggest amount of money we made was in the sale of our patent rights for $1 million in 1914.

Q: Jimena wants to know if you improved upon your designs throught out your lives?

A: Jimena, yes, we were constantly modifying our designs to allow us to go higher, farther and faster. We kept increasing the power of our engines, so that we could eventually carry two people, sitting on the wings of our 1908 flyer.

Q: Irene would like to know: What was the worst damage done to any your planes?

A:Irene, I suppose my brother's crash in 1907 during the Ft. Meyer's trials was the worst. It destroyed the aircraft, killed his passenger, Lt. Selfridge, and severely injured my brother.

Q: Brandon: Did you ever hit a bird? and if so what happened?

A: Brandon, I can not ever recall hitting a bird in flight. We flew very slow (30-40 mph) and our engine made a lot of noise. Birds could easily get out of the way. My brother hit a tree once in Dayton, but no birds.

Q: Blake: Did you ever think of ever using the planes for war?

A: Blake, yes, we tried to sell our airplanes to the War Department. The hope was that airplanes would be used to spot troops and keep them away.

Q: Rebecca: When was your last flight?

A: Rebecca, I passed away in May, 1912. My last flight was several months before.

Q: Kevin: What gave you the idea to fly? Did you ever get paid building planes?

A: Kevin, we got the first idea from toy helicopter that our father brought us when I was about 11 years old. We read a lot about the flights of Otto Lilienthal in the early 1890's. That encouraged us to give it a try. After our airplane was perfected, we formed a company to build and sell airplanes. We made a lot of money between 1908 and 1914.

Q: Andrew: How much did it cost to build and design your first plane?

A: Andrew, starting in 1900, up to 1903, we spent about $1200 designing, testing, and building our first airplane.

Q: Miwha: What is the longest distance ever in one of your flights?

A: Miwha, On Dec. 17, 1903, our longest flight was 852 feet. (about 3 soccer fields.) We kept working on the design and in 1904, we could fly about 5 miles. By 1905, we could fly 25-30 miles until we ran out of gas.

Q: Nick: What was the death total of all of your flights?

A: Nick, only 1 person, Lt. Selfridge in 1907.

Q: Kate: What was the highest flight?

A: Kate, in 1903, we only got about 10 feet off the ground. By 1905, we could fly above the trees to about 50 feet. In 1908 we began to set records greater than 100 feet in the air.

Q: Emily: What was your motivation for wanting to fly?

A: Emily, it just seemed like a very exciting thing to do. I had climbed hills and wanted to soar like a hawk.

Q: Robbie: Did you ever fly at night?

A: Robbie, no, in the early 1900's it was just too dangerous. We didn't have lights on our planes.

Q: When do you think airplanes would have been invented if you hadn't invented them in 1903?
- Anwatin Middle School

A: I think somebody would have figured it out before 1910. There were teams of engineers working on the problems in many countries around the world.

Q: Who was the next person after the two of you to fly your airplane?
- Anwatin Middle School

A: Lt. Frank Lahm of the Army Signal Corps.

Q: How did you use your bicycle struts?
- Anwatin Middle School

A: The bicycle struts were not used as much as some other parts. Our wind tunnel balance included bicycle spokes. The "wheels" on our 1903 flyer were the hubs of bicycle wheels. Sprockets and chains were also used on the engine as a timing belt.

Q: What was your longest flight? Which brother came up with the idea that worked? How did your sister feel about missing out on being with you for your first flight?
- Mrs. Root's class: Irene, Kate, and Ben

A: Irene, The longest flight on Dec. 17, 1903 was 59 seconds, 852 feet. Kate, both of us had ideas that worked and ideas that didn't work! The key is that we discussed the ideas between ourselves and tested the ideas to figure out the right answer. Ben, our sister was disappointed that she missed the first flight. Of course the weather conditions were really bad. Several years later, we took Katharine up on the airplane.

