Report by Gary Moir

Sunday, 23 February 2003.

    I drove from Philadelphia, PA, to Windsor Locks, CT, this morning in time to see the last performance of Alison Moncief's play The Wright Idea.  For the last few miles, I drove through very heavy rain, 1.6 inches fell here today, and the play started just before I arrived.  
Orville, Wilbur, and the newsboy in a later day dance step.
    The theme of the play was the genius and persistence required for the Wright Brothers to uncover these secrets that nature has preserved for them to discover. High school students played Katherine, Wilbur and Orville in their first professional roles. The play was made possible by a grant from the Connecticut chapter of the AIAA organized by Egils Vigants, a Pratt & Whitney engineer who is serving as the AIAA Evolution of Flight Coordinator for the New England Region. Pratt & Whitney also partially funded the extended display of the Wright Flyer at the New England Air Museum (NEAM) through a contribution to the national organization.
    Museum displays are impressive and growing.  They currently have over 80 aircraft on display.  Displays have excellent placards and descriptions of the aircraft and their development. Volunteers are currently restoring a B-29 vertical stabilizer fin.
New England Air Museum staff and volunteers in front of the Flyer and the B-29 tail.
   One of the museum supporters told me that a BA Concorde airliner landed here at Bradley Airport today due to weather limitations at JFK airport.  This is one of the longest airfields in the New England area, so it is the main alternate airport for the Concorde.
    Caroline d'Otreppe hosted a cast party after the performance in her spectacular (soon to be) new Bed & Breakfast.  (She just started refurbishing her father's home after acquiring it from his estate.)  The variety of delicious hors d'oeuvres, sandwiches, drinks and desserts was excellent.  Their player piano inspired several of the young ladies present to display their own mastery of the piano.  I hope to return as a paying guest after they open next fall.
    Tomorrow morning, I will join the NEAM team and the WF transportation team to disassemble the Flyer and pack it into the moving van for the trip to KSC.

Kiddy Flyer, the replica Flyer, and the Centennial tour display.

Monday, 24 February 2003.

Bert Konle helps break down the display truss frames in front of the Flyer truss wires.
   Our truck driver, Bert Konle, and some of the local volunteers were already starting to break down the display panels when Tony Visser and I arrived at 8:30 am, expecting to be early for the 9:00 scheduled start.  The disassembly went smoothly although packing a 40' 4 wingspan aircraft and a 12' canard span aircraft in a 53' moving van almost requires a shoehorn.
    The snow outside made a spectacular background for the Flyer as we opened the museum doors to load the moving van.  We were very fortunate that this most severe snowstorm of this century occurred the week before our move instead of during it.  As it was, Bert drove through the edges of storms with threats of floods from melting snows all the way to Florida.  
    The people at the New England Air Museum were wonderful hosts for both our aircraft and our team throughout our stay in Windsor Locks.  We understand that they set attendance records while the aircraft was there and expect public's enhanced awareness of their displays to affect their programs throughout this Centennial of Flight year.  I offer my heartfelt thanks and respect to both the NEAM staff and their patrons.

Tuesday, 25 February 2003.

    Today my wife, Jane, and I are taking the train from Philadelphia to Richmond, VA, where we will rent a car to drive to the Outer Banks and Kill Devil Hills, NC, the site of man's first successful powered and controlled flight.  The Amtrak coach has many modern amenities, compared to the trains that Wilbur & Orville used from Dayton to NC.  Still, it is satisfying to use their same mode of transportation.
    Traveling on a train is quite a different experience from either driving in a car or flying in a commercial airplane.  There is plenty of room to move around and to set up my computer with the 110 V power supply.  Scenes pass the windows at a rate that one can think about the homes, businesses, cities, and rural areas, or anything else one may fancy. (Isn't that a cool 19th century word and concept?)
    One recurring thought on this train trip is that the Wrights lived in an age of rapidly developing technology that contributed to their development of the first airplane.  In this case, the development of the railroad provided an economical mode of transport for them and their machines.  More than that, the expanding demands of long distance trains and tracks were driving mechanical and metallurgical engineering from the 1830's to the 1900's.  I'll offer four examples of this technological convergence below.
    Octave Chanute was a practicing Civil Engineer who suggested the wire-stayed Pratt truss as one of the most efficient structural concepts for a low speed biplane aircraft.  This truss concept, shown in Figure 1, uses pre-tensioned diagonal wires to carry vertical shear loads from the wing's lifting force and axial tension and compression spars and struts to efficiently react bending moments as axial loads.  Wilbur's realization that the angles between Pratt truss struts and spars could be changed by simply changing the lengths of the diagonal wires, without noticeable changes in wire tensions, was the innovation that allowed warping the wings to develop the first aircraft with control of roll rotation.  Coordinated control of the roll and yaw (directional) rotations of the aircraft were the basis of the Wright's patent and their greatest contribution to the evolution of flight.
    Railroad engines (and other steam engines) were the first machines that simultaneously needed high repetitive forces in a machine with moderate vehicle weight.  This forced development of higher quality steels and other materials and made those materials available for other uses.  Specifically, quality high strength thin tubing facilitated the development of bicycle and automobile frames.  The Flyer uses thin-wall brazed tubing in the chain spreaders and the propeller diamond frames only slightly thicker than modern production bicycles.
    Bicycles, motorcycles, and automobiles required even lighter tubular structures, drive trains and engines than trains.  The bicycle tubing, wires, and adhesives used in the Flyer were true enabling technologies.
    The Wright's engine used an aluminum casting that accidentally had a small amount of copper in the alloy, significantly improving the strength of the casting.  Economical production of aluminum had only become possible since Charles Martin Hall and Paul L.T. Heroult discovered the electrolytic process to refine it in 1886.  In 1903 aluminum remained an exotic, but available material.  The Wrights built one of the first aluminum block engines in just a few months!

