Aircraft of The Wright Experience (Part 1): The 1902 Wright Glider [Feature]


The Wright Experience in Warrenton, Virginia is home to an outstanding collection of Wright aircraft reproductions created over 25 years of meticulous study into Wilbur and Orville Wright’s engineering and fabrication practices.

Thanks to the generosity of Wright Experience team member E.Scott Rawlings, we will be sharing a collection of images detailing many of these machines, which are currently available for sale.

We begin with the 1902 Wright Glider, the most successful of the Wrights’ gliding machines that performed over 1,000 flights and served as the world’s first fully controllable aircraft, forming the basis of their 1906 patent.

Each photo below includes commentary from Mr. Rawlings (click to enlarge).

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Above: Wings under construction. The only blueprints that exist for this aircraft were generated in 1922 and reviewed by Orville himself, however, there are many inaccuracies in the blueprints when compared to period photographs. The biggest challenge to The Wright Experience was to reproduce an accurate example of the 1902 glider as it flew in 1902.

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Above: Wing warp control pulley. The pulley itself was made of boxwood.

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Above: The top of the outboard left rear strut. Although very lightly built, the Wright brothers had designed in a safety margin and we found through experience that the Wright brothers design was more than strong enough while maintaining lightness and flexibility.

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Above: Lower left leading edge. The aircraft is covered in “The Pride of the West” muslin.

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Above: The flight controls of the Wright 1902 glider. The hip cradle controls roll and yaw in tandem enabling the aircraft to turn. The rectangular lateral bar in front of the leading edge controls the pitch. The pilot operates this aircraft in the prone position.

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Above: A detail of a strut attachment point. This design allows each strut to move as the aircraft flexes in flight. Note the steam-bent Ash rib that defines the airfoil; the Wrights lashed it to the front spar.

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Above: The Wright Experience has built and tested the Wright 1902 glider many times. One of our gliders is currently at Kitty Hawk Kites and available for the public to train on and fly at Jockey’s Ridge National Park in the Outer Banks of North Carolina.

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Above and Below: Testing included time at NASA’s Langley low speed wind tunnel, where the flight data parameters of the Wright 1902 glider were discovered and recorded to be incorporated into a flight simulator.

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Above: Many flights have been accomplished and, as the Wright brothers did in 1902, The Wright Experience used this glider to train its pilots to fly the first powered aircraft, the Wright 1903 airplane, for the 2003 Centennial of Flight re-enactment.