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» new! War Memorial, ACT, Australia
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:: Visit photos ::
» Aeroseum, Gothenburg
» Glider soaring, Ridali
» Tartu aviation museum
» Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center
» Smithsonian's National Air and Space museum, Washington DC
» London Science Museum
» Riga aviation museum
» RAF Waddington Air Show 2008
» Goodwood Festival of Speed, United Kingdom
» Duxford IWM, United Kingdom
» Flying Legends air show 2008, United Kingdom
» London Imperial War Museum, United Kingdom
» Prague Kbely, Czech Republic
» Old Aeroplane Company, Australia
» Ansett Transport Museum, Australia
» War Memorial, Australia
» Canberra NASA Deep Space Communication Complex, Australia

:: Book reviews ::
» Visions of a Flying Machine

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:: Book review: Visions of Flying Machine ::

Orville and Wilbur were the first men to build and fly a controlled powered plane, but they began their quest much more humbly. They set out to systematically study the subject. The now infamous letter to Smithsonian read "I have been interested in the problem of mechanical and human flight ever since as a boy I constructed a number of bats of various sizes after the style of Cayley's and Penaud's machines." Wilbur continued, "I am an enthusiast, but not a crank in the sense that I have some pet theories as to the proper construction of a flying machine. I wish to avail myself of all that is already known and then if possible add my mite to help on the future worker who will attain final success."

In an age where there were less disciplined men jumping off buildings with makeshift wings, the systematic approach of the Wright brothers is what brought them the final success they thought other men would have. This book is about that journey. It's about the problems and the challenges along the way to attain success. In a few places, the reading pace felt a bit slow, but that may have been because I've already read one book about them and I've seen several films. Nevertheless, it's a good detailed book.

It turns out that nearing the turn of the century, not much was known about mechanical flight. That which was known, often had fundamental flaws. Lillienthal's were incorrect, as was the accepted Smeaton's coefficient. That led to dramatically less lift on their first models than they anticipated. To understand the core problem, they isolated it and built a wind tunnel. There had been swirling arms and wind tunnels before, but the Wrights excelled with the construction of measurement instruments and the systematic approach with a larger set of objects to experiment with.

It ultimately led to a large table of wing profiles and their performance, as well as other different shapes, performance of bi-planes and so forth. It also led to a coeficent that improved upon Smeaton's and has been proven to be correct to just within a few percent - an amazing feat.

Unlike the other book I read about the Wright brothers ("To Conquer the Air"), this book eliminates the other story lines almost ruthlessly. It does not go deeply into analysis of the extended family relationships, other competitors and their feats nor the patent and commercialization struggles after the invention. It's about the journey towards the goal of powered manned flight. It clearly discusses the apparatus they used to make measurements, the techniques of building, the thought processes and even some mathematics. If that strikes your fancy, I do recommend you head over to your local book store or Amazon and get it.

My rating: 3.5 stars (out of 5) - if I had not read about the Wright brother's with this detail before, it might well have been a 4.

Get more information and buy at Amazon.com.

 

 

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