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 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

What is a Coefficient?


Wait! There’s more!

Smeaton’s Coefficient

John Smeaton (1724-1792) had a long and illustrious career as a civil an mechanical engineer. One byproduct of his work is something known as “Smeaton’s Coefficient.” This coefficient was derived from his work – not calculated by Smeaton himself. Unfortunately, the coefficient became of vital importance to the Lillienfeld,  the Wright Brothers, and other pioneers of aviation around the globe.

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John Smeaton

SmeatonJohn Smeaton (1725-1792) is the British engineer who published the 1759 paper, “An Experimental Enquiry Concerning the Natural Powers of Water and Wind to Turn Mills and Other Machines Depending on Circular Motion.” The theories Smeaton postulated to explain the relationship between pressure and velocity for objects moving in the air, applied to windmills. Smeaton won the Copley Medal for his work in 1759. Continue reading

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