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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Just How Many Wright Aviation Companies Were There?


In an attempt to get a handle on the various aviation companies using the Wright name, the following is a partial listing. Note that The Wright Company, Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation, Wright Aeronautical Corporation, and finally the Curtiss-Wright Corporation can be viewed as the same company progressing through changes of name, mergers, ownership, and manufactured products. The Dayton-Wright Airplane Company was a separate company from the above.

The Wright Company- organized November 22, 1909 with Wilbur Wright as President, Orville Wright and Andrew Freedman as Co-Vice President. Wilbur died in 1912 and Orville as President sold the company October 15, 1915. Company headquarters was based in New York City, while the company factory was located in Dayton Ohio.

Rear cover ad on November 1913 issue of "Flying and The Aero Club of America Bulletin", from Orville Wright's library.
Wright Flying Field, Inc- for training of new pilots (1910-1916), the Wright Flying School was offered at multiple locations:
Montgomery, Alabama (March-May 1910)
Huffman Prairie, Dayton, Ohio
Hempstead Plains, Long Island, NY
Augusta, Georgia

The Wright Flying School, Hempstead Plains, Long Island, NY, Aerial Age Weekly, May 15, 1916

Wright Flying Field, Inc, Aerial Age Weekly, October 16, 1916 issue.


Wright Exhibition Company- March 1910- November 1911. Flight performances managed by Roy Knabenshue. Shut down by Wright Brothers due to pilot fatalities.

Eye witness account from Harvard-Boston Aviation Meet held September 3-14th, 1910. Card is dated September 10th, 1910. "Boston Aviation Field- We are watching the air ship flights outside of Boston. Two machines have gone up and we are waiting for the main event."


Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation- The Wright Company was merged with the Glen L. Martin Company in 1916 to form Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation, location Los Angeles, California. Glen Martin left the company within a year, and the company was renamed Wright Aeronautical Corporation in 1919.

Wright-Martin, July 1, 1918 issue of Aviation and Aeronautical Engineering.


Wright Aeronautical Corporation- Founded in 1919, eventually merging with Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company in 1929. The Wright Aeronautical Corporation kept its name though a part of Curtiss-Wright well into the 1940's through WWII. A publication from 1953 refers to the publisher as Wright Aeronautical Division Curtiss-Wright Corporation (Preliminary Data WTF-10 Turbofan).

Wright Aeronautical Corporation 1928 blueprint

Dayton-Wright Airplane Company- formed in April 1917 by Kettering, Deeds, and the Talbotts as Dayton Airplane Company, and then as the Dayton-Wright Airplane Company when Orville Wright was brought on as a consultant. Was purchased by GM in 1919 and closed by GM in 1923.


Dayton-Wright Airplane Company 1918 publication telling accomplishments of company.
Dayton-Wright Airplane Co., July 1, 1918 issue of Aviation Aeronautical Engineering.


Curtiss-Wright Corporation- Curtiss Aeroplane and Motor Company of Buffalo, NY and Wright Aeronautical Corp of Dayton, OH merged on July 5, 1929 to form Curtiss-Wright Corporation.




Companies licensed to manufacturer Wright models:

Burgess Company and Curtis Inc.- Licensed to copy Wright Brother airplanes from February 1, 1911 through January of 1914. Named shortened to Burgess Company in 1914, until company closed in 1918.

Period photograph of Burgess Wright aeroplane. Note Burgess name on the triangular blinkers.

La Compagnie Generale de Navigation Aerienne- "formed in December of 1908, to manufacture and sell Wright airplanes in the French market" per Edward Roach in "The Wright Company".

1910 advertisement for CGNA


Flugmaschine Wright-GmbH- Aeronautics, June 1909, announced formation of this company, per Wilbur & Orville Wright A Bibliography, 1968, "which acquired the Wright German patents and the rights for manufacturer of the Wright aeroplanes in Germany as well as sales rights for Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Luxemburg, and Turkey." The board of directors included Orville Wright.



Short Brothers- per Edward Roach in "The Wright Company", "The Wrights....contracted with Short Brothers, a London firm, to manufacture their airplanes in Great Britain."


