The main points about the Wright machine are its simplicity and efficiency. The former is apparent by a glance at the photographs, which also show some reasons for the latter, such as the lack of a tail and the almost flat surfaces set at a very slight angle of incidence. While there are apparently a good many braces to make head resistance, nevertheless these are chiefly concentrated at one point in the center part of the machine where the resistance of the motor, radiator and men are met with anyway. Besides the ease with which the machine glides through the air for the reasons above mentioned, the Messrs. Wright claim that their screw propellers (which are of wood and about 6 feet in diameter), give very great efficiency. This is another of the chief reasons why they can propel their machine at such high speeds with so little horse-power. The chain drive from the motor to the propeller shaft is also a fairly efficient form of power transmission. As a result of these various causes, they have succeeded in attaining a speed of 44 miles an hour with about 25 horse-power, which shows that their machine is practically 100 per cent more efficient than the best of those made abroad. When the question of stability and safety is considered, however, this machine does not appear to so great an advantage. It Is true that the transverse and longitudinal stability can be maintained with great ease by the warping of the ends of the surfaces and the use of the horizontal rudder, but there is nothing in the least automatic in the way this is done, the aviator being depended upon entirely to control the equilibrium of the machine by moving levers. If anything happened to the man directing the machine, or should he make a false movement of a lever, the aeroplane would either plunge suddenly to the ground, or turn a backward somersault. Should anything happen to the horizontal rudder (as has been known to do with other aeroplanes), the machine would be completely out of control of the aviator and it would probably be dashed to the ground; whereas with the Farman type of machine, which employs a steadying tail, an accident happening to the rudder might be counteracted by the tail, or vice versa. Thus, for the sake of simplicity and efficiency, the element of safety has been sacrificed to a considerable extent. In a machine for war purposes, however, speed and efficiency are most desirable and the aviator is willing to sacrifice a large factor of safety in order to be able to fly at high speed.
One of the photographs which we reproduce shows the aeroplane at the beginning of the track along which it runs in making its start. It is mounted on a small two-wheeled carriage, which is jerked forward by a falling weight arranged in the tower at the rear of the machine. This accelerates the speed of the aeroplane more rapidly than the propellers alone can do, and causes it to rise in the air after traveling a distance of barely 100 feet. The carriage is left behind, and the aeroplane, when alighting, lands on its skids. How it seems to start off and make a flight in this machine can best be told by the Wright brothers themselves, from whose article in the current Century Magazine we quote the following:
“In order to show the general reader the way in which the machine operates, let us fancy ourselves ready for the start. The machine is placed upon a single rail track facing the wind, and is securely fastened with a cable. The engine is put in motion, and the propellers in the rear whirr. You take your seat at the center of the machine beside the operator. He slips the cable, and you shoot forward. An assistant who has been holding the machine in balance on the rail, starts forward with you, but before you have gone fifty feet the speed is too great for him, and he lets go. Before reaching the end of the track the operator moves the front rudder, and the machine lifts from the rail like a kite supported by the pressure of the air underneath it. The ground under you is at first a perfect blur, but as you rise the objects become clearer. At a height of one hundred feet you feel hardly any motion at all, except for the wind which strikes your face. If you did not take the precaution to fasten your hat before starting, you have probably lost it by this time. The operator moves a lever; the right wing rises, and the machine swings about to the left. You make a very short turn. yet you do not feel the sensation of being thrown from your seat, so often experienced in automobile and railway travel. You find yourself facing toward the point from which you started.