The Wright-Dunbar Interpretive Center in downtown Dayton, Ohio highlights the life of the Wright Brothers, a section on balloons & parachutes and an area about the life of Paul Laurence Dunbar.
Paul Dunbar's life and works show. the dilemma of "twoness" facing 19th century African Americans. He was an American and a Negro. He is known by his books and his poetry. He was a high school friend with whom Orville Wright often walked home. Later the Wright Brothers printed the newspaper he published as well as tickets and handbills for Dunbar's public readings.
The first free fall parachute canopies were made of silk and continued until the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 which cut off the supply of silk.
A synthetic material called nylon was a replacement for silk. It had an advantage over silk because it was resistant to attacks by insects, mold and other organisms.
Modern material is a zero porosity fabric that lets no air through it! It allows for inflation of aerodynamic cells, making parachutes behave much like a glider wing
In 1903 the first parachute jumpers put on exhibitions for the public.
Parachutes were used in WWI, but got caught on parts of the plane as it was being pulled out of the plane. It had to be pulled out of the door by the jumper.
Floyd Smith, a former circus acrobat and test pilot worked on a new concept with race car driver, Guy Ball. Have the parachute worn by the aviator!
Now parachutes are even used in space. They are constructed of two durable lightweight fabrics, polyester and nylon. A triple bridle is made of zylon similar to material used in bullet-proof vests.
The Ejection Seat----
As WW II drove air speeds higher and higher it became clear that jumping from aircraft would no longer work. Enter the Ejection Seat!
The pilot using the first one blasted through the roof of the plane traveling 300 mph at 6,000 feet above Patterson Air Field. He went into a vertical speed of 40 mph straight up, missing the tail of the plane on his way down by 20 feet! Once clear he and the seat went separate ways and his chute opened automatically!
As an official of the Church of the United Brethren in Christ, Orville & Wilbur Wright's dad did a lot of traveling. He and their mother encouraged the children to try new things, explore ideas and to read. On one of his trips he purchased a toy helicopter toy for the boys. Their mother would make toys to be put into Breakfast food as a prize.
Dayton, Ohio was an innovator, leading the nation in patents per capita by 1890. It was a nurturing environment for the curious and creative brothers. From childhood they tinkered, built and showed an entrepreneurial bent.
Orville & Wilbur built their first printing press. It was built mostly out of wood. Orville said, "It was not "repaired with wood, pieces of string & wood"---it was originally built that way!" They started by printing material for their father's church related business. By the age of 17 they were running their own weekly newspaper, operating printing shops from 1887 to 1899.
Next was a bicycle business. Bicycles were becoming popular. Friends would bring their bicycles to them for repairs. They decided to make their own. It was interesting to see that they had wooden rims on some of their models. "The Wright Special will contain nothing but high grade material through out. We shall put it on the market at the exceedingly low price of $60." At that time that was a good amount of money, but they were selling quality!
At the end of the 1800's technology had changed the world in unfathomable ways. Everything seemed possible--everything but controlled flight. These 2 bicycle men from Dayton quietly decided they might be able to do the impossible.
The brothers studied information from other experiments in flying. In 1899 they wrote to the Smithsonian Institute requesting information on aviation. The reply provided them with more information to study.
A quote from Wilbur Wright--"It is the complexity of the flying problem that makes it so difficult. It is not to be solved by stumbling upon a secret but by the patient accumulation of information-----That is why we think a quick solution is impossible."
Their systemic study was methodical and meticulous with charts, notebooks with notes and even the construction of a wind tunnel.
Kitty Hawk was chosen for the first flight based on information from the U.S. Weather Bureau. It had plenty of sand and 13.4 mph wind average.
The first flight was in a glider constructed of wood and cotton sateen fabric. It proved the effectiveness of the brothers wind warping system, but had difficulty lifting the weight of man.
After spending time camping at Kitty Hawk they looked for a place closer to home to experiment. They found a "cow pasture," Huffman Field,owned by the local banker that was near a trolley stop. They used a catapult system to put the plane in flight. (Today a catapult system is used on air craft carriers.) In 1904 in the cow pasture near Dayton, Ohio the Wright Brothers flew their first circle.
Another frustration was their inexperience as pilots! Landings were not routine. At first they could not stay in the air long enough for the necessary practice!
By 1905 they had a practical airplane, The 1905 Wright Flyer III. In 1907 and 1908 they built new flyers with pilot and passenger seats and redesigned controls for demonstation flights in France and Fort Meyer, VA. With a U.S. Army contract in hand, they established the Wright Company in 1909!
The Museum has a film showing a reenactment of those first flights. The townspeople would come out to the "cow pasture" to see what was going on. You can imagine the awe and excitement when the airplane stayed in the air!!
For us the next stop is the National Museum of the United States Air Force to see the result of the Wright Brothers experiments!
See you there---