Wednesday, July 30, 2014

A summary of this blog with some additional comments

Aviation history, as presented today, is chock full of liars, thieves, mountebanks, and four-flushers. Aviation pioneers, who in their day were known to be brilliant, such as Gustave Whitehead and John J. Montgomery, are accused of faking flights. One of our greatest pioneers, Glenn Curtiss, is said to have deliberately cheated on a test for the Smithsonian to prove an early pioneer plane was capable of flight when it really wasn't. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

Now, if stories, such as these, are questioned by serious researchers, there are those, who seem to have an inordinate interest in preserving the status quo, who accuse them of conspiracy theories, lies, or idiocy. A concerted effort is made to marginalize those who have opposing opinions, much as when this aviation history was originally written.

Are these accusations true? Who is behind these stories? Maybe those most responsible are the two pioneers who come shining through today's "history" as the beacons of honesty, integrity, and expertise.

This blog addresses some of these and other very important issues.

Presented below is a summary of the first seven posts of this blog "Truth in Aviation History," including some additional comments.
A Wright Brothers coloring book from the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum.
The Wright brothers are promoted by NASM to the point that some call it the "Wright Museum."

              Post #1. The Wright Truth: Undecided

Much of early aviation history is based on statements by the Wright brothers. Unfortunately, many of
these statements are contradictory. Many of their questionable statements can't be
verified at all. If the Wrights are to be used as references, their statements and claims need to be verified with credible, original sources, independent of the Wright brothers themselves.This has not been done. If a conclusion is made from an unverified source, it needs to be so stated.

History ought not to be written on the assumption that particular individuals' claims to knowledge and/or honesty are absolutely unassailable, regardless of opposing claims.
               Among the enormous number of Wright references supposed to verify
               aviation history:

                  1. The Wright correspondence
                  2. The Wright diaries
                  3. Wright public statements in and out of court.
                  4. Wright photographs that can't necessarily be verified as to dates.
                  5. Any other documents originating from the Wrights

                 Examples of books derived from the Wright brothers' statements

                   l. "The Bishops Boys" and other books by Tom Crouch
                  2. "Wilbur and Orville" by Fred Howard
                  3. "The Wright Brothers" by Fred Kelly
                  4.  Books by Charles Harvard Gibbs Smith
                  5   Books or publications that use these books as references

 Post #2. The Wright Story: Not So Sure

Wright historians tell us that the Wright brothers were the first to make a manned,
 powered, controlled, sustained, heavier than air flight. Is this true?

The telegram the Wright brothers sent to their father Milton Wright in 1903 gives their version of what happened at Kitty Hawk December 17, 1903. Their statement can't be totally true.They said they took off from level ground with engine power alone against a 21
mile per hour wind. If the wind assisted the take off, it can't have been solely with 
engine power, or "engine power alone"

The telegram the Wrights sent their father Milton on December 17, 1903. It all started with a stretching of the truth. Some might call it by another name.

There were no official witnesses that day, experts on aviation, or reporters. Only five ordinary people who knew virtually nothing about aeronautics--three surfmen, a beach comber farmer, and a boy of eighteen. It is clearly documented that two of the only five witnesses, Daniels and Etheridge, agreed more than once that they placed the Wright plane on the side of the hill to take off. If the plane took off from the side of the hill, it did not take off from level ground--it was assisted by gravity. 

The definition of powered, sustained flight excludes a take off from the side of a hill, or a gravity assisted take off.

We have a choice whether to accept the Wright version or the version of the witnesses. (In court today the Wright version would have no validity.)

 Post #3.The Wright Photo Shoot: 1903 or 1908 ?

The iconic photograph represented as of the first flight in history and supposed to be proof of the first flight in history poses some serious questions.
We have only the word of the Wright brothers that John Daniels took this picture December 17, 1903.

John Daniels, who the Wrights claimed took the picture, said he didn't remember taking the picture. If he didn't, he certainly wouldn't/couldn't remember it! The date the picture was taken has not been proven. The photo didn't make its appearance until the year 1908. It could have been taken in 1908 when the Wright Brothers went back to Kitty Hawk with their later Wright flyer. It would be difficult to tell the planes from each other, as we are told the flyers were virtually the same. 

