Secondary sources: Evolution of Flight Chart

Timeline | Evolution of Flight Chart | Guide to Some Basic Archival Terms

This chart outlines the evolution of the Wright Brothers’ aircraft from 1900 glider through their 1913 model flyer. Note the changes to the rudder and the addition of a propeller, an engine, and skids.

1900 Glider


Span: 17 ft
Chord: 5 ft
Camber: 1/23
Wing Area: 165 sq. ft
Weight with Operator: 190 lbs.

  • Glider flown as a kite at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

  • Ribs made of ash

  • Horizontal front rudder

  • First experiments sought to measure lift, drift, center of pressure, and to calculate performance, particularly lateral control and lifting ability.

  • First experiments with man aboard; rest of flights as glider

  • Flights provided Wrights with first confirmation of flight theories.

  • Abandoned on sand hill when Wrights returned to Dayton in October, 1900

  • Mrs. William Tate, local Kitty Hawk resident, made dresses for her daughters from French sateen salvaged from the wings.

  • Gale in July 1901 demolished the remains of 1900 glider.


1901 Glider


Span: 22 ft
Length: 14 ft
Wing Area: 290 sq. ft
Horizontal rudder: 18 sq. ft
Weight: 98 lb, with sand ballast and trussing, 108 lb

  • Area of horizontal rudder is given because in this machine, as in all Wright machines until 1910, the forward position of the rudder made it a powerful supplementary lifting surface.

  • Glides broke all previous records for distance.

  • Glider was dismantled in 1902 to make room for the new glider in the Kitty Hawk camp building.

  • The uprights were used in the new glider, the rest of the machine was destroyed.

1902 Glider


Span: 32 ft 1 in
Length: 16 ft 1 in
Horizontal rudder: 15 sq. ft
Vertical rudder: 5.73 sq. ft
Weight: 112 lb

  • 1902 machine originally had double rudder which was replaced with single rudder.

  • Wrights made 700-1,000 glides at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina with this glider.

  • Flights demonstrated efficiency of their system of control for both longitudinal and lateral stability.

  • Wind tunnel tests enabled them to calculate in advance the performance of their flying machine.

  • 1902 glider was used by the Wrights again in 1903, prior to testing the 1903 machine.

1903 Wright Flyer


Span: 40 ft 4 in
Length: 21 ft 1 in
Wing Area: 510 sq. ft
Horizontal rudder: 48 sq. ft
Vertical rudder: 21 sq. ft

  • 1903 machine was 1902 glider equipped with motor and propellers

  • 1903 machine tested Dec. 14 and damaged. Two days to repair.

  • First successful powered flight, December 17: 12 seconds, 120 ft

  • 1903 machine disassembled at end of tests and shipped to Dayton

  • In 1928 the machine was sent to Kensington Museum, London.

  • In 1948 the machine was returned to Smithsonian after Orville's death.

1904 Wright Flyer


Dimensions similar to 1903 machine.

  • Flown at Huffman Prairie where the Wrights practiced controlling and maneuvering their machine.

  • Weight of machine increased and new motor was used.

  • Modifications made during the year, increased performance:
    the shape of the vertical ruder was changed, minor changes in shape of ribs, capacity of gas tank was increased, new and larger propellers were used.

  • Center of gravity was moved toward the rear of the machine by shifting the location of the engine, gas tank, and radiator.

  • Catapult starting device first used to aid in takeoff on their limited flying field; made them more independent of weather conditions.

  • Complete circle of Huffman Prairie Flying Field was made for the first time Sept. 20, 1904.

  • Burned wings and used other parts to construct 1905 machine.


1905 Wright Flyer


Span: 40 ft 6 in
Length: 28 ft
Wing Area: 503 sq. ft
Horizontal Rudder: 83 sq. ft
Vertical Rudder: 34.8 sq. ft

  • Variety of propellers used; bent end most successful.

  • "Blinkers" or blinders first used: vertical semicircular vanes, mounted between planes of horizontal rudders.

  • Vertical tail moved farther to the rear.

  • Height of machine above skids increased.

  • 1905 machine taken to Kitty Hawk in 1908 and modified so pilot and one passenger could sit upright.

  • Restored 1905 plane is now housed at Wright Hall, Carillon Historical Park.
    Original parts include: engine, chain guides, control levers and pilot's cradle, propellers, greater part of wing structure, and some front rudder struts.

1907-1909 Wright Flyers

1907 – 1909

Span: 41 ft
Length: 31 ft
Wing Area: About 510 sq ft
Horizontal Rudder: 70 sq ft
Vertical Rudder: 23 sq ft

  • At least seven machines were built between 1907 and 1909 by the Wrights. Dimensions vary on those machines.

  • These machines were designed to carry the pilot and at least one passenger and were launched by means of a launching derrick and a 1,400 lb weight.

  • Conducted numerous flights in France, Germany and Italy during this time.

  • The 1908 Machine flown at Fort Myer crashed. Orville Wright was injured and Lt. Selfridge was killed in the accident.

  • Intermediate machines from 1907-1909, including the Signal Corps Machine of 1909 are sometimes referred to as the Wright Model A, although the Wrights never designated them as such.

1909 Signal Corps No.1

1909 Signal Corps Machine
Sometimes referred to as Signal Corps No. 1

Span: 36 ft 6 in
Length: 28 ft 11 in
Wing area: 415 sq. ft
Horizontal rudder: 80 sq. ft
Vertical rudder: 16 sq. ft
Weight: 735 lbs

  • Aeroplane flown in Army tests at Fort Myer, Virginia.

  • Machine was purchased by the U.S. Army Signal Corps for $30,000.

  • Improvements in 1909 machine over 1908 machine:

    • The wing area was reduced, necessitating a higher speed and a longer start.
    • The propellers were moved closer together.
    • Height of machine increased above the skids.

  • Machine carried 18 pounds of water and 27 pounds of gasoline.

  • The 1909 Signal Corps machine now resides in the Smithsonian Institution.

1910-1911 Model B

Model B

Span: 38-39 ft
Length: 28 ft
Wing area: 500 sq. ft
Weight: 1250 lbs.
(All approximate statistics)

  • Evolution of the Model B from 1907 machines to 1909 machines was gradual.

  • The Wright Model B was brought out early in the 1910 flying season.

  • Fixed horizontal stabilizer applied and then made moveable with horizontal front rudder. Then the horizontal front rudder was removed altogether.

  • Wheels were added to the skids.

  • The catapult launching device was no longer needed.

  • The front ends of the skids were flattened and shortened, and triangular blinkers replaced the semi-circular ones used since 1905.

1913 Model CH

1913 Model CH

Span: 38 ft
Length: 29 ft 9 in
Approx. wing area: 440 sq ft
Weight: 1,090 lb

  • First Wright hydroplane

  • Model C with pontoons added for the purpose of taking off and landing on lakes, rivers, and inland waterways.

  • Orville Wright experimented with this aeroplane on the Great Miami River near Dayton in the spring and early summer of 1913.

  • Two pontoons were attached to the skid runners.

  • It was found, however, that the long twin pontoons interfered with the control of the machine in the air, particularly during short turns.

  • They therefore used a single wooden 240 lb pontoon with a smaller pontoon to support the tail.

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