The Wright Flyer I replica constructed by NAL team at the Vishweshwaraya Industrial and Technological Museum.


The Hindu, Dated Dec 17, 2003

At last, Wright Flyer replica is ready

By Our Staff Reporter

Air Mashal P. Rajkumar unveiled a replica of the Wright Brothers Flyer at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum in Bangalore on Tuesday.

Bangalore Dec. 16. What seems simple often turns out to be complicated. Scientists here found it tough to re-create the powered aeroplane the Wright brothers built about a century ago. R. Sunil Kumar, curator at the Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum (VITM) here, said building the replica was difficult as "all parts of the original were handmade".

Besides, Mr. Kumar, part of a 15-member VITM team that built the replica of the Wright Flyer, said Orville and Wilbur were bicycle makers, not professional engineers. Eventually, the team used drawings created by "reverse engineering" at the Smithsonian Institute, Washington. "The institute had dismantled the plane to make drawings," he said while the replica was unveiled at the VITM on Tuesday, on the eve of the "100th anniversary of the first powered flight".

The project was originally the idea of T.S. Prahlad, the then Director of the National Aerospace Laboratories (NAL) and Chairman of the Executive Committee of VITM. Since Dr. Prahlad wanted the replica to be authentic, Mr. Kumar and K.S. Raman, a scientist with NAL, had to find wood equivalent to that used in the original plane. The Wright brothers had used ash and spruce wood; here silver oak and teak were used.

But before the replica was built, VITM made a quarter-scale model for the Nehru Science Centre in Mumbai (which also comes under VITM's parent body, the National Council of Science Museums). "It will be unveiled at the new Aerospace Gallery on Wednesday," Mr. Kumar told The Hindu.

But work on the full-size replica progressed slowly: for one thing funds were slow in coming, and for another, midway through the project, Mr. Raman died of a heart attack. Eventually, the project took nine months and Rs. 15 lakh to complete.

"The brothers took nearly a year to build the original plane," the curator said.

The replica, with a wingspan of 40 ft. and four inches, was recreated from a set of 50 authentic drawings from the Smithsonian Institute. The replica is made out of 60 cubic feet of wood, 400 m. steel wire, and 170 m. cotton cloth. Everything is authentic, except the engine. "Ours is a geared motor mounted inside the engine and fires the two propellers," Mr. Kumar said.

On December 17, 1903, the original Flyer flew four times. The first flight at 10.35 a.m. piloted by Orville lasted 12 seconds and travelled 120 feet. The last flight, piloted by Wilbur, lasted 59 seconds and the plane went 852 feet. But the VITM-NAL replica cannot fly.

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