Scale Models

Building a scale model of 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer – Wing Warping

While building a scale model of the Wright Brothers 1903 Kitty Hawk I was surprised by the technology they employed. One of the Wright Brothers focus was on control of the aircraft and this led them to use a technique that warped the wings. Before the construction of the Kitty Hawk Flyer they experimented with kites to gain understanding of control in flight, the wing warping technique was first used in 1899 by them, however the only document record is this drawing made by Wilbur in 1912.

Wilbur 1912 wing warping diagram

Wilbur, through observation, concluded that birds changed the angle of the ends of their wings to make their bodies roll right or left. The story goes that Wilbur figured out how to do this with the wings through playing with a long bicycle inner-tube box at their bicycle shop, twist the box and on the plane that would be a wing you see a downward angling at the ends.

The wing warping on the 1903 Kitty Hawk Flyer was controlled by the use of a body rig the was connected by control lines to the wing frame. The pilot who would lay flat towards the center of the bottom wing, next to the engine, would have is body in the rig and to lean or bank the aircraft would move his body weight moving the rig.

Completed model of Kitty Hawk