Q: How discouraged were you when you discovered that Lillelenthal s data was wrong?
- Mr. Pierson s exploratory

A: Well, actually, Lilienthal's data was correct. We were just applying it incorrectly. His data was taken on a small elliptical model, our wings were rectangular, and the difference is very important, However, when we thought the data was wrong, we were very discouraged and about ready to quit.

Q: What kind of wood did you use for your structure?
- Mr. Pierson s exploratory

A: We used spruce for the long spars, and ash for the ribs.

Q: How many designs did you use before this final design?
- Mr. Pierson s exploratory

A: Between 1900 and 1905, we had 6 different designs. All of the designs were similar; elevator in the front, two wings, pilot lying on the lower wing. But we made many small modifications from year to year.

Q: How long did it take for you to build the airplane, and how did you get the materials for the plane?
- Lauren, Grade: 8 - Ma, USA

A: We worked for several months in Dayton, cutting the wood, sewing the wings, and assembling the engine. We shipped all the parts to Kitty Hawk and took several weeks putting it all together down there before we began testing.

Q: What were the wings of your airplane made of and why did you choose this material?
- Amanda, Grade: 8 - Massachusetts,USA

A: Our wings were made of wood, wire and cloth. It was the best, strongest, lightest material that was available in 1903. We would have used metal and plastic if they were available ... but plastics hadn't been invented yet.

Q: How long did you fly the first time, and how fast did you go?
- Kim, Grade: 8 - Massachusetts, USA

A: The first flight went 120 feet in 12 seconds. That's only about 7-8 mph across the ground because we were flying into a very strong wind.

Q: How did they get the idea for the wind tunnel?
- Jessica, Grade: 6 - Indiana, USA

A: There were about 10 wind tunnels in the world in 1901, and we had read about them. We figured we needed one to get very accurate data, so we built our own.

Q: Whos the better pilot?
- Leah and Ashley, Grade: 6 - MI

A: To be honest, my brother was a little better. He's younger and has very quick re-actions.

Q: What is the next predicted development in air travel?
- Patrick, Grade: 8 - Ohio

A: Hopefully, we will someday be able to get to Europe in just an hour instead five or six hours.

Q: Did anything distract your work?
- Patrick, Grade: 5 - NJ

A: We tried not to let anything distract us. But we were still in the bicycle business and we had to keep that going. Our father was involved in some controversies in his Church and I had to write some articles for him as well.

Q: What changes would you have made if you had the technology we have today?
- Skamania

A: We would have put a seat belt on the airplane. and a nice muffler on the engine.

Q: From your point of view which is your favorite plane you ever built?
- Lee, Grade: 6 - Michigan

A: I am a bit partial to the 1902 glider. It allowed us to set all the gliding records in 1902 and was a fun machine to fly. Very quiet, very efficient.

Q: What is the slowest speed an airplane can go and still fly? Which of your planes flew the slowest, but still got up?
- Nathan, Grade: 1 - Virginia, USA

A: All of our planes flew very slow. Through the air, we only went about 30 mph in the powered airplanes. If the wind was blowing 25 mph in my face, I only went across the ground at 5 mph. The 1903 got into the air in only 40 feet. It was the slowest.

Q: I'm curious how you got the plane from your workshop to the field. A horse-drawn trailer? How bouncy was the ride? Ever any damage to the craft from transit?
- Jeremiah

A: We shipped it by train to Elizabeth City, NC. Then by boat to the outer banks. Then by horse drawn cart to our camp site. In the air, our 1903 was very bouncy. We tried to correct that in 1904 and 1905. We were lucky that none of our planes was damaged in transit.

Q: Did you owned a bicycle shop? Why did the aircraft have skids instead of bicycle wheels in the design?
- Larry House

A: Yes, we owned a bicycle shop in Dayton where we sold and repaired bicycles. We used skids on our airplane instead of wheels to save weight.

Thank you all for your questions?

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