Discussion in 'Classics' started by fastaviationdata, Sep 4, 2013.
Hi, I want to know what is the oldest aircraft and can you give me a good picture of that?
More info is needed. For example; oldest existing airplane, oldest design for an airplane, oldest existing model airplane, oldest airplane for which there is a picture...
I saw a TV show where some guys built a hang glider to Leonardo DaVinci's drawings and all they did was add a vertical tail surface and it flew just fine. On the other hand, if you count evolution as a design process, then there are some very old aircraft indeed...
The oldest aircraft in the world still flying is a 1909 Bleriot XI belonging to the Shuttleworth Trust in England:
Shuttleworth Old Warden Park - The Shuttleworth Aircraft Collection
There is always a law against doing anything interesting.
Everything worth doing flies in the face of some authority
How old? Da Vinci had some aircraft designs.
2500 years ago, the Chinese already had man-carrying kites. The first practical aircraft was without a doubt Lilienthal. With 2000 flights also the giant the Wright bros stood on.
Erm, no. The Wrights originally used Lilienthal's airfoil tables for their first (1900, 1901) glider designs. The fact that the tables were grossly incorrect and virtually worthless in predicting the lifting capability of an arbitrary set of wings* is what led them into their own wind-tunnel research. Lilienthal was flying weight-shift hang-gliders. His was hardly the first glider (that was Cayley, in 1853), although, prior to the 1902 Wright glider, they were arguably the best. Lilienthal was definitely an inspiration to the Wrights, but virtually none of his technology or knowledge contributed directly to the Wright's endeavors, once they discarded his airfoil/air pressure tables. To say that they "stood on his shoulders" would be a gross exaggeration.
In fact, the Wright's story is one of the truly great ones in science. They invented or discovered all of the following concepts using their own research:
The concept that higher aspect-ratio wings are more efficient lifting surfaces (from their wind-tunnel research - the theory came later from others)
Blade-element propeller theory (arguably their greatest contribution to science, and one of the most overlooked)
A table of airfoils of predictable behavior based on actual wind-tunnel data, similar to what we would now use from Ribblett, NACA, etc.
The notion that an aircraft should not be extremely stable in all axes (that controllability is paramount)**
A working three-axis aerodynamic control system
They also designed and build their own motor for the 1903 Flyer, from scratch. No, it was not a modified motor from some other manufacturer.
The first "practical" (in the sense you're using the word here), heavier-than-air, man-carrying airplane was the Wright 1902 glider. It was the first with full three-axis aerodynamic controls and the first with airfoils and wings developed from actual wind-tunnel data, as opposed to trial-and-error fiddling. Note on the picture below, the deflections of the wing-warping (aileron) and rudder. He's commanding a coordinated left turn. Look familiar?
The first "practical" powered aircraft was the Wright 1903 Flyer. And this is the first powered, controlled, heavier-than-air human flight:
All of this has long been agreed upon by both historians and engineers alike for decades.
* In fact, the 1901 glider, whose wings were based on Lilienthal's tables, produced about one-third the lift that it should have, based on those tables. The previous year's glider, also based on Lilienthal's tables, was just as poorly performing. The 1902 glider, based on the Wright's own wind-tunnel data, performed as predicted by their numbers. Lilienthal's aerodynamic data was deeply flawed.
** European thinking (indeed, everyone's thinking) at the time was that an airplane should have strong inherent stability in all axes, and that the "pilot" would simply steer the aircraft in the direction he wanted to go, rather like a carriage or cart on the ground. It was the Wrights who first codified the idea that controllability in all three axes was paramount. They overdid it a bit (the Flyer was slightly statically unstable in both pitch and roll), but their fundamental concept was correct.
And yet after they did all that they hid in their bunker and hoarded their knowledge not to come out until others had innovated and produced much better aircraft that were commercial successes and then suddenly they felt left behind and stifled the early aircraft industry by suing everyone over with their patents on their already obsolete flight systems.
Wikipedia says: The Wright brothers made no flights at all in 1906 and 1907. They spent the time attempting to persuade the U.S. and European governments that they had invented a successful flying machine and were prepared to negotiate a contract to sell such machines.
Contrast with Santos Dumont, from wikipedia: The June 1910 edition of the Popular Mechanics magazine published drawings of the Demoiselle and stated, "This machine is better than any other which has ever been built, for those who wish to reach results with the least possible expense and with a minimum of experimenting." American companies sold drawings and parts for Demoiselles for several years afterward. Santos-Dumont was so enthusiastic about aviation that he made the drawings of the Demoiselle available free of charge, thinking that aviation would lead to a new prosperous era for mankind.
