The Wright brothers’ patents and their low importance for aviation
The Wright brothers were two American inventors who claimed they built and piloted powered heavier-than-air flying machines in 1903, 1904, 1905 and May 1908 and really flew planes in front of numerous witnesses, including personalities of the aeronautic world, starting with August 8, 1908, when Wilbur, the elder of them, was seen up in the air above the Hunaudières racecourse near Le Mans, France. The article “Le premier vol, en France, du premier homme oiseau” by François Peyrey (L’Auto, Paris, August 9, 1908, col. 1-2, p. 5) gives a detailed record of the flight performed the previous day and also mentions the names of a few eyewitnesses: Ernest Zens, who timed the flight at 1 minute and 45 seconds, Paul Zens, Ernest Archdeacon, Louis Blériot, René and Pierre Gasnier, Captain Léonide Sazerac de Forge, Count Henri de Moy, all members of the French Aéro-Club.
No technical drawing, detailed description or clear picture showing a Wright plane, on the ground or in the air, were made available to the general public before August 8, 1908, so none of the powered apparatuses constructed and flown before the above mentioned date, according to what the two inventors pretended, could have been a source of inspiration for other aviation pioneers because nobody knew exactly what those machines looked like. The French newspapers started to show pictures of Wilbur’s biplane on August 12, 1908.
The first planes were officially witnessed taking off, under their own power, in France on September 13, 1906, and October 7, 1906, piloted by Santos Dumont and Traian Vuia, respectively. The aviation evolved rapidly and on January 13, 1908, Henri Farman already flew one kilometer in a circuit. Orville Wright even witnessed Farman flying on November 18, 1907, as can be seen from the article “Mr. Orville Wright Sees Mr. Henry Farman Compete for Deutsch-Archdeacon Prize” (New York Herald, Paris, November 19, 1907).
Pictures claimed by Orville Wright as made between December 17, 1903, and October 5, 1905, and showing three different planes (the 1903, 1904 and 1905 models) first appeared in print quite late, in “The Wright Brothers’ Aeroplane” by Orville and Wilbur Wright (The Century Magazine, New York, September 1908, Vol. LXXVI, No. 5, pp. 641-650).
The only thing the two brothers from Dayton, Ohio, showed, before August 8, 1908, was a series of kites and gliders. These unpowered machines are the only ones that could have inspired the inventors who built planes and performed witnessed flights, beyond any doubt, from September 13, 1906 to August 8, 1908.
The two brothers also filed 5 patents between March 23, 1903, and July 15, 1908, but their importance for aviation is close to zero as long as these documents present just gliders and their main objective is how to stabilize by hand, or using complicated mechanisms, extremely unstable unpowered apparatuses in pitch and roll. In fact, it was already known that heavier-than-air flying machine could be made naturally stable and the ailerons the two brothers claimed as their invention were in reality patented in 1868.Download link for "The Wright brothers’ patents and their low importance for aviation"The book contains the patents of the Wright brothers in full.Question
: What exactly does each of the Wrights’ patents claim as invented?Answer
- The US patent no. 821,393, granted on May 22, 1906, and its foreign versions, claim: (1) the method of wing warping, in particular, and the ailerons (already invented in 1868 by M. P. W. Boulton), in general, for stabilizing an aeroplane type machine in roll, (2) a movable vertical tail aimed at counteracting the adverse yaw generated by twisting the main wings, (3) a flexible front elevator for maintaining the pitch stability of the same machine, (4) various constructive details.
- The French patent no. 384.124, published on March 30, 1908, and its foreign versions, claim two more vertical rudders, placed in front of the main wings, one fixed and the other mobile. They were aimed at better counteracting the adverse yaw.
- The French patent no. 384.125, published on March 30, 1908, and its foreign versions, claim two additional vertical rudders, placed close to the tips of the main wings. Their purpose was also for eliminating the adverse yaw.
- The US Patent no. 1,075,533, granted on October 14, 1913, and its foreign versions, claim automatic stabilization mechanisms: in roll, driven by a pendulum, and in pitch, governed by wind vanes (two models are proposed). None of these stabilization devices can work because the so called principles of physics they rely on are just misconceptions.
- The US patent no. 908,929 - “Mechanism for Flexing the Rudder of a Flying Machine or the Like”, granted on January 5, 1909, and its foreign versions, claim systems aimed at flexing the rudders of an aeroplane type machine for the purpose of modifying their lift.