Tuesday, August 25, 2009

The Wright Brothers

Four flights were made on that historic day 17th December, 1903, Here is Orville Wright’s account of the final flight of the day:

Wilbur started the fourth and last flight at just about 12 o'clock. The first few hundred feet were up and down, as before, but by the time three hundred feet had been covered, the machine was under much better control. The course for the next four or five hundred feet had but little undulation. However, when out about eight hundred feet the machine began pitching again, and, in one of its darts downward, struck the ground. The distance over the ground was measured to be 852 feet (260 m); the time of the flight was 59 seconds. The frame supporting the front rudder was badly broken, but the main part of the machine was not injured at all. We estimated that the machine could be put in condition for flight again in about a day or two.

Unfortunately, after the fourth flight a powerful gust of wind flipped the machine several times severely damaging it. The machine never flew again Years later Orville restored and lent it to various locations for display.

There were 5 witnesses to the first flights, among them John Daniels who took the famous picture of the first flight.

The Wright Brothers’ claim to be the first to fly a powered aircraft was disputed for years after their first epic flight. The Smithsonian Institution of America did not recognize their claim to the first heaver-than-air machine. The extent of the dispute can be seen in the fact that the historic Flyer was on display at the Science Museum in London and not at the Smithsonian. It was returned to the US only in 1948. and is now displayed at the National Air Museum, Washington D.C.

FDC of an airmail stamp issued by the US in 1949 on the 46th anniversary of the first powered flight of the Wright Flyer. The cover cachet however, commemorates the return of the plane to the US which took place in 1948.

For years after the historic first flight and hundreds of flights thereafter the world refused to acknowledge their achievements. Eye-witness accounts were treated with skepticism. Part of the reason could be their refusal to reveal details of their machine. The Wright Brothers were not wealthy and hoped their invention would make money for them.

In 1904, the brothers built a new aircraft naming it the Flyer II. Several experimental flights to take flying to the next plane. On 20th September , 1904, Wilbur flew the first complete circle in history by a manned powered machine, covering 4,080 feet in about a minute and a half. However, Flyer II was often out of control. So they decided to scrap it and built a new machine Flyer III using the same old engine. But they made important design changes which enabled better control. In October Wilbur made the longest flight of 24.5 miles in 38 minutes and 3 seconds

The only ones who witnessed these flights were close family and a few neighbours. None were witnessed by reporters so they went largely unreported in the press. However, reports slowly trickled out but were considered fantasy. In fact the Paris edition of the Herald Tribune headlined a 1906 article on the Wrights "FLYERS OR LIARS?"

All that changed when Wilbur demonstrated the latest bi plane on August 8, 1908 Le Mans, France. Wilbur was elegantly attired in a cloth cap, stiff collar and smart tie as he is often depicted. His first flight lasted only one minute 45 seconds, but his ability to effortlessly make banking turns and fly a circle amazed and stunned onlookers. The demonstrations were attended by several crowned heads of Eurpoe including King Edward VII. Also present were pioneer French aviators, among them Louis Bleriot. In the following days Wilbur made a series of technically challenging flights including figure-eights, demonstrating his skills as a pilot and the capability of his flying machine, which far surpassed those of all other pilot pioneers. The plane was a two seater so Wilbur carried passengers on some flights. On one occasion he remained in the air for 2 hours and 20 minutes and won a prize of 20,000 francs offered by the French patron M. Michelin.

FDC of stamp issued by USA to mark the Golden Jubilee of the first powered flight

Monday, August 24, 2009

more gliders

A couple of gliders while I'm working on the next post on the Wright Brothers.

A first day cover of a stamp on flying & gliding issued by India. The stamp depicts a Hindustan Pushpak Rohini - 1 plane and a glider.

The planes depicted on the cover are: Briston (1910), Bristol (1911), Bleriot (1911) and a de havilland Gipsy Moth (1930).

A pre-stamped airmail postcard issued by USA with gliders.

Polish glider cover

I was going through some of my covers and came across this Polish motor glider stamp FDC, part of a sports planes set issued on 15th April,1978. It features a SZD-45 Ogar motor glider with a wingspan of 17.6m & length of 7.95m.

Unlike an airplane, the engine in a motor glider is not a major source of propulsion and is used only for take-off and flying without thermal conditions. The engines usually have a capacity below 100 hp. 67 of the SZD-45 Ogar powered sailplanes were produced in Poland, out of which 41 were exported. The first one was flown on 29.05.1973.

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Sunday, August 23, 2009

The first powered aircraft

One could say that the first decade of the 20th century was probably the most significant, and exciting, in the history of flight. This was the period of the epic flights of the Wright brothers, Santos-Dumont, Henri Farman, the Voisin brothers and Archdeacon, Leon Delagrange, the Breguet brothers, Bleroit and Cornu and many others who built and flew aeroplanes and made aviation history. Among the early fliers are such famous British names such as Grahame-White, A.V. Roe, Goffrey de Havilland, T.O.M. Sopwich, and Moore-Brabazpn. The Americans included S.F. Cody, Glenn martin, Langley and Glenn Curtiss. All these names are familiar to aviation aficionados.

