Saturday, February 14, 2015

Is It a Flight or Isn't It? History Speaks in 1905

"God cannot alter the past, though historians can."--Samuel Butler

The Wright catapult (shown above). Manual labor was used in France to pull a weight to the top of the derrick. The weight was then dropped to provide the impetus the Wrights needed to propel their "Flyers" into the air.*

Federation Aeronautique Internationale Criteria for a Viable Flight

According to a Santos Dumont website, the Federation Aeronautique Internationale (FAI) was founded on October 14, 1905, to establish worldwide criteria to determine the viability of a heavier than air machine. It was patterned after the International Olympic Committee.

The criteria were as follows:

"a) the flight should be done before an official organization, qualified  to ratify it;

 b) the flight should be done in calm weather and over a plain ground, and  properly documented;

     c) the machine should be able to take off from a designated area by its own means with
     a man on board;

     d) the machine should carry on board the necessary source of energy;

      e) the machine should fly in a straight line;

      f) the machine should make a change of direction (turn and circle);

      g) the machine should return to the starting point."

The Dumont website states that since the FAI knew that it would be difficult to fulfill all the criteria in a first attempt, the members established a prize for the first ratified flight that could fulfill the first five criteria (a) to (e). The other two criteria could be fulfilled later. Important to historians is that they established that flight in a straight line should exceed 100 m (328 ft)." Later Ernest Archdeacon in France offered a prize to the first aviator that could achieve the criteria with a flight of a reduced length of 25 meters..

 The Wright "Flyer I" on December 17, 1903, met only a part of one of these criteria in "c." There must be a man on board. As for fulfilling the remaining criteria, the Wright "Flyer" was not viable.

       (a) Neither "flight"** was before an official organization, qualified to ratify it.

       (b) Neither "flight" was in calm weather. There was a near gale force wind. The "flights" were not over a "plain ground," according to the witnesses who were there. They were from a track set on a hill. The presence of a track and the hill would preclude "plain ground," as we understand it. Neither "flight" was properly documented, only claimed by the Wrights in their statements and writing. The photograph was not as it was said to be. See former posts.

       (c) The plane was not able to take off from a designated area by its own means. It needed the assistance of the hill and gravity, according to the witnesses who were there. And a headwind of over twenty mph helped provide the necessary lift on the wings. (Later, even with a more powerful engine, the Wrights used an inclined plane, wind, and/or a catapult for their "Flyers.") There was indeed a man on board.

      (d).  The plane did not carry on board all of the necessary sources of energy if the pull of gravity and the headwind provided impetus. Without these it's highly doubtful that the flyer had enough power to take off. To back this statement up, it is stated that the Wright Flyer I reconstructions today are not able to take off without a headwind. Note the dismal failure before the public in 2003.

      (e) The plane didn't travel in a straight line.The undulations described by the Wrights (and the witnesses) mean that the plane didn't have good pitch control, and this was probably one of the reasons for the crashes of both Orville and Wilbur's flight attempts in 1903. According to Culick, they never used the wing warping apparatus in 1903 in the powered flight attempts, "they were too busy trying to keep the plane in the air." To claim that a control apparatus was on board that worked in three dimensions, as "Wrightists" say, does not mean that it was viable at the time or that the flight was "controlled."

We have come upon assurances by Wright "historians" (link as an example.) that the FAI since that time accepted the Wrights' 1903 attempts at flight as the first flights. How can that be? Did they change their rules? Even if there could have been provided in 1903 an official group to observe and ratify the Wrights' attempts, the Flyer I was in no way capable of attaining the criteria as delineated above. On the other hand, the Whitehead machine definitely might have been capable from actual witness descriptions and the successes of reconstructions. Whitehead had the power plant and the lift, and it's later been determined that he had a steering mechanism.

Santos Dumont actually flew in 1906 (below) with official witnesses and won two prizes offered in France by Ernest Archdeacon. The Brazilians claim that he was the first to fly. There is no doubt that he was the first to make an official flight in Europe.*** Glenn H. Curtiss officially flew over a kilometer in 1908. He was the first to make a preannounced public flight in the United States.