There is absolutely no proof that this photo was taken in the year 1903 by witness John Daniels or anyone else that year.

Post #4 The First Flight Picture: Puzzling Questions

There are many anomalies in the "first flight" picture. For instance, the shadows aren't consistent as they would have to be if the picture was taken outdoors with a single light source (the sun). The sun would be the light source outdoors even if the day was overcast as it seems to be.To repeat, John Daniels, who the Wrights claimed took the pictures, said he didn't remember taking the picture. (He was glad to take credit, though).

The position of the elevator in the photograph shows from modern day Caltech wind tunnel
tests that the plane is in full stall. A plane can't recover from a full stall as close to
the ground as it's shown to be in the photo.

 Post #5  Did the Wrights Really Fly in 1903? An Expert Opinion by Tom Crouch.

Oops! A letter surfaced written by Tom Crouch, head of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, stating to Leo Opdyke* that the so called flight shown in the picture that we are taught is the first flight in history was not long enough to be considered a true sustained flight. The flight was only an estimated 120 feet over the ground. Crouch states that the last flight by Wilbur of 852 feet could be considered a true flight. Of course, that would be true assuming it took off from level ground.

Common sense would conclude, then, that if the picture of Orville supposedly making the flight of 120 feet doesn't represent the first flight in history, because Wilbur's flight was the only true flight, then we have been sold a story, regardless of the authenticity of the picture..



  *Leo Opdycke was editor of the "World War One Aero" magazine, a publication that he developed  from a newsletter into one of the main sources of information for those interested in aviation from the time of its birth to the end of WWI."

  Post #6. Didn't the Wright Brothers Always Tell the Truth? Part 1

This post demonstrates that the Wright brothers were very adept in using the news
and publications to establish their versions of history, including what happened at Kitty
Hawk in 1903.They monitored the news, and if they saw an account that didn't coincide
with their stories, they were very aggressive in demanding that it be corrected--to
their version. In January 1904, they sent out a news release contradicting an account
that was apparently mostly fictitious about the Kitty Hawk "flights" and corrected it to
their agreed version.

Post #7 Didn't the Wright Brothers Always Tell the Truth? Part 2

    In a 1914 Boys' Life article with Orville Wright's name on the byline (as told to Leslie W. Quirk), we find proof positive that Orville Wright was "loose with the truth," as writer  Jack Carpenter asserted in  "Pendulum I" and "Pendulum II," . Orville claimed that he made the longest flight of 852 feet at Kitty Hawk in 1903. Wilbur had died and couldn't correct the article.

    Cover of Boy' Life,  Sept. 1914. The Boy Scouts teach and advocate honesty.
      Until Wilbur's death in 1912, it was accepted that he made the first flight (except for a 1908 claim written by Orville that he was the one who made the first flight, Century magazine).
      After Wilbur's death, Orville stole the crown and even wrote the 1914 article for young people that it was he who made the longest flight of 852 feet. The article has been republished more than once, but never corrected.
      Since the Wrights closely monitored articles published about themselves and made great efforts to change what they didn't like, we must assume that the so called "error" about who made the longest flight was not an error, but was intentional on Orville's part. He personally made no attempt to correct the article after it was published. In the next post we show that Orville was aware of the article--for years.

      To be continued with summaries of these posts:
    Post #8   Orville Wright's "True" Fiction for the Boy Scouts and for "Very Young People"

    Post #9  More "Errors," "Inaccuracies. and "Whoppers" by Orville Wright in "Boys' Life"

    Post #10  Wright "Flyer" Replicas and Reconstructions

    Post #11 The Wrights Discovered What? Was the Wrights' "Original" Research Original?

    Post #12 The Wrights Discovered What? Another Chapter

    Post #13 Dr. George Spratt--A Letter and a Lost Friend


    Wednesday, July 9, 2014

    Dr. George Spratt--A Letter and a Lost Friend

    One More Chapter on the Wrights Invented What?

    "After having for twenty years capitalized upon this as your own work I do not see how you can give a correct account of this without bringing yourselves into open censure"--Dr. George Spratt to Orville Wright, 1922, on the development of the Wright flyer.

