Wilbur Wright to Octave Chanute

Dayton, April 12, 1905

Your letter with manuscript of the Moedebeck article received. Thanks for your kindness. We will return manuscript when we are sure we will have no further use for it in our patent business.

Mr. Montgomery seems to have achieved a notable performance, though the reports I have seen give little information on which to base a judgment of its scientific value. The great troubles with automatic devices for balancing have been their excessive drift, and inability to overcome gusty winds. How this machine meets these tests does not yet appear, and I suspect that getting accurate data of the power consumed will be a somewhat difficult task where the start is from a balloon.

The article in the Ill. Aero. Mitt.,1 except the first and last paragraphs, seems to be a reproduction of a letter which Orville wrote to Mr. Dienstbach last December,2 just before he read his paper on aeronautics before the Am. Assn. [for the] Advancement of Science.3 Orville has written out a translation of the article for you, which is enclosed herewith .4 The picture is a "doctored" reproduction of that on page 5 of my last address at Chicago.5

Is it your idea that birds strike the air on the upper side of their wings in raising them? I had supposed that they kept the pressure constantly on the under side.

That the French experiments in gliding were not altogether satisfactory was inferred from a rather amusing letter which we received from Mr. Archdeacon a short time ago.6 1 think they are inclined to doubt not only the reports concerning the power Flyer but also much that you told them concerning gliding experiments. They are evidently learning that the first steps in aviation are much more difficult than the beginnings of dirigible ballooning, and are skeptical of what others are reported to have done in that line. It is not surprising. They have much to learn.

We have not formulated our plans for the Coming season, but are at present merely getting materials together. We will use the same engine and machinery that we used last year, but will rebuild the wings.

1 "Das erste Lebenshahr der praktischen Flugmaschine," by Carl Dienstbach, in the issue of Mar. 1905, pp. 91 93.

2 Orville Wright to Carl Dienstbach, Dec. 21, 1904; not included in this work.

3 Dienstbach's paper, "The Lines of Progress in Aeronautics," was read on December 30, 1904, before the Mechanical Science and Engineering Section of the Association's 54th meeting, at Philadelphia.

4 Orville Wright's translation the more humorous for its literalness begins:

"Benjamin Franklin was witness of the indescribable enthusiasm with which once on a time in the merry kingdom of France the first travel of man through the air was greeted. When the great question to him was presented: 'What will the consequence of the invention of these air balloons be, that so incredibly have been brought into existence?' he replied with the already quick witted American answer: 'It is a new born child.' . . . It [the flying machine] promises to stand before us in scarcely more than another year a reasonable [matured] product, as an 'obedient bird Rock,' with all of its as yet unusual and unsuspected consequences." (The rock, or roe, was the fabulous bird of the Arabian Nights.)

Then follows an account of the flights of 1904. The translation concludes:

"Mr. A. M. Herring of this news says in deep emotion: 'A magnificent result!' And no wonder, these are still more brilliant results than Maxim, Langley or Hargrave were at first led to expect. Yet are they only the natural consequence of the results of former foundation experiments. What an advantage a flight of five minutes, instead of short interrupted glides, is for the practice of the operator, can be imagined. Vivant sequentes!"

5 A rear view of the 1902 glider in flight (Plate 51 in the present work). The pen of the artist added two propellers, one at either side of the vertical tail, a dark blob at the center of the lower wing, perhaps to represent the engine, and some sort of wheel on the crossbar between the skids under the misshapen forward rudder.

6 Archdeacon to the Wright brothers, Mar. 10, 1905, in which Archdeacon frankly stated his incredulity and avowed he would willingly be put to the expense of a trip to America to see a Wright machine in flight. He added that if America was ahead in machines, France was surely first in lightweight motors. He closed by mentioning the DeutschArchdeacon prize of 50,000 frs. and challenged the Wrights to allow themselves to be seen in America or "come to give us lessons in France."

Octave Chanute to Wilbur Wright, April 13, 1905