Wright 1902 Glider Reproduction

Aircraft Info Group

University of Washington School of Engineering
1902 Glider Replica
Museum Lobby
Museum Lobby

Controlled Flight

Why is this called the most significant aircraft ever built and flown? No, it's not the plane that made history at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina in 1903. However, that aircraft owed its success to the nearly 1,000 stability and control flights the Wrights made with this type of glider. The Wrights' experiments with gliders solved the main problem of heavier-than-air manned flight: control.

The original 1902 Wright glider did not survive. It was left at Kitty Hawk and was destroyed by the elements. In 1960, a team of University of Washington Aeronautical Engineering students built this reproduction, supervised by Professor R.G. Joppa.

The Wright Brothers

Orville and Wilbur were always fascinated with machines. Together, they built and sold mechanical toys, published a paper with Orville's own press, and rented and sold bicycles. The brothers became interested in flying after reading of Otto Lilienthal's death in 1896. When their first gliders didn't provide the lift that Lilienthal's calculations said they should, the Wrights built a wind tunnel and compiled the first reliable tables of air pressures on curved surfaces. Their next glider, the 1902 version, had much-improved aerodynamic qualities and led the way to their first powered flights the following year.

Axes of Flight

Wires on this glider connect the wing tips to a U-shaped cradle beneath the pilot's hips. When the pilot moves the cradle, he twists the wing tips in opposition to each other, and the glider rolls for a turn. Different wires connect the rudder in back to this "wing-warping" mechanism, thus controlling yaw. The pilot controls pitch by rolling the bar in his hands, which changes the position of the elevator in front.

Flight Fact

Originally, the Wrights' 1902 glider had fixed double vanes for a tail. Later, it was modified to a single movable rudder for better control (as in the Museum's reproduction).