First Flight, First Fatal Crash and First Snow

Orville 12 Seconds Into History

Orville 12 Seconds Into History


Man Will Never Fly: That phrase was fairly common prior to the early 20th century. But, it seems odd that the pair of brothers who said that man would never fly in their lifetimes was none other than Orville and Wilbur Wright. But, theirs is a tale of perseverance and overcoming of obstacles that seem impossible.  In short, they did not quit and that is the lesson of this tale: you never know what you can do until you try.  (Here is Orville’s complete account)

The Wrights had tinkered with the idea of powered flight for some time.  Other, more noteworthy and educated

Wright 1901 Glider

Wright 1901 Glider

individuals also pursued the prize.  These two brothers though were what might be called applied engineers.  They did things by trial, error and observation.  The built kites similar in design to their final plane design.  The found that the trouble that needed to be overcome was controlling the plane.  The observed that birds curved their wings and warped, or changed the wing shape to move about.  So, they solved their control problem by building a model with controls to warp the wings.  They also studied the experiments of others who had tried manned flight and used their own experience to build on aeronautical knowledge.

Between 1899 and 1901, they built and flew several gliders. Some were manned and others unmanned.  They generally took their experiments from their bicycle shop in Dayton, Ohio to the Outer Banks of North Carolina because the dunes were high there and the winds were strong enough and consistent enough to make numerous testing possible.  In 1900, at Kitty Hawk, they successfully tested a 50 pound glider with a 17 foot wingspan.  So, the following year, they returned to Kill Devil Hills and tried a 100 pound, 20 foot wingspan model.  That one had problems.  The wings warping mechanism failed several times, causing the plane to spin out of control.  They had trouble with lift and with pitch.  It was this failure that led the boys to decide they wouldn’t live to see a man fly.  But, they pressed on.

Orville Sports The Moustache

Orville Sports The Moustache

They went home and checked their calculations and found that poor mathematics was the root of their problem.  They then had the bright idea to build a wind tunnel in which they could study the behavior of an airfoil.  From these observations, they determined that a tail would help in the control issue and they went bigger, designing a glider with a 32 foot wingspan.  In 1902, they returned to North Carolina and found that their tail idea was a winner.  It was now time to take the final step.  They couldn’t find a suitable motor so they built their own 12 horsepower came engine to turn two propellers.  The propeller idea was inspired by propellers that were used in marine operations.  I doubt that they knew it at the time but it made perfect sense since the properties of air are similar to those of the air, which is why meteorologists have to study fluid mechanics.   The glider needed to be redesigned to support both a man and the motor.  The craft weighed in at about 700 pounds and was known as the Flyer.  They went to Kitty Hawk and put the plane on a track the was tilted downhill.  That would give the plane adequate takeoff speed in relation to the headwind.  Twice they tried and twice they failed with one of the failures resulting in crash with minor damage.  Third time proved to be the charm.  On this date in 1903 at 10:35AM,Orville Wright became the first man to fly a powered aircraft when he flew for 12 seconds and 120 feet.  They flew 3 more times on that day with the fourth at last at noon lasting 59 seconds and 852 feet.  A year later, Wilbur had the first flight to last more than 5 minutes in the Flyer II.

Orville's 2nd 1st That He'd Rather Us Forget

Orville's 2nd 1st That He'd Rather Us Forget

In 1908, the Wrights had a more forgettable first in flight.  They had begun taking passengers on flights in May 1908 and it was just a few months later on September 17 that Orville crashed.  He survived but his passenger, Lt. Thomas Selfridge of the Signal Corps, became the first flight fatality.

Snow/Ice total Dec 15-16 (courtesy Louisville NWS)

Snow/Ice total Dec 15-16 (courtesy Louisville NWS)

Weather Bottom Line:  Here’s the story….it would appear that my assessment was correct…as long as you live in Louisville and surrounding areas.  We had a little sleet and freezing rain and then just a dusting of snow.  If you recall, the GFS was oddly suggesting not much precip while the NAM was much more aggressive with precip totals of .75″.  Well, in my estimation, they both were right.  When we had the short period of time when the vertical temperature profile supported snow, a band of heavier precip set up south of Louisville oriented from the Southwest to the Northeast.  So, from Owensboro to Lexington there was generally 2-4 inches with some places as much as 5 inches.  That would be equivalent to about .25″ to .50″ of rain…or close to what the NAM called for. that’s the epitaph.  As for the future, we’re basically going to be stuck with clouds on the ground or close to it.  When clouds are on the ground, we call it fog and there will likely be drizzle or at least dampness.  The temperatures aloft will be warm but  at the surface it will be freezing…icy spots on some roads will develop, particularly on untreated and secondary road.  NAM takes only up to freezing and the GFS is in the mid to upper 30’s.  Truth is probably somewhere in between.  A bit warmer, but still chilly on Thursday.  Then we jump on Friday and stay in the mid to upper 50’s throguh the weekend…until the temperatures dive Sunday afternoon and we go back into the ice bucket again.  It remains to be seen if the set up Sunday evening through Monday morning mirrors what we just went through.


3 Responses

  1. Found the post very interesting

  2. thank you

  3. Didn’t have what I was looking for but it’s pretty interesting

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