Recommended Resources for more information:
  • "The Wright Company" from invention to industry", by  Edward J. Roach, 2014
  • "The Dayton Flight Factory" The Wright Brothers & the Birth of Aviation by Timothy R. Gaffney, 2014.
Index of Topics

Friday, October 17, 2014

A Journey Back in Time- An Interview with Orville Wright



(Minor updates, 10/23/18) The details of how you arrived here aren't important. The fact remains that you've found yourself standing at the corner of West Third Street and North Broadway, in the city of Dayton, Ohio. The date is February 15th, 1940.  Just moments ago you were touring Hawthorn Hill in Oakwood- you had stepped into the basement vault, in our current year of 2018. The door swung shut behind you, and suddenly here you were. But one thing you do know, as you turn and face northwest, you're less than a 100' away from 15 North Broadway, Orville Wright's Lab. You don't know how much time you have, but you're not going to miss this opportunity. 


The front door of the small one story brick faced building is open. On the wall of the tiny vestibule are three framed photographs of the Wright memorial at Kitty Hawk. Orville Wright's secretary Miss Mabel Beck opens the unlocked door of the small waiting room. On the corner of the table nearest the door, you're surprised to see a letter addressed to you, c/o Mr. Orville Wright. As you're opening the letter, Orville Wright enters the room. He shakes hands cordially and smiles as you draw out a Valentine from the envelope. (Right, today is February 15th, Valentines Day was yesterday, you're thinking. The Wright family always celebrated Valentines Day. (See Valentines Day prank in my post "Orville Wright's Sense of Humor"
Motioning you to a chair he sits down. His face is ruddy and full and he seems at ease, not having the somewhat suspicious or watchful look that he might have had otherwise, had he not been expecting you. But how is that possible? You decide not to question the situation, as you just might wake up, and find it all a dream. He's dressed in an inexpensive neat dark blue suit, semi stiff white collar, cheap blue tie with a white stripe, well polished black shoes and thin black stockings. You notice an old scar over his left eye, white hair on the sides, almost bald on top, thick white mustache and black eye brows, greying. 
Instinctively, you reach into your coat pocket and withdrawal a folded plan of "Wright Field 1904-1905".


As you're wondering how that found itself in your pocket, Orville takes the plan and begins to discuss the flights of Huffman Prairie. About the map, he mentions he had drawn the original himself. He had made some of the measurements, but lacked all the angles except those made by the old Yellow Springs Road and Dayton Springfield Pike. He had approximated the other angles and perimeter of the field (which had a fence around it) from several air views of the area which he had obtained from the U.S. Army Air Corps. Regarding the catapult car used by him and Wilbur he explained that the car rode on tandem rollers or small wheels of metal with flanges which rode on a metal rail secured to a 4" by 8". Explaining this, he drew the wheel in pencil full size on the back of the plan of Wright field.

Sketch by Orville Wright of catapult launch car wheel, evidence that your encounter was more than a dream.


He explains that his and Wilbur's early wind tunnel was not the first wind tunnel, others had had wind tunnels but not the necessary measuring devices.(You recall a photograph you had seen of Orville admiring the wind tunnel balances, which had been misplaced since December 6th, 1916, and not found again till 1946. You're tempted to tell Orville where they are located, in an old typewriter container, but you think you'd best keep quiet, and not cause a temporal time line disturbance. He'll find them soon enough.)

Per Ivonette Wright Miller, Wright Reminiscences, "On December 9, 1946 Uncle Orv was having some junk cleaned out of the attic at the lab. He carefully examined every piece before discarding it. One was an old typewriter case. He was about to toss it out on the junk heap when he shook it. Something inside rattled. He raised the lid and there were the missing balance instruments" (lost since December 6, 1916).