The Wrights' story despite all their technical achievement is a pretty far cry from being a "truly great one" IMHO and I think it is a major disservice to others to paint them in rose colors and forget the bit where they became the first patent trolls. If they hadn't existed the aviation world would have moved on just the same.
They were still the first, and those achievements are still theirs.
The morality of patents is a twenty-first century debate. It wasn't one at the beginning of the twentieth.
Put a caveman in its mouth and you have the earliest "man carrying" flying .......thing. Of course, the caveman is its dinner, but we can just call it a "deathtrap of a airframe".
fastaviationdata, You have not defined your request any further so I guess anything goes. Sir Hiram Maxim's aircraft has been dismissed by historians but it had every thing it needed to fly and in fact did so in 1894. Maxim knew he would not know how to pilot it and so restricted its flight with a check rail that limited it to a height of 2' only. Check out the story and pictures here:- The Pioneers : An Anthology : Sir Hiram Maxim (1840 - 1916) Topaz, The Wright's 1903 aircraft was not a practical machine as it required a strong wind to take off. The propeller was probably not able to generate sufficient static thrust to get it moving fast enough as was demonstrated in 2003 when the replica failed to fly in the low wind.
Maxim's aircraft had sufficient thrust and very likely lifting area, and did, in fact, lift off of its rails before fouling on the upper rails intended to keep it from becoming fully airborne. But that's not "flight", in accepted terms, as the vehicle had no flight controls beyond what was, essentially, a pitch trim. Maxim himself said his vehicle was intended only for measuring thrust and lift, and was intended to be research that would lead to a later attempt at an actual flying machine.
You can say what you want regarding "practicality" and the Wright's Flyer but the fact remains that it flew. Arguing that a wind was "required" to fly is absurd - a headwind simply shortens the ground run required, and has nothing to do with the aircraft's ability to lift off under it's own power. If a "replica" failed to fly in 2003 (link, please?), then I'd say that there was something wrong with the replica. We have photographic evidence that the 1903 Flyer actually flew. Nice try, but no.
Can I note that the people here trying to say that the Wrights weren't first to fly are all Europeans, and are all trying to say a European was first? Cayley made the first glider, ever. The Montgolfier brothers built the first free-flight manned flying vehicle of any kind. Europe has plenty of "firsts" to its credit. Why does this one chafe so much? It's fully documented, the definitions under which the Wrights were "first" are accepted by any reasonable historian, and yet we still get French saying it was Ader or DuMont, Englishmen touting Maxim, etc. I appreciate nationalism, but come on, guys!
Whitehead claimed priority as did montgomery in California and Pearce in New Zealand --discuss (out of time) -just got an extension .. John Brown has revived the controversy and claims to have gotten the Smithsonian to have creditted Gustave Weiskopf (whitehead) with flying under power first --in a steam powered two seater what's more ! the wrights first flights at Kitty Hawk were into a strong wind with a below sea level density altitude --the act of zooming (into a wind gradient) actually amounted to dynamic soaring and of course the land was sloping downwards to the sea --when later replicas were tried to be flown most (all?) refused to and it was the later (post 1908) incarnation that was flown reliably . No doubt that the Wright's had more influence on later aircraft than any of the contemporary efforts even though their primary patents (related to wing warping) were dead ends . Like everything else the Flyer embodied ideas from many different sources and it was via Octave Chanute that they were able to incorporate things like Hargrave's braced biplane concept, cambered airfoils etc -- not themselves sufficient for a successful flying machine but essentail inputs . Just as Isaac Newton was lauded as a lone genius but "stood on the shoulders of giants' like Galileo and others who very nearly annunciated the "three laws" and the writings of the real ancients --so did the Wrights owe a lot to those who had preceded them or were contemporaries -- They specifically demanded that the Smithsonian not credit Montgomery or Whitehead which itself raises questions about priority (Montgomery clearly 'invented' the aileron long before the Wrights patents as had others before him ) The word successful comes into focus in their claim as much as first does -- Percy Pilcher's pre 1901 aircraft was successfully flown as a reproduction and of course Langley's pre Wright design that folded up (incidentally I have the book on Langley's aircraft and launching apparatus, beautifully illustrated enginering drawings etc published by the museum of Tasmania for some reason -- his model flew well without any help so that says something )
Peter Garrison commented on the revived Whitehead controversy in a recent US Flying (it's probably on his website also) --the same controversy surrounds first flight of a roadable aircraft (with whitehead being favourite for some )
I was wondering when we were going to hear from the outback... Any Russians want to jump in with Mozhaiski?
When someone else finally lands on the Moon, are we going to have arguments whether Armstrong was really "first", too? Lord...
Not for everybody nationalism is the leitmotiv. Being from a small country you get exposed to the exploits and history of many other countries. Refreshing... because despite there being only one history, the local stories are completely different, including aviation. The bigger/more isolated cultures are, the more their stories deviate from others.
