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Although the 1902 flyer was the first truly-effective heavier-than-air craft it didnt have a propulsion system and so counts only as a glider not as an airplane The problem for the Wrights in 1903 was to develop a powered machine They had to make one more breakthrough to be successful here understand how propellers work This was harder than it seems as no one really understood that a propeller was nothing more than a wing that rotates on its axis and lifts the plane forward So the Wrights turned to the ship-building literature and discovered that empirical principles were used but there was no theory of propulsion They then reasoned out the basic mental model of the propeller as a moveable wing This allowed them to test propeller shapes in their wind tunnel discovering an efficient shape For their 1903 plane they needed all the efficiency they could get To drive a propeller you need a powerplant The Wrights wanted a lightweight gasoline engine that would provide the necessary oomph They tried to buy an engine but no one was willing to build one to their specs So with the able assistance of Charles Taylor they built their own It was a state-of-the-art four-cylinder model Taylor hand-tooled the crankshaft on the Wright shop lathe Its power-to-weight ratio was better than anything around Even still in the words of Charles Taylor It werent much of an engine There was no carburator The raw gas was just dumped into the cylinders It was air-cooled without even the benefit of fins To control the engine speed the spark could be advanced or retarded It had the horsepower -- barely -- to drag the 1903 machine into the dense December ocean air As the engine broke in the next year it began to produce more horsepower and better flights Click here for access to pictures from 1903 from the mother web site On Monday December 14 1903
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