    Dr. Spratt as an Inventor

    A control wing aircraft built in 1939 by Dr. George Spratt's son, using the doctor's designs

    The concepts behind Spratt's amazing control wing invention were beyond Wilbur Wright's understanding, as clearly revealed in his letters to the doctor. Contrary to what we are taught, it was Spratt's ideas that the Wrights used to build their wind tunnel. Link here to great youtube videos of Spratt's control wing in flight and a few derivations of his invention..

      Dr. Spratt's Relationship with the Wrights

    An early friend of the Wright brothers, Dr. George Spratt wrote his last letter to Orville Wright in 1922. See it below. Was it it an expression of sour grapes or a statement of the betrayal of a once loyal friend? You be the judge. I've emphasized some of the copy, so it's obvious where I stand. As you read today's Wright "history," as it was carefully pruned and shaped by the Wrights, look for the explanations and rationalizations they write for primary documents, such as this letter. It would seem that Dr. Spratt was wrong when he said "It makes little difference what you write, history writes itself."

    Dr. George Spratt was another pioneer aviator, who like Edward Huffaker, came to Kitty Hawk in 1901 at the request of  Octave Chanute. Like Huffaker and Chanute, Spratt freely provided the Wrights with suggestions and help.

    Wilbur publicly admitted early on that both Spratt and Huffaker had educated him on the movement and reversal of the center of pressure as a plane changes its angle of attack. But neither Wilbur nor  Orville repeated that admission any time later.*

     In 1901 at Kitty Hawk, the Wrights had warmed to Spratt, unlike Huffaker (see previous blog post), and invited him back in 1902 and 1903. A lively correspondence sprang up between Wilbur and the doctor and information was exchanged. However, when the Wrights began their insults to early aviation by suing anyone they thought infringed on their 1906 glider patent, Spratt's response began to cool. Further, Spratt requested recognition for his important contributions to the Wrights' wind tunnel tests and later asked for help in building his "control wing" plane.Wilbur wrote back that it was enough that he had sent Spratt tables from the wind tunnel tests and shared information of his own. They were square and he owed him nothing.(What?)  It is now established that the Wrights wanted the world to believe that their research was theirs and theirs alone--a myth that came to prevail..

    Eventually, the friendship with the Wright brothers soured to the point that Spratt no longer would answer their letters.

     Dr. Spratt's Stinging Last Letter to Orville Wright

    Much later, in 1922, Orville Wright wrote Spratt for copies of the brothers' letters they had written to him over the years-- (he also tried to acquire Wilbur's letters to Octave Chanute that were in the possession of his daughters after his death.) Orville was apparently compiling his version of the early history of aviation.

     The following letter is Dr. Spratt's response to Orville's request in its entirety. Those who are interested in truth in aviation history need to read this letter carefully:

    Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers, Manuscript Division, Library of Congress, Washington, D.C.**

    Dr George Spratt's last letter to Orville Wright. Emphasis is mine.

     For much, much more about the Spratt/Wright saga and Dr. Spratt's contributions to the Wright flyers, go to this link:

    * I have been since informed that Orville admitted some twenty years later Spratt's and Huffaker's educating the Wrights about the movement of the center of pressure. I will have to research this.

    **This letter can be found in "The Wilbur and Orville Wright Papers" under Series, General Correspondence, Items 214, Images 16 and 17.

    To be continued...

    Wednesday, July 2, 2014

    The Wrights Discovered What? Another Chapter

    Was the Wrights' "original" research original?

    The aspect ratio of the wing

    “I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”-Galileo Galilei 

    "There are no secrets." Glenn Hammond Curtiss

    Gull in flight. Credit NOAA

    Wilbur Wright became seriously interested in aeronautics after Otto Lilienthal, the great German aviation pioneer, lost control of his glider and died from the crash in 1896. Lilienthal's glider experiments had brought him just to the point, it's said, that he planned to attempt manned, powered flight.