The "Wrightists" have claimed they didn't really need their catapult to take off , e.g. 1904-1908); they cite flights of over 1000 feet in the summer of 1904 in Dayton, and that their catapult wasn't used until September of that year. However, no one denies a launch into a headwind was necessary for the Wright "Flyers." Unfortunately, we have only the word of the Wrights as to statistics and numbers of claimed flights that summer of 1904, and their willingness to stretch the truth makes acceptance reserved and unsettling. Using the Wrights' word as a reference, as most so called "authorities" do, is indeed a slippery slope.The Wrights were "gunning for" a patent and needed to state that they had a successful working machine to receive it. Documenting successful flights whether they ever happened or no would be a necessary prerequisite if they were ever to receive a patent.

At Kill Devil Hills in both 1903 and 1908, they had both the headwind and the hills (gravity) to provide assistance in taking off. A track was always needed, since the plane had no wheels. But the wind would have been prevailing close to the ocean at Kill Devil Hills, so they could more or less predict what direction to set up their needed track.  Most anywhere else, they had to re-lay the track to change its direction whenever the wind shifted to their disadvantage.

 As for "Wrightist" claims that the Wrights' "Flyer" I could take off from level ground, the catapult begs the question: Could they have achieved their claimed 852 feet flight without gravity plus the wind or a catapult plus the wind (if they had had one)? I haven't seen or heard of that demonstrated with any reconstructions. I would be interested in being informed if faithful and accurate reproductions have ever achieved that goal.

There are "reproductions" that have been modified in the light of present day knowledge that strike me as somewhat fraudulent, since the public is told that these demonstrate the "real Wright Flyers." See "Wright 'Flyer' Replicas and Reconstructions" in this blog: "Truth in Aviation History." As for a need of the catapult, it is common knowledge that the Wrights used it when they went public at Fort Meyer in 1908 and in Europe in 1908 as well, even though other aviators didn't need one. This did not impress the Europeans.

According to the Dumont website, the FAI analyzed previous flight reports before the organization was formed in 1905, and it concluded that no one had fulfilled their criteria.

"Many reports had already been done about flights by airplanes. In the 1890s, the Frenchman Clément Ader (1841-1926) made a flight demonstration before officers of the French Army with his Avion III...[What Ader was able to achieve has not been totally agreed upon because reports are conflicting.--ed.] At the same time, the German Otto Lilienthal (1848-1896), who had been conducting safety glides, made an experiment with a single-engine model. Jumping from the top of a hill, he managed to maintain himself in the air without, however, improving his performance. He returned to work with gliders until he died in an accident..."

"In 1901, the Teutonic-American Gustave Whitehead (1874-1927) announced that he had managed to take off and to fly in his machine. Whitehead’s feat was witnessed by almost 20 people, but no appropriate commission was there to observe it." {We maintain that if there is enough evidence that a pioneer fulfilled or was able to fulfill the essential FAI criteria, we should not historically eliminate their flights as viable]

The Dumont website states, "In 1903, the Wright American brothers, Orville (1871-1948) and Wilbur (1867-1912) announced, by telegram, that they flew with the Flyer, starting from a field with an inclination of about nine degrees,**** and wind around 40 km/h (24.9 mph). In the following two years, they announced that they were making turns and long flights in closed circuits, but their machine depended on wind conditions or the use of a catapult to take off. Other reports were released, but none of them complied with all the criteria adopted by FAI." [As to the later claimed flights by the Wrights before their public flights in 1908, a number of witnesses were named by the Wrights. Their validity is in question. Many were known friends and family members. The Wrights' claimed statistics haven't yet been fairly analyzed and verified because, again, their were no unbiased officials present. Analysis and documentation in this blog prove that the Wrights' were prone to manipulate the truth to their advantage.]

With the criteria stated above, did the FAI ever come to accept the Wright's 1903 flight attempts as the first flights in history?  Were they convinced by all the Wrights' statements and published assertions?. Or did the FAI change or ease the qualifications at some time to accommodate the legend that became accepted that they were indeed the first to fly? This is an area of aviation history that needs to be thoroughly and honestly researched.


*The catapult was not used until 1904 when the Wrights no longer had the assistance of the hills and prevailing winds that they had at Kill Devil Hills. This photo appears to be of the catapult at Pau, France.

** Since our research indicates that there were only two attempts at powered flight on December 17, we choose not to accept the Wrights' version of four. The only basis we can find for stating there were four attempts is the word of the Wrights. Please refer to previous blog posts. Please inform us if there are documents other than the Wrights' that support their claim.

***Ader could be a contender for first flight.

****The Wrights claimed their "flights" December 17, 1903, were from level ground.