Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, July 1, 1904

Your letter of June 26th has been received. It would seem that Santos Dumont understands that he has the Exposition officials at his mercy, and is disposed to take advantage of that fact, by exacting easier conditions for the grand prize competition. We hope he will hold them up a few more times. If we should get into the race the changes he has secured will be more to our advantage than his own.

The injury inflicted upon the Dumont airship is a rather strange affair. I think I will suspend judgment a while and await developments.1

Since my last letter we have made but three trials, two on Thursday of last week and one on Saturday. On Thursday the starts were made facing a barbed wire fence about 350 ft. from the end of our track. There was not sufficient time to make the turn after getting well started and it was necessary to turn off the engine after going 264 ft. In the second flight the tail was injured in landing. On Saturday another trial was made in a wind averaging about 15 miles an hour. Through failure to keep at sufficient height, it struck the ground in one of its undulations while going at full speed, and pointed slightly downwards. The struts which carry the front rudder were broken, and one of the wires trussing the skids under the machine, also a pine spar in the right wing. The repairs would have required about three days, but all the experiments with our 1903 and 1904 machines having shown that the center of gravity was rather too far forward, we decided to shift the engine, man, and water tank to the rear. As this necessitated cutting down the length of the axles, and supports carrying the screws, about three days' more time is added. We will probably finish tomorrow but may not take the machine out till after the Fourth.

Our transmission has given perfect satisfaction and we are certain it will continue to do so. You probably remember that we were uneasy on this point last year. Except for the loss of a sparking point on one occasion, the engine has met every requirement.

1 Exposition officials had reserved a special bay in the large hangar for the Santos Dumont VII, and Santos himself was reported to be pushing preparations for the first trial of the airship on July 4. On the night of June 27 28, vandals (who were never apprehended or identified) broke into the building and cut a number of severe gashes in the dirigible's envelope. The local police went so far as to suggest that Santos or someone acting for him had deliberately damaged the balloon to avoid the embarrassment of losing the competition. With this allegation rankling in him, Santos left his assistants and the mechanical part of the airship behind in St. Louis, and on July 7 embarked for France to have the necessary repairs made. When told that these would take six weeks or two months, Santos announced that the shortness of the time between the completion of repairs and the closing date of the contest on October 1 made it useless for him to return to St. Louis.

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, July 4, 1904