    Otto Lilienthal in flight. Credit: National Air and Space Museum Archives, Smithsonian Institution
    Apparently, Wilbur saw the opportunity to continue where Lilienthal left off. Accordingly, he stated his intention, when he wrote to the Smithsonian for information in 1899, to take the level of aviation at that point in time and "add his mite." To read aviation history, however, and the court battles the Wrights instigated in 1909 to establish their intended monopoly, the Wrights pioneered the "secret of 
    flight," starting when Wilbur began his aeronautical investigations.

     Research in aviation history is difficult at the very least. It's full of complicated aeronautical concepts and mathematical formulas, and it's a whole lot easier to accept the Wright version of history. "First to fly, did all their own research with their wind tunnel, Kitty Hawk, 1903, geniuses, etc"--fairly easy to learn sound bites. Advertisers and politicians use sound bites all the time if they want to sell you something, or worse, to make you believe something that might not be totally true. By the time Wright biographies exploded in vast numbers, most people believed that the Wrights' sound bite version was gospel, anyway. In fact, maybe it was the sound bite that the Wrights discovered! It certainly wasn't the "secret(s) of flight." The corrected Smeaton's coefficient, the function of the aspect ratio of the wing, and the travel forward and reversal of the center of pressure were studies  pioneered before the Wrights by Professor Samuel Pierpont Langley. See John David Anderson, Jr.*

    The aspect ratio of the wing is the length of the wing in proportion to the width. Professor Langley's experiments published in 1891 showed that a longer narrower wing ( high aspect ratio), as opposed to a shorter, wider wing (low aspect ratio)' is more efficient in lift. The long, narrow gull wing pictured below, lower right, is designed by nature so that the bird can efficiently soar and glide long distances.

    When Wilbur, who determined to learn aviation, wrote the Smithsonian in 1899 for information about the state of the art; the Institution promptly sent pamphlets and recommended books on the current published knowledge in aeronautical research. Among them were two publications by Professor Langley and one by Edward Chalmers Huffaker. See letter and notes below.

    From the Library of Congress digital collection

    Notes on the back of letter "copy" above. From the LOC digital files

    In the "copy" of his thank you letter, above, we can see that Wilbur orders Professor Samuel Langley's 1891 publication called "Experiments in Aerodynamics" for one dollar. I have provided you with the link that will take you to Langley's publication, complete and digitized online, which is a primary source of Langley's early experiments,  Here we have, fully documented, Professor Langley's experiments and conclusions on the aspect ratio of the wing in chapter V, page 26, "The Plane Dropper."--These are the plane dropping tests that John David Anderson refers to on pages 171-173 of "A History of Aerodynamics." *  Selected quotations from Anderson's book as follows:.
       "Another novel device designed by Langley was his plane dropping apparatus....The most important finding from Langley's plane-dropping tests was that a wing with a high aspect ratio would produce more lift than a wing with a low aspect ratio..."Anderson page 171
     "Wenham had preceded Langley in appreciating the aerodynamic efficiency of high-aspect ratio wings, but Langley was the first to produce an organized set of experimental data clearly showing the superiority of such wings." Anderson page 172
             " An irrefutable demonstration that high-aspect ratio wings were superior to low-aspect ratio wings, and by approximately how much, was good enough for Langley, and that determination was one of his major contributions to applied aerodynamics." Anderson page 173
    But in the 1943 Fred Kelly biography "The Wright Brothers,"** authorized by Orville Wright, we have a description of some of the discoveries the brothers claimed they made from their wind tunnel tests in 1901--ten years after the publication of Langley's report. Among them, see below:

    On page 76 from "The Wright Brothers" by Fred Kelly***

    The trials of the 1902 glider p 79 of The Wright Brothers by Kelly
    Success of the 1902 glider, Kelly p. 80

    With changes to their 1902 glider, particularly the aspect ratio, we see that the Wrights achieved more successful flights than in the disappointing trials of 1901. As noted above, they attributed their success to their wind tunnel tests and their discovery that the higher aspect ratio would provide more lift.

    However, at least one of the aviation pioneers who was at Kitty Hawk in 1901 knew better. It was Edward Chalmers Huffaker.The Wrights ignored or downplayed input by Edward Huffaker and Dr.George Spratt in 1901 whereby they very likely would have been informed of the need to remodel their glider.