You find yourself thinking about these balances, and suddenly realize the conversation has continued on, and so you snap back to attention. Orville explains that he and Wilbur glided, did not soar, in their early gliders. (That's right, as you recall he had soared for an amazing 9 minutes and 45 seconds at Kitty Hawk in 1911.) You finally get up the nerve to ask a question, "What are your thoughts on the other pioneers working independently on the flight problem in the early 1900's?"
He explains that the European pioneers in 1903 and directly thereafter principally based their work on the lecture which Orville and Wilbur Wright's friend Chanute had made before the Aero Club of France on April 2nd 1903 in which Chanute had shown photographs of Wright planes and diagrams of Wright planes given to him by the Wrights. Chanute had gone to Europe to persuade Santos Dumont to come to the St. Louis Exposition. The Europeans wouldn't believe Chanute when he told them the Wrights could glide in a ratio of 10 to 1 angle. Orville explained that Santos-Dumont had had a difficult time with his dirigible at the St. Louis Exposition. The crowds were angered when Santos-Dumont (considering the weather was not right for a dirigible flight) would not fly. The dirigible had finally been mysteriously damaged at night. He then said, Wilbur and he had always thought that Santos-Dumont had done it himself to make his graceful exit from a disappointed exhibition crowd and critical press which had been making short of him. (You don't recall hearing this before in your reading, and so you ask if any of this has been written down, are there any good books to read on the Wrights, such as "The Wright Brothers" by John McMahon, being careful not to mention book titles written after 1940, thinking about that tearing of the space time continuum thing again).

Portion of 1939 letter in which Orville Wright mentions his dislike of McMahon's book.

Orville replies that McMahon's book is extremely inaccurate and misleading and he would therefor naturally prefer that you did not refer to that book. So you ask then, which book should you read about him and Wilbur. He responds that there wasn't any. He says he had had a manuscript for two years written by someone else about him and Wilbur which he had been asked to correct but that it was a long job due to many errors and he just hadn't had time. (Thinking about who this author might be, a memory comes to mind, and you recall that Fred Kelly of Xenia Ohio had been working on his book "The Wright Brothers", to be published in 1943. You choose to not let on that you have the inside scoop to this story).

The subject changes. Orville mentions that Wilbur had gone to Europe, quietly and unannounced and there merely by chance ran in to Ferber the French aviation enthusiast. In the French aviation publication "Aerophile", typewritten and translated excerpts of which Orville held in his hand which he reads to you, Ferber had written it was due to Wilbur Wright that he had seen photographs of Wright aircraft in the air, it was due to Wilbur Wright that he knew that human flight was possible. 

You ask Orville about their experiences at Kitty Hawk prior to the 1903 flights. Orville responds that at Kitty Hawk, Chanute had brought along a mechanic. This mechanic had not proved very satisfactory so they decided to let him go. During the next meal the mechanic said he thought he would return by 'way of Washington'. It flashed through the minds Wilbur, Chanute, and himself that the mechanic was planning to go by way of Washington in order to see Langley and tell him of some of the basis of the progress in flying they were making. Chanute spoke up and said he thought he also would return by 'way of Washington'- which he did. On reaching Washington, Chanute went straight to Langley whom he just caught on the point of leaving Washington, in fact Chanute rode in the carriage with Langley who was on his way to the railroad station. The mechanic sought out Langley but got there too late to see him, so wrote Langley instead, Langley sending the letter (or letters) on to the Wrights. (You recall that this mechanic was none other than Augustus Herring. You remember reading about this event in Tom Crouch's book 'The Bishop's Boys', but since Tom wrote the book in 1989, you think it wise to not mention it to Orville). Orville then said that had Langley lived (beyond 1906) that he and Wilbur would not have had any trouble with the Smithsonian. (It sounds to you that Samuel Langley was an upright honest man with integrity. You're wishing at this point that you had brought a concealed audio recording device, but lacking that, you'll have to remember as much of this conversation as you can and write it down later).



Glenn Curtiss and crew making alterations to the 1903 Langley Aerodrome in 1914 in an attempt to discredit the Wright Brothers by showing that the contraption could have flown if not for faults in the launching device utilized in 1903.

