Materials Used for the Wright Brothers Plane

Written by henri bauholz
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Materials Used for the Wright Brothers Plane
The biplane has changed quite a bit since the first days of flight. (biplane image by Tomasz Pawlowski from Fotolia.com)

Wilbur and Orville Wright were Dayton, Ohio, bicycle designers and mechanics who, just before the 20th century, became interested in aeroplane aerodynamics. In 1903, the brothers journeyed from their home in Ohio to Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, where they made the first recorded flight in their biplane.

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Wood

The brothers used spruce to make much of the wing structure and frame of the original Wright Flyer. Spruce is a lightweight wood with tensile strength that is sometimes used in building boats because of its flexibility. According to "Learning To Fly," one variety of this tree, the Sitka spruce, has been popular with aeroplane designers because of its light weight and inexpensive price.

The Wright brother's spruce frame design didn't fade away after the first flights in North Carolina. One very successful WW II plane called the Mosquito was made from wood and aeroplane cloth, but the infamous "Spruce Goose" built by Howard Hughes was mostly made of birch.

Fabric

The wood frame wings were covered with a muslin cloth and in some ways were not much different from a large box kite. Overall the Wright Flyer weighed 272 Kilogram, with the fabric most likely accounting for only a small portion of that weight. Cloth aeroplane wings were common in the early years, but they were eventually replaced by a polyester-coated fabric. The new plastic material remained in use even after metal came into play as a suitable wing and body covering.

Bicycle Tubing

Around 1892, the Wright Brothers became fascinated by the bicycle craze that was sweeping the western world. Soon they were building and designing their own two-wheeled vehicles, a skill that became useful when their interest turned to gliders and then powered flight. The inventive duo used the steel tubing of the bicycle frame on parts of the plane that needed the extra strength.

Wire

Guide wires were an important and delicate part of the Wright brothers' aeroplane construction. The aviators had to take care when adjusting the wires, for they controlled the mobility of the wings. If adjusted too tightly, the wings became inflexible and the aeroplane was difficult to control. And if the wires were too loose, then the plane might crash right after take-off.

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