Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summary of last six posts with comments

 "A lie told often enough becomes the truth."--Vladimir Lenin
 An incredible amount has been written about the Wright brothers. Most is a repeat of a rehash of the Wrights' own story with interpretations and elaborations--something like the game of "gossip." The majority of people and Wright biographers have accepted the Wright myth. So have so called "experts." The Wright story has been repeated so often that anything else actually does sound like "conspiracy theory."  So the question is, do we even want to know the truth? And if so,where do we go to get it?

Check out this quotation from one Wright brothers web site, called Wright Brothers Airplane Company: 

                                                           "Primary Sources"
"When writing an (sic) report on an (sic) historical event, your most reliable sources are eyewitness accounts from people who actually saw or participated in the event. These are called primary sources. The best primary sources for the invention of the airplane are the Wright brothers themselves, who -- fortunately for us -- left behind reams of letters, diaries, photographs, technical papers, and other first-person accounts of their experiments. We also have a good many reports from relatives, friends, neighbors, employees, and associates who knew them well and were part of their lives." (bold emphasis mine)

Of course, primary sources can be the most reliable source of what happened in an event, but the best primary sources will rarely if ever be people who have reasons to manipulate the truth. For an example, if we were in a criminal court, the person who committed the crime would certainly not be the most reliable source of information. Family members and friends wouldn't carry a lot of weight either.

In aviation history from 1899 on, the most reliable sources are not the Wright brothers. At a certain point, probably very early in their career, the Wrights began to prepare for a monopoly of aviation. Their stories would have to back up their claim--in court--that they were the "pioneer inventors" of the airplane.There is far too much evidence that they were not.

With the aim of a monopoly and other probable reasons that seem obvious but must be considered speculation, the Wright brothers systematically promoted themselves and belittled nearly everyone else. Historians bought the story because it was a good one and usually made sense. The Wright story, in my opinion, was a result of a series of fortuitous decisions by the Wrights, sheer luck, and genius (but not so much in invention as in accommodating [for themselves] others' research). And they were amazing at weaving intricate explanations of various events, such as reasons for their secrecy..
The owners of the Wright Airplane Company website mentioned above might be considered the Wrights' loyal friends.  The huge site demonstrates the length that loyal "Wright friends" will go to in order to convince people that their "Wright story" is correct. Notice below the "Primary Source" quotation on the "Help with Homework page that the books recommended for reading are all accounts by the Wrights or interpretations of their accounts. In addition to authors mentioned in the previous post, it's imperative to add Marvin MacFarland and Peter Jakab as biased Wright historians.

However, regardless of how many times the Wright brothers claimed (and their loyal friends repeat their claims) that they discovered the secret of flight, developed the first viable airplane, and were the first to make a controlled, sustained, powered, manned, heavier than air flight in 1903, it doesn't make it the truth.

Below is a summary of the last six posts of this blog that investigates, among other issues, the veracity of the Wrights and some of the reasons why we can't accept their statements. See former post for a summary of the first six posts. For most of the references and links, see the original posts.

Post #8   Orville Wright's "True" Fiction for the Boy Scouts and for "Very Young People"

 In 1942, twenty eight years after Orville's article came out in Boys' Life magazine, in which he claimed he made Wilbur's 852 feet "flight" at Kitty Hawk" in 1903 , a man named Max J. Herzberg queried Orville about the article. He wanted to use it in an anthology. Orville admitted then that his longest flight claim was in error, but stated he never "got around" to correcting it. Twenty eight years. At nearly the same time in 1942, Orville wrote to Herzberg, complaining about an article written in  a magazine called "The Independent" in 1904  that he said was completely erroneous and attributed to Wilbur. The editor of the article, Orville said, had never openly corrected  the article.  (As a matter of fact, the editor of this article had published apologies in the magazine on two separate occasions.)

Now the editor, Orville said, was teaching young people at a college. By this time, Orville, who was hoodwinking the Boy Scouts of America, had been made an honorary member of the organization. Also, by this time, the Boy Scout article had been republished--with no serious corrections. Ironic that the first law of the Boy Scouts is honesty.

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

Orville's claim that he made Wilbur's flight of 852 feet in the Boys' Life article is the most glaring fabrication in this article. But a careful read of his story, together with some knowledge of what the Wrights had claimed before 1914, unearths a whole treasure trove of contradictions and exaggerations.

For instance, Orville explains that he never attempted a turn in his (actually Wilbur's) 852 feet flight because the hills got in the way. But we were clearly told by the Wrights themselves in 1903 and later that they took off from level ground.   Did they confront hills after that? A picture that the Wrights claimed was of the last flight shows no hills.

Post #10  Wright "Flyer" Replicas and Reconstructions

Replicas of the Wright Flyer I are virtually impossible to fly. No matter how much time, money, and expertise modern day engineers spend to replicate the Wrights' claimed successes of December 17, 1903, they haven't been able to reproduce that same success, even a 120 feet flight. And there is more than one group building more than one version.

 The AIAA placed at least one small model and full sized version of the Flyer in the wind tunnel at Caltech and came up with serious flaws in the Wright design. The elevator causes stalls, the air foil is wrong, and the plane is so unstable that even modern day pilots can't figure out how the Wrights ever got it off the ground, let alone through the air.

The Wright Experience group tried to demonstrate their replica at the Centennial of Flight in 2003, taking off from level ground, and it flopped.

Comparisons should be made to the Curtiss reconstruction of Professor Langley's 1903 aerodrome.
Langley's manned, powered full sized tandem plane failed to launch twice in 1903, due to failures in the launching mechanism. The plane predated the Wrights' claimed flight in December of that year. An unbiased engineer could probably easily explain what happened, but honest studies haven't been done. Langley couldn't continue his experiments due to lack of money. Note that the Wright planes have failed to launch so many times that most people have lost count, if they ever knew. Nevertheless, Orville Wright and Wright historians deliberately dubbed the Langley plane a failed design. Not a failed launch, a failed design.