Kill Devil Hills Visit
Wednesday, 26 February 2003.

    The drive from Richmond to the Outer Banks area of North Carolina is benefiting from the anticipated traffic of this centennial year.  Highways 168 and 158 from Norfolk south to Nags Head are newly paved and widened 4 lane highways the full distance.  One can recognize the older impoverished farms and businesses off the highway, but there are plenty of new homes and businesses including typical shopping centers and schools.  The drive took less than 4 hours in clear weather and early evening traffic.
Gary Moir kneels at the start of the launching rail at Kill Devil Hills. Markers show the takeoff point and flight distances of the first four flights on 17 Dec 1903. The 852' fourth flight is a speck in the distance along the dark path.
    The Outer Banks are a chain of sand dune islands 1 to 20 miles off the North Carolina shoreline with an inland passage between them and the mainland.  The Wrights found them by asking the weather bureau for remote, sandy, sea level, locations with uniform winds suitable for soaring an aircraft.  (Soaring is flying into a wind so that ground speed is reduced.)  As Wilbur wrote to his sister Katherine in 1900, We can't complain about the wind and blowing sand since we asked for both. 
   Houses near the coastline are usually either on top of or behind a 10-20 ft tall sand dune and built on log pilings as if on stilts.  Wilbur & Orville's reports of winds and surf on the edge of two hurricanes give a good explanation for this construction.
    Trees and prickly pear cactus now grow around and on the sand dunes of the Kill Devil Hills.  On this wintry, blustery day, there were never more than five cars in the parking lots or four other couples walking around the monuments.  Still, one needs to see the barren sand dune photos to imagine the utter emptiness that the Wrights experienced.  It was good to see the area vacant now, because large crowds are anticipated for the Centennial events. 

Thursday, 27 February 2003

    Our train ran about 2 hours late due to the snow up north and the rains in the south.  Still it was a fine way to travel along the east coast.  We rented a car in Orlando and drove east 32 miles to our motel in Titusville.  As we parked, we found the Wright Flyer's Centennial Tour United Van Lines truck in the parking lot where Bert Konle, the truck driver, was having the truck washed & polished to remove the snow and grime of the drive from the NEAM.  His pride shows in the special care he takes of the truck and aircraft.  In the evening we met our other team members, Marilyn Ramsey, Pam Leven, and John Latz.

The van and Centennial Tour decal in front of the Saturn 1B, Titan-Gemini, Thor Agena, and Atlas-Mercury displays.
Friday, 28 February 2003

Bert Konle squeezes behind the Flyer in the truck at KSC as Pam Leven and John Latz watch. Notice how perfectly the Wrights sized the Flyer for transport in a modern moving van.
    Our team met for breakfast, then drove south to the Kennedy Space Center Visitors Center where we unloaded the Flyer into a display area in the IMAX theater building.  Bert left early to get the truck into the Visitor Center before the crowds arrived.  Tony Visser hired a local four-man crew to help unload the Flyer and set up the display.  It was raining lightly as we unloaded the Flyer and the undoped muslin wing covering on the starboard wing tip got slightly moist and was temporarily slightly discolored.  I therefore did a full walk-around inspection of the Flyer when we finished the setup and found the plane in excellent condition with just a few minor cosmetic squawks.
    Several photographers and a TV cameraman arrived as we completed the setup.  I graphically showed the similarity of the steel truss frames around the display panels and the Wright Flyer's Pratt Truss structure to the TV with Tony in the foreground.  I don't know if they used the bit, even after I explained to the cameraman how the Flyer's diagonal truss wires allowed the Wrights to warp the wings with very small control forces.  (The wires to the upper wing tips are connected together through the hip cradle so one only has to apply a few pounds of force to overcome secondary effects when you displace the cradle to cause a roll.  The loads from one wing are automatically balanced by the loads from the other wing.)
AIAA Wright Flyer display in the IMAX Theater exhibit area almost assembled with John Latz discussing the replica with a photographer. In the background are the students from Palm Bay High School.
    About 3 p.m., a group of students from Palm Bay High School arrived to see the Flyer.  Marilyn Ramsey gave a talk about our Project and the history of this Flyer.  I told them about some of the Wright's engineering feats and their emphasis on safety.  These facts include the demonstrated capability of the wing to support over 4 times the weight of the aircraft, the concept of soaring into a headwind to reduce speed over the soft sand, clever features of the gas tank to prevent spillage, and the impact protection afforded by the canard structure.
    Many IMAX theatergoers walked through the display area while waiting for or exiting from a show.  Each of us spent some time on Friday and Saturday talking with visitors and enjoying the growing awareness that 2003 is the Centennial of the first controlled powered flight.
    As Bert moved the trailer to the entry area, where it will serve as a billboard for our display, I took a photograph of the truck and the Saturn 1B-Apollo display.  I am astonished at the contrast of the Wright Flyer with the rockets and spacecraft that I helped develop to land on the Moon just 66 years after the First Flight and just 100 years after the Transcontinental Railroad was completed.  I look forward to helping expand mankind's unlimited future and hope this display may inspire the leaders of tomorrow to realize that potential.

Copyright 2002, AIAA Wright Flyer Project, all rights reserved.

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