Regarding Langley's Aerodrome, Orville Wright indicated that it weighed 17 pounds per horsepower while the Wright plane weighed about 60 pounds per horsepower. The Aerodrome was structurally weak. The wings of the Aerodrome were flat and not cambered. When Orville's patent infringement suit had been won, Curtiss in an attempt to nullify that decision, the Aerodrome had been resurrected and much strengthened and powered with a more powerful motor, they had tried to obtain sustained flight with it. (You recall how this shameful episode resulted in the 1903 Flyer being sent to London for display in lieu of the Smithsonian. Fortunately in 2018, the Flyer is proudly displayed here in the States, but here and now, in 1940, the Flyer still resides across the ocean. You want to tell Orville that it eventually will all work out, but again, there is that whole "Butterfly Effect" thing to consider, and you'd rather not return home to find that Biff Tannen is now mayor of Dayton, so you keep silent.)



You ask Orville who had done the first "Night Flying". He asks you if you mean cross country flying. You clarify, no, the first flight in an airplane after night fall. And he responds he thought he probably had made the first airplane flight after dark, at Potsdam, Germany, making his landing by the light of old fashioned automobile headlights.
Orville's secretary Mabel Beck has left and Orville Wright leads you to his small office across the hall, with a small drafting table in the corner, and takes down a wooden box in which contained a metal lateral airplane stabilizer model with pendulum mechanism. A small rectangular metal blade rotating on a horizontal axis slows the almost imperceptible swing of the "pendulum". Before realizing what you had said, you blurt out that it looks somewhat like the flux capacitor. Cautiously, you look for Orville's reaction, and he simply smiles, and says he has another engagement that he will make alright in his car. As you struggle with your coat, he makes a motion to help you, but you wave him off ever so slightly for it didn't seem right to have him help you. As you turn to leave, he tells you to enjoy the rest of your day at Hawthorn Hill. Surprised, you look at him, and he smiles, and says, "Well, who do you think installed that vault in the basement?"
As you walk up to Third Street and look back, you see him walk briskly down the steps, dressed in dark coat and his famous derby hat, stepping into a good looking roadster, making a "U" turn and driving north. Then just as suddenly, you find yourself back in the vault at Hawthorn Hill, just as the door is opened by your tour guide. Embarrassed, you step out, excuse yourself, and head outside. Reaching into your pocket, you draw out the Huffman Prairie map, complete with Orville's sketch. All in all, a good day.

Door to vault at Hawthorn Hill.




Note: This post centers around an actual interview with Orville Wright by John W. Wood, author of Airports, Elements of Design. The interview took place February 15, 1940. The actual comments made by Orville are word for word per the handwritten interview notes in my possession. Rather than just share the notes as written, I thought it would be fun to imagine the time travel event above. 


For the second Journey Back in Time, see "Great Scott! It's Wilbur Wright Back in 1909!"

Index of Topics

Sunday, October 12, 2014

A Conversation with Orville Wright- 1925


Orville Wright spoke before the President's (Calvin Coolidge) Aircraft Board on the question of how the civilian use of aircraft can be promoted, on October 12, 1925. His statements were printed in "Aircraft, Hearing before the President's Aircraft Board", Volume 3, Washington Government Printing Office, 1925. It is interesting to read through this, remembering that Orville didn't like to speak in public, yet he seemed to do pretty well in this circumstance. Katharine Wright had helped him gather his thoughts on paper the previous day, and was present during the presentation.
Pull up a chair, and imagine yourself in the room, and you'll gain a feel for "Mr. Wright's" personality. Note that at one point in the meeting, attention is brought to Katharine Wright as an equal partner in the development of the aeroplane, and Orville simply allows the statement to stand rather than cause embarrassment to the parties concerned. (See my blog "Did Katharine Wright contribute to the invention of the Wright Flyer?")


The Chairman- "Mr. Wright, the President's aircraft board was appointed to study the facts and make recommendations to the President as to possible ways of improving aviation in the United States. We have asked you to appear before the board because you, in a sense, are responsible for the whole problem. You and your brother taught men to fly......We will be glad to have you give the board any views you may have which you think will assist the board in the problem before it."

Orville Wright before the President's Aircraft Board, October 12, 1925.