There were many who were experimenting but Orville & Wilbur Wright, cycle engineers, from Dayton, Ohio were more fortunate than others to have flown the first powered airplane. They had been building gliders since 1900 and had made several hundred glides. However, they could not find a suitable automobile engine to power the gliders. After two years of gliding they commissioned their employee Charlie Taylor to construct a light but powerful petrol engine from scratch which they installed in a new winged aircraft which they named the "Flyer". A sprocket chain drive borrowed from bicycle technology, powered the twin propellers, which were also made by hand.

The miracle of sustained flight became a reality on 17th December, 1903 when with Orville Wright at the controls the Flyer took off from a wooden monorail and became airborne for 12 seconds. This was on the sandy expanse of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Later that day Wilbur flew 850 feet in 59 seconds.

The 'Flyer' was a frail wooden biplane with linen wings of 40 feet span and exceptionally tall rudders at the rear, linked by cables to the tips of the main wings.

To fly the airplane, the pilot lay prone with his head forward, his left hand operating the elevator control. Lateral control was achieved by warping the wing tips in opposite directions via wires attached to a hip cradle mounted on the lower wing. The pilot shifted his hips from side to side to operate the mechanism, which also moved the rudder.

The Wright Brothers can be seen on the 15c stamp issued by Bophuthswana to commemorate the 75th anniversay of the first powered flight.

Some stamps issued to commemorate the 75th anniversary of powered flight

Wednesday, August 19, 2009


Gliders contd.....

On 27th November 1957, the first aircraft worldwide to be made from fibre-reinforced plastics took off. It was the “FS 24 Phoenix”: A glider developed, designed and built by three pioneers in Germany. The glider was light. The wings weighed just 95 kilograms, the fuselage managed a little over 60 kilograms, when this lightweight with a wingspan of 16 metres took off with a winched start in the early afternoon and landed nine minutes later.

The FS24 Phoenix is seen on the 40pf stamp of the German aircraft issue of 1980

Composites (which is how fibre-reinforced plastics are now known), the material on which the German glider was based, have become essential components in the aviation and aerospace industry today.

Gliding as a sport is the theme of the 90pf stamp part of the Sports issue of Germany of 1981.

The ICA IS-28 is an all metal two seat sailplane produced in Romania in the 1970s. It was a popular glider and several versions were manufactured in later years, most of which were exported.

The Romanian Aeroclub celebrated their 55th anniversary in 1978 with an exhibition entitled "Aeromfila '78" 15-21 July, 1978 at Brasov. A pre-stamped cover was issued with the IS-28 glider.

Saturday, August 15, 2009


1978 marked the 75th anniversary of the first powered aeroplane flight of the Wright Brothers in 1903. To commemorate the event Antigua issued a set of stamps which were overprinted "Barbuda" for use in the islands of Barbuda. The ½ c stamp shows a Wright Glider III of 1902.

A few more stamps with gliders today: Switzerland issued a lovely stamp on 1st May, 1946 for the special experimental postal flights between Lausanne, Lucerne and Locarno. The stamp was valid only on mails flown on these flights. The stamps shows an open type Zoegling instructional glider, aq high winged primary trainer in which the pilot sits precariously in the nose of the machine.

Portugal issued a set of stamps in 1960 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Aero Club of Portugal (the anniversary was actually in 1959) The set includes this stamp depicting a glider,

Yugoslavian stamps with gliders:

A few more gliders:

Hungarian stamps with gliders

Friday, August 14, 2009


Instead of aeroplanes I am showing something sporty....

Gliding is a popular form of sport and recognized national pastimes in some countries, As with an aeroplane, it requires a knowledge of the essential controls—ailerons, elevator and rudder—and familiaritywith the behaviour of air currents. Gliders, also known as sailplanes, can be made to rise on up-currents over a hill, on warm air forced up by a cold front, or spiral-wise in a ‘thermal’ or bubble of warm air. Sometimes vertically-rising currents are found within cumulo-nimbus cloud. Whatever the source of soaring flight, ‘sailing in the wind’ is an exhilarating pastime.

Lilienthal, Chanute and the Wright brothers were the true pioneers of gliding. The Wrights made a record glider flightof ten minutes’ duration in 1911 which was unbeaten for many years, and then the Austrians, Germans and Swiss took the lead in the construction and development of gliders.

Bulgaria issued 3 stamps in 1956 for the 30th anniversary of its gliding club with different views of gliders being launched and in flight.

Poland issued stamps for the International Glider Championships in Leszno in 1954:

The ninth International Gliding championships were held in Argentina which issued these two stamps

The 11th International Gliding Championships were again held in Leszno, Poland for which a set of 6 stamps was issued.

Finland issued this stamp when it hosted the 15th International Gliding Championships at Rayskala in 1976.

Russia has issued quite a few stamps depicting gliders.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

first flist covers

I have not posted for various reasons. I am working on a plan for my blog going forward. I have a large amount and variety of aero philatelic material that the choice is difficult.

What would you my followers like to see. Any suggestions??

Some Lufthansa first flight covers.........

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