      Edward Chalmers Huffaker had worked for Professor Langley at the Smithsonian and conducted Langley's experiments on cambered (curved) wings. Anderson pp 188-190. Even if the Wrights didn't read or understand Professor Langley's treatises, which they had in their possession, or trust his conclusions, as some say, Edward Huffaker would have shared knowledge with the Wrights in 1901 when he was with them at the Wright camp near Kitty Hawk .

    Wrights also downplayed Langley's research by saying that Langley's studies were only on flat planes, so his experiments didn't help them.The truth is that Langley's published work at that time was on flat planes, so they could later get away with that statement (and historians believed them). But it's a little known fact that they had access to Langley's unpublished work on curved surfaces and other research through Huffaker. 

      Before the Wrights' secrecy, it was quite common for pioneers to share their knowledge. Also, Huffaker was a brilliant theoretician, and he had explained the Bernoulli principle regarding flight--how the flow of air over a wing provides lift--even to Langley. This is arguably one of the most important concepts leading to flight by man. See "The Unwelcome Assistant" by Hensley.

    It wasn't the Wrights who originated the early knowledge regarding the function of the shape of the wing.They might have used their wind tunnel tests late in 1901 to verify for themselves much of what was already known, but verifying earlier discoveries is not the same as making the discoveries--as they claimed. 


    Borrowed from the Tennessee Aviation Network. Thank you


    A reader of Fred Howard in "Wilbur and Orville"*** needs to take note of his unacceptable insults and belittling of Edward Huffaker per the Wrights in chapter 8. In fact, they sound like those of a fishwife in a spiteful marriage.  Huffaker was shiftless, unconscientous, and sloppy, they said. He spit tobacco and read with his feet on the desk. What's more, he never changed his shirt. Who cares? Does anyone know whether Newton chewed tobacco or Galileo changed his underwear? But many readers of this Wright "per-version" of history (some might call it) then, will tend to dismiss Huffaker, and many aviation pioneers other than the Wrights, because, as I can demonstrate, the Wrights verbally assassinated their competitors in one way or another, discredited them, their knowledge, and their contributions to aviation. They did it in a way that it sticks. It even crept into John David Anderson Jr.'s book. Sound bites.
    Further, in his book "Wilbur and Orville,"*** Fred Howard, states on page 132 that Dr. Samuel Pierpont Langley's only contribution to aviation was the flights of his models in 1896. This is  a complete contradiction of the facts. But it is the version of history that the Wrights wanted you to believe. (See previous post.) Like many/most Wright historians, Fred Howard didn't do his due diligence. He simply accepted the Wright statements, seriously neglecting his homework on the Wrights' fellow aviators, including Langley.

    Launching Langley's model aerodrome
    Edward Huffaker was likely there.
    Aviation pioneer Samuel Pierpont Langley

    To conclude this post, the Langley history has been perverted by the Wrights, as has the history of many, many other pioneers, including Edward Huffaker and Dr. Spratt (see future post) who were both at Kitty Hawk in 1901. Why? It seems obvious that the true contributions of these pioneers clashed with the Wrights' desire to be remembered as the primary inventors of the airplane and as the first to fly. Note that when Judge John Raymond Hazel's court awarded the Wrights victory in 1913 in their patent infringement lawsuit against Glenn Curtiss, the Wrights were declared by Judge Hazel to be "pioneer inventors" and thus entitled to a broad interpretation of their 1906 patent. This meant that the Wrights" system of warping the wings for lateral control could be equated with Curtiss's system of ailerons because both systems achieved basically the same function, even though the Wrights never thought of ailerons to control their airplanes and didn't mention them in their patent. Therefore, even though ailerons were a vast improvement over wing warping and they have been adopted by planes ever since, and even though planes as a rule have discarded wing warping altogether, Curtiss was declared an infringer of the Wright patent of wing warping.

    To be continued.... 

     *Anderson John D., Jr., "A History of aerodynamics and its impact on flying machines," Cambridge University Press, 1997. Page numbers provided are from this edition.

     **Kelly, Fred, "The Wright Brothers," Harcourt, Brace, and Co., 1943

    ***Howard, Fred, "Wilbur and Orville" Ballantine Books, 1987