Mr. Wright- "I have prepared a very short statement which will take but a few minutes. Not being a student of naval or military affairs, I shall not presume to make any suggestions as to the use of aircraft in warfare. I offer only a few suggestions, and none of them new, along the lines of civil aviation, in which I believe the National Government can and should take part immediately. There are many other ways in which the Government can eventually participate, but I do not venture to make suggestions far in the future. 
The promotion of civil aviation will serve two purposes: It will contribute to the happiness and welfare of the people and at the same time will build up a reserve for our national defense. The large body of skilled pilots, of skilled mechanics, of experienced aeronautical engineers, as well as the factories experienced and equipped for rapid output, which will be in existence, can be turned quickly to military uses in the emergency of war. Government money spent in building up such a reserve for national defense will not be wasted should war never occur. The greatest present drawback to the use of aircraft for civil purposes, such as commerce, mail, travel, and sport, is the lack of suitable airports and suitable emergency landing fields. Several of the larger cities now have the benefit of landing fields. Money spent by the National Government in helping to provide these fields, in the equipping of the air ports properly, in marking and lighting the airways, in providing radio or other means of directing the course, and in furnishing meteorological reports to as many of the fields as is necessary, will be money well spent and will some day bring large returns. 
The commercial use of aircraft brings out the need of regulations for the protection of the public. It is clear that this regulation should be uniform throughout the country, and therefore should be by the National Government rather than by the States. I think this can be done best through one of the present governmental departments. The Department of Commerce is well suited to this. But some congressional legislation will be necessary to put the control of aerial transportation into that department. 
I believe the examination and licensing of every pilot who engages in the transportation of passengers or merchandise for pay should be required. I also believe that proper precautions must be taken to insure the safe condition of the planes so used. If this is done by Government inspection, the cost of such inspection should be at the expense of the public, which is being protected, so that it can not work a hardship on the small manufacturer or operator. For, it seems to me, everything should be done to encourage these small manufacturers and operators. I do not believe that the licensing of pilots or the inspection of planes should be required of any excepting those dealing with the public. I think it essential that Government regulation should not go too far at first. Further regulation can be added as experience demonstrates its necessity. What we need now is the beginning.
The success of our air mail, operating in every kind of weather 24 hours of the day, demonstrates the practicability and usefulness of the airplane in peaceful pursuits in the future. Government aid, such as is now given to maritime commerce, will greatly hasten that day."

The Chairman- "Are there any questions for Mr. Wright?"

Senator Bingham- "Mr. Wright, what do you think of the statement that has been made that aeronautical engineering has become standardized?

Mr. Wright- "I think it is changing every day."

The Chairman- "Do you think that the state of aeronautics is such as to require very considerable experimentation still to go on?

Mr. Wright- "Oh, yes indeed. I think that will be required for years and years. There has been a very rapid advance in the last five years since the war."

Senator Bingham- "It has just been recommended to this committee that money be spent for the purchase of planes and for the training of pilots and that the engineering field, McCook Field, for the Army and the naval aircraft factory be closed down. Do you think that such a procedure would tend to better aeronautics?"

Mr. Wright- "I do not."

Senator Bingham- "What do you think of the work being done by the engineering division of the Army?"

Mr. Wright- "I think it has been very good, all that could be expected."

Senator Bingham- "You are satisfied that they have spent their money properly and made real advances?"

Mr. Wright- "I think so, as far as I have observed it."

Senator Bingham- "What do you think of the value of racing and some of these other so-called stunts, such as flying across the Pacific and into the northern regions?" (An interesting question- Charles Lindbergh would fly across the Atlantic within two years of this question, in May of 1927. The Pacific would be crossed in 1928. Lindbergh would visit Orville at his home, Hawthorn Hill,  in Oakwood, Ohio on June 22, 1927. My wife's Godmother Kathryn Baughan at 17 years of age was one of the Lindbergh admirer's that saw him appear on the portico balcony for a few minutes in order to appease the crowd. For information on Hawthorn Hill, go to the Dayton history web site.)

Mr. Wright- "All attempts of that kind lead to the perfection of the machine. Each competitor does his best to improve the existing models. So that while some of them have no immediate use, that is, the machine itself has no immediