Early Aerodynamicists

Looking back on Andre-Jacque Garnerin’s parachute ‘drop‘ of 1797, we can easily say that his parachute had to work. He, of course, had no way of knowing his parachute would work or that it would slow him sufficiently for a safe landing. He also had no experience with making a safe landing. That didn’t stop him. In fact, that didn’t stop any of the early aerodynamic innovators.


True to the process of scientific discovery, Garnerin’s parachute experiment would not have been possible without the work of those who came before him – most notably the Montgolfier Brothers.    Continue reading

Wright Brothers 1901 Glider

The Wright brothers were off and running with their ideas for manned flight. The camber of their wing matched that of the wings used by Lilienthal. Unfortunately, Lilienthal’s figures were incorrect due to an error in the Smeaton coefficient. To get around this, the Wright’s came up with a way to modify the curvature of the wing.

The poor results from these tests led the brothers to undertake wind tunnel tests of their own.

Read more about the Wright Brothers in Modeling Ships and Space Craft: The Science and Art of Mastering the Oceans and Sky by Gina Hagler — Part III – Scale Model Testing Begins, Chapter Nine – The Wright Brothers

Wright Brothers Wing Warping Test 1899

The Wright brothers were able to control the flight of their manned aircraft through the use of wing warping. Far more sophisticated than Lilienthal’s use of shifting body weight, wing warping allowed aerodynamic control of the wing.

The Wright brothers were meticulous in their research. This research, along with their can-do and innovative approach to flight, resulted in their first successful, controlled, heavier than air flight at Kitty Hawk.

Read more about the Wright Brothers in Modeling Ships and Space Craft: The Science and Art of Mastering the Oceans and Sky by Gina Hagler — Part III – Scale Model Testing Begins, Chapter Nine – The Wright Brothers

Wright Brother Wind Tunnel Testing 1901

This video tells the story of the Wright Brother wind tunnel. As we’ll see later, this had to do with Lilienthal’s experiments and the Smeaton coefficient. For now, enjoy this video. The concepts will be important to us in a bit.

The development of their own wind tunnel and testing apparatus transformed the Wright brothers from tinkering innovators to the first aviation engineers!

Read more about the Wright Brothers in Modeling Ships and Space Craft: The Science and Art of Mastering the Oceans and Sky by Gina Hagler — Part III – Scale Model Testing Begins, Chapter Nine – The Wright Brothers

Pitot Tubes

What does a pitot tube look like? Here are a few examples. The first is a pitot tube. The second is a pitot tube affixed to the underside of an airplane wing, facing into the wind. The third is a diagram of the way a pitot tube is used to give readings a pilot can use during flight. Wait! There’s more!

Scale Model Testing

This video will give you a feel for what goes on in a model basin. Basically, what they are doing is testing a smaller version of a proposed design to see how it will fare under a range of conditions. The more they can discover and correct now, the more successful and reliable the full-sized version will be when it is put into use. This scale model testing is brought to you by William Froude, scale model testing pioneer.

Wait! There’s more!

What is a Model Basin?

A model basin is a structure designed for the testing of scale model vessels. The tanks in a model basin can be used to test a scale model of the design of anything that is impacted by the principles of hydrodynamics before that object is built in full scale. Because of the Law of Similitude introduced by William Froude in the late 1880’s, we know that a model of a ship form can be tested under a variety of conditions and the results of those tests will accurately predict the performance of a full sized vessel of the same design. This testing allows the design to be perfected before construction of a full sized vessel is undertaken. Wait! There’s more!

Here’s to William Froude

It’s easy for us to look back and assume that everything went smoothly for those who were the first with an amazing idea. It’s also easy for us to miss the fact that ideas that are commonly accepted now were once wild ideas in the view of the established schools of thought. The most obvious examples are the ideas that were considered heretical by the Catholic church, but those were not the only ideas that brought ridicule to visionaries in their time. Sometimes the ridicule even came to men of science from other men of science.

williams_froude1One case in particular that I find compelling is the case of William Froude. Froude was the man who championed and proved that scale model testing could achieve results that were applicable to full-sized vessels. This is something we take for granted now, but in Froude’s time there was no proof. In fact, the Law of Similitude is based upon Froude’s groundbreaking work. So how did Froude get his shot at proving his theory? Wait! There’s more!

Mice and Monkeys in Space

This 1953 United States Air Force video shows the first mice and monkeys to journey to 37 miles above the Earth.

SOURCE: Video from airboyd.tv

Sam the Space Monkey: Not the First

sam02Sam the Space Monkey happens to be a favorite of mine. He’s the Rhesus monkey who took a spin on Little Joe 2 as part of the Mercury program back in the early 60′s. He obviously had no choice, yet to me he has always been a hero.

Turns out, Sam wasn’t the first animal to risk life and limb in the pursuit of scientific knowledge. The Montgolfier Brothers used animals in a lighter-than-air flight demonstration before King Louis XVI and Queen Marie Antoinette at Versailles on September 19, 1783. They weren’t about to send a human aloft because they had no idea what would happen to a human at altitudes as high as 1,500 feet. Wait! There’s more!

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