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"Re-living The Wright Way"

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Invention Process

Researched Flight

Tested Theories

Flight Control

Test Pilot Skills

Propulsion System

First Flight

Flight Development

Pushing Envelope

Wilbur Wright Bio

Orville Wright Bio

Lesson Plans






1900 - Aircraft

1901 - Aircraft

1902 - Aircraft

Powered Aircraft

1903 - Wright Flyer

1904 - Aircraft

1905 - Aircraft

Flight Control

Wing Warping

1901 - Wind Tunnel

Wright Brothers' Invention Process

(1900 - 1902) - Developed Flight Control Systems

The Wright brothers' ideas for flight control were tested on a series of unpowered aircraft between 1900 and 1902.

Photo of 1902 aircraft as a kite
These aircraft were all flown as kites to obtain aerodynamic performance. The Wright Brothers were kite enthusiasts and they used the kite flights in the same way that modern engineers use wind tunnels and flight testing to try out their ideas concerning flight control. Kitty Hawk, North Carolina was chosen for their early flight experiments because its consistent high winds off the ocean are perfect for kite flying. The brothers correctly reasoned that a free flying object had to be controlled about all three primary axes; roll, pitch, and yaw. Their aircraft were built with movable surfaces on the wing, elevator, and rudder. Control of the surface shape was in the hands of the pilot. They extensively tested these ideas by glider flights of the aircraft.

Today, NASA engineers at the Langley Research Center use sophisticated models and wind tunnels to improve the flight control of modern aircraft. These ideas are flight tested at the Dryden Flight Research Center.

Legend of Related Programs:: W Website
L Lesson Plans/Materials
A Activity
V Webcasts/Video
S Simulation


Program Description Grade W L A V C S
Beginner's Guide to Aeronautics Learn about how airplanes fly, including the forces that lift them off the ground, keep them in the air, and help them land. K-12 x       x x
Central Operations of Resources for Education (CORE) CORE is the world-wide distribution center of NASA-produced, educational, multimedia materials. The public has access to over 200 videocassettes, slides, and CD-ROMs chronicling NASA's state-of-the-art research and technology. K-16 x x        
Exploring the Extreme Poster The F-15 Active is an aircraft used by NASA to explore the extreme limits of aerospace technology. This poster includes activities for measuring the angles of wings and tails of the F-15 and several other airplanes. K-12   x x      
General Aviation Design Competition This NASA sponsored design competition provides university students throughout the country with an opportunity to explore the latest developments in smK-16 aircraft transport, design, and technology systems. '13-16     x      
K-8 Aeronautics Internet Textbook Numerous lesson plans, demonstrations, activities and information on aerospace careers are available. Detailed information on the Wright Brother's Flight Process, including journal entries, are also featured. K- 8 x   x      
Learning Technologies Project This project helps integrate NASA research and technology into the K-14 curriculum through web-based resources, computer simulations, and videoconferences. Many ready-made lesson plans, activities, and experiments that deal with the science of aerodynamics are available. K-14 x x x     x
Mobile Aeronautics Education Laboratory (MAEL) The mobile state-of-the-art Aeronautics Education Laboratory brings new technologies to partnership cities to excite students about science and math. Visitors can experience 10 hands-on workstations that model real world aviation chK-16enges like weather forecasting, flight design, airfoil design, and flight controls. K-12   x       x
NASA Connect NASA Connect is an award winning series of instructional television programs that are proven to capture the imagination of elementary and middle school students. This program establishes connections between NASA research and math, science, aeronautics, and technology content taught in the classroom. 5-8 x   x x    
NASA Explores This website features weekly educational activities and updates on cutting edge research and development for elementary, middle, and high school students. Each week two new articles on aeronautics technology with lesson plans and adapted activities are featured. K-12 x x x      
NASA Quest Meet the people of NASA and look over their shoulder as they make NASA goals a reality. This website brings NASA personel and scientists into the classroom via the internet. K-12 x          
Plane Math This interactive website, designed for children with physical disabilities, contains activities relating math to aeronautics. K-4 x   x      
Spacelink This website contains a search tool to discover a wealth of NASA programs, research opportunities and educational materials. K-12 x          
The NASA Science Files The Science Files are an educational television program designed to enhance and enrich the teaching of math and science in '3-5. This program deals with numerous topics related to aviation, aerospace, science, technology, and math. 3-5 x   x x    
The Wright Brothers Posters This pair of posters includes "The Process of Invention" and "Innovation Through Flight". Both posters showcase the vital role that engineering has played in human progress. K-12 x   x      
The Wright Way Learn about the development of the first manned, powered flight from its conception through research and experimentation, to success and beyond. This website features facts, lesson plans, simulations, activities, and contains information on how to participate in the Centennial of Flight Celebration. K-12 x x x     x
Tools of The Trade Poster This poster features research aircraft, and contains hands-on activities for building and experimenting with basic wing/tail canard configurations K-12   x x      
Virtual Skies This interactive website, designed to teach decision making and problem-solving skills, guides students through an exploration of the world of aeronautics. Learn the principles of flight, flight planning, see large wind tunnels in operation, consider career options, and more. 9-12 x   x     x

Related Research Programs

Human Automation Integration Research (HAIR) The Human Automation Integration Research Branch is studying ways to optimize interactions between automated systems and humans. The goal of the program is to capitalize on the skills and capabilities of experienced flight controllers and pilots, while minimizing human error.
Active Aeroelastic Wing Program (AAW) The Active Aeroelastic Wing Program is a high tech adaptation of the Wright Brothers rudimentary wing-warping approach to aircraft flight control. The aircraft roll is controlled by using a thinner more flexible wing which twists and warps.
X-37 The X-37 is NASA's advanced flight test demonstrator. This reusable launch vehicle will be designed to operate in both orbital and reentry phases of flight. The X-37 will feature dozens of advanced airframes, avionics, and operational techniques.
Blended Wing-Body Aircraft NASA is developing a hybrid shaped aircraft resembling a flying wing, but incorporating the same features as conventional airliners. The efficient high-lift wings and wide airfoil-shaped body generate lift, and minimize drag, increasing fuel economy.
Future Flight Central Future Flight Central is a fully interactive air control tower simulator. This world-class facility allows for research and practice in airport planning, technology evaluation, procedures development, and training. The simulator allows researchers and airport professionals to develop new techniques and test new ideas in a virtual airport control tower environment.

Site Map and Links to Wright Brothers Information



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Editor: Tom Benson
NASA Official: Tom Benson
Last Updated: Thu, Jun 12 05:10:26 PM EDT 2014

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