Just to put some oil on the fire... the Netherlands is the biggest aircraft manufacturer in the world. How's that for far-fetched nationalistic nonsense:ban:
It all depends on your definition. I'd say that fully controlled, repeatable flights are what counts. That puts Cayley, or more likely Lilienthal as the first "relevant" free flight and the Wrights as a firm first in the "first controlled flight without external power", which is IMHO far more complex as just controlled flight.
Here's a fun film; the first 20 minutes are a little bit Monty Python-esqe, and it's pretty Euro-centric while not discounting the Wright brothers contributions. There's even something for Aircar at 55:46, and what appears to be an original film from 1909 or a very good replica flying at 30:45,
After witnessing a flight by the Wright brothers in Europe, Santos-Dumont said "To them we are as children".
Topaz, Maxim was an American so hardly a nationalistic claim of a European! The point about requiring a strong headwind was that until sufficient air flowed over the propeller, not the wings, it was stalled and could not produce enough thrust to move the aircraft to take of speed. The same problem is experienced on the HPA's as the power is so low. The propellers are design for cruise speed and not take off! At 12hp the 1903 flyer was underpowered and therefore not a practical aircraft. Maxim's aircraft had 360hp from two engines which could have been used differentially for turning in free flight. The dihedral on the main wings would have given stability and there was pitch control fore and aft giving a two axis aircraft. Aerofoil research was conducted by many of the early pioneers including the use of wind tunnels and whirling arm devices. In fact Spratt assisted the Wrights in designing their test apparatus for L/D calculations but little credit was given to him by the Wrights. Making an unstable aircraft may have enabled them to fly more precisely and for the aircraft to respond quickly but how many modern aircraft are designed that way. Modern fighter jets maybe, but then super fast computers compensate to enable them to be flown by human pilots. youtube video:- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aOuDAI0CIPE does not play in UK maybe it will in the USA? Try this :- http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sL5qDUAvGHs
Do you have something - anything - that will back up this claim? The Wrights invented blade element theory, and it seems highly unlikely that they'd commit such an error when they had a better understanding of propellers than anyone in the world at the time. And they repeatedly said the Flyer was capable of taking off in still air. You're saying that's not true, and I'm sorry if I take their word over yours, without some kind of actual information to back it up.
Whether or not the Wright's aircraft was "practical" in the utilitarian sense is entirely immaterial to the question. When is the first of anything ready to spring, fully-formed, into production use?
The fact remains that even Maxim said his vehicle was simply a rig for testing thrust and lift, and was not intended to be a complete aircraft design. Even he never intended it to actually fly. I'm not exactly sure why you have this hostility towards the Wrights, but it's misplaced.
Well Marc -if it comes to it , the first human presence on the Moon was Lunakod with "made in Russia" stamped on it (in Cyrillic of course ):gig: It is not a matter of nationalism as such ( Whitehead was a German national and Montgomery was American but both worked in the good ole USA so it hardly detracts from the attribution of a NAtion -- Chanute observed in his "progress in flying machines" (1899 I think offhand) that "if any one man deserves to fly it is the Australian Laurence Hargreave " -check it out (and Chanute was not backward in being critical, even scathing, of many others in the field and of course also fell out with the Wrights over their inability to give credit to those who helped. BTW neither Sydney (hargreave) or Melbourne is 'outback' ...
I am indebted to Autoreply to add the qualifier about "without external power" --since many considered that the use of ATO was a breach of the unwritten rules --and allowed the Wrights to dispense with the weight and drag of a landing gear as well as getting 'over the hump' on take off (even for the man powered aircraft contest rules external assistance was outlawed because it gave an 'unfair advantage' to getting airborne --as it still does --anyway, the point is that it all depends on how you frame the task as to who was first to do what . In Richard Millar's book (1965) "without visible means of support" on the history and prehistory of gliding there appear photos of EXACT "Rogallo' hang gliders from the pre 1900 period and also the later Platz 'sail glider' which was debatably the first 'modern' hang glider (the 'real' first "modern" hang glider is, recognized in fact -by the Smithsonian even, attributed to an Australian ,John Dickenson, who flew publicly at the 1963 Jacaranda festival in NSW from a speed boat towed launch in free flight --he and Bill Moyes (and Bennet) took the sport to the US thereafter .
We have to be open minded about where the roots of some facet of aviation or other technologies really lie --and it is a matter of chance sometimes as to whether they 'take off' from the first showing or go into hibernation for decades only to be reinvented or revived much later . The history of rocket flight follows just such an unlikely path from the overlooked Goddard to some German enthusiasts via the Nazis to the moon ......... (and yes Virginia, Americans really did stand on the Moon - first )
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