 Eleven years later in 1914, Glenn Curtiss put 350 pound pontoons on Professor Langley's 1903 reconstructed aerodrome for the Smithsonian and flew it off the level waters of Lake Keuka in New York with the original engine (original, though disabled). Orville Wright called the trials fraud. He harassed the Smithsonian to death that Curtiss had made changes to the plane with knowledge of the day, knowledge that was unknown in 1903, in order to make it fly. Strange that even with some of the changes by our modern day engineers, over a century later, the Wright flyer can't fly--and/or is still a possible death trap.
Reconstructed Langley aerodrome at Hammondsport , NY.

Wright historians won't tell you that most of the changes Glenn Curtiss made to the Langley reconstruction in 1914 handicapped the plane. Some changes were necessary for the addition of the 350 pound pontoons, such as a change in trussing, and some were for the purpose of saving money, such as replacing ribs that were broken with solid ribs instead of hollow ones. Of course, there had to be some re-balancing due to the pontoons. There is much more to this story and you won't read it from Wright historians.

To try to extract a false admission from the Smithsonian that the Langley aerodrome was "incapable of flight," Orville, maintaining that the original Wright flyer was in existence, sent a "reconstruction" of it to England, calling it the "original flyer." After much publicity about this move and enormous pressure from Orville Wright, his friends, Griffith Brewer (who had concocted the scheme) and Fred Kelly (his biographer), and importantly, from the general public, who wanted what they were told was their "Wright flyer" back from England, the Smithsonian caved in and wrote a public apology. The Smithsonian statement said that Curtiss's tests in 1914 didn't "prove" the Langley plane was capable of flight, but Wright historians omit Secretary Abbott's statement that that they didn't disprove it either.

However, if we apply Orville's reasoning to his own Wright flyer today, modern tests and modifications, so far, at Caltech, as an example, actually do prove that the Wright flyer was incapable of sustained, controlled flight.

The plane hanging at the Smithsonian is Orville's last reconstruction and probably contains even less of the original flyer than we are told, according to a witness statement. As usual, we only have Orville's word over that of his witnesses..

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

This post clearly demonstrates that Wright historians credit the corrected number for calculating lift, called Smeaton's coefficient, to the Wright brothers. This is patently false. Professor Langley corrected Smeaton's coefficient to very close to the modern number with his incredibly accurate systems of measurements. The Wright brothers were aware that Langley had corrected the number as shown in a letter they wrote in 1902, before they ever did their wind tunnel tests.

It must also be noted that historians time and time again repeat what Orville Wright stated, time and time again--that the great glider pioneer Lillienthal's tables of lift were wrong. This is not true. According to aero-dynamics expert John David Anderson, Jr., Lilienthal's tables were not incorrect. The tables didn't work for the Wrights in 1901 because they were naively using the old outdated Smeaton's number to calculate lift as well as a wing of a different shape from Lilienthal's.

Post #12 The Wrights Discovered What? Another Chapter

Professor Langley also demonstrated that the aspect ratio of the wing contributes to lift. He published the results of his experiments in his book in 1891. The Wrights owned the book.

Nevertheless, in Fred Kelly's 1948 book, authorized by Orville Wright, he claims that he and Wilbur discovered the function of the aspect ratio of the wing with their wind tunnel experiments.
Kill Devil Hill, 1901, left to right: Edward Huffaker, Octave Chanute, Wilbur Wright,  Dr. George Spratt

In this post Edward Chalmers Huffaker is introduced. Huffaker was a brilliant aviation pioneer who visited the Wrights at Kitty Hawk in 1901, to help them at Octave Chanute's request. Huffaker, much earlier, was lauded by Langley to be the first he knew to realize that the Bernoulli principle for fluids also applies to air. Huffaker stated that the pressure of air, like a fluid, changes with its speed; and the resultant changes in pressure when air travels over and under the curved wing of an airplane are what give the wing its lift. This was a monumental discovery. Huffaker's publication was sent to Wilbur by the Smithsonian in 1899.

What we get from Wright oriented history about Huffaker is that he was "slovenly" and that the Wrights didn't like him. (Huffaker's supposed casual attitude has spread throughout the Wright history, but more than likely was a tale begun by Augustus Herring, who like Huffaker, had worked at the Smithsonian. Professor Langley highly recommended Huffaker but was not so pleased with Herring.) What we don't get in the Wright history is that Huffaker did much of Langley's research on cambered surfaces for him and with his knowledge, was in a position to help the Wrights on that score in 1901, as well as with the movement of the center of pressure on a wing.

Huffaker was not credited by the Wrights for his contributions, except for a short slip by Wilbur that wasn't repeated.

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

The Wright brothers turned their backs on the early pioneers who helped them in the first years of development of their Wright Flyer. In the case of scientists' work that predated theirs, they claimed it was all wrong.

Dr. George Spratt, Kill Devil Hill, 1901, from photo above
George Spratt was another early pioneer who, like Huffaker, was asked by Chanute to help the Wrights at Kitty Hawk in 1901 because, as Spratt said, their early glider was a failure. He was free with his help and knowledge from 1901 on, and it was his suggestions that the Wrights incorporated into their wind tunnel tests.

Published in this post is a letter by Spratt in 1922, twenty one years later. A reading of the letter reveals the ingratitude of the Wrights, their failure to credit those who helped them, and their refusal to help others in return. Spratt clearly stated that the Wrights were deserving of censure for claiming that their "invention" was their own work and for manipulating history.

To be continued....

Note: For more information, see