Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, March 1, 1904

Your letter of Feb. 15 was received. I wonder if Captain Ferber has any real conception of the difficulties he would have had to surmount in order to have been the first to "take this step."

Orville and I went down to St. Louis last month and took a look at the aeronautical grounds and surrounding country. We were not expecting ideal conditions, but we found things even less favorable than we anticipated. I do not know that there would be serious danger to life, but much of the ground over which the course must be laid out is such as to make serious damage to the machine, in case of a forced landing, almost inevitable. It would probably be necessary to win the prize in three trials, or not at all. As there are no consolation prizes for flying machines, like those provided for the airships, we would have to win the grand prize or get nothing.1 It is a tough proposition. However, when we get out again with our machine, and have fully tested its reliability for long flights, we will see whether it will pay to enter. The conditions are such that we wish to know that we will win before we finally decide to go for it. If we enter, it will be for the purpose of winning, not for the purpose of seeing how close we can come to it.

Last week we received a foreign letter and, after turning the pages round and round to see which way the letters looked best, we finally concluded that it was written in modern Greek. After some trouble to find anyone able to read it, we finally discovered that it was intended for someone else! So the hope of unearthing a Greek aeronautical enthusiast went glimmering.

1 In a letter to Willard A. Smith, a member of the Advisory Committee which framed the rules, dated Mar. 28, 1904, but not included in this volume, Wilbur Wright stated: "Subsidiary prizes are offered with conditions specially adapted to dirigible balloons, kites, gliding machines, toy flying machines, engines, and spherical balloons, but the great thing, a mancarrying flyer, is entirely ignored. A flight of even one mile by such a machine would be an event of great importance in aeronautical history yet your rules would give it no recognition even to the extent of a brass medal."

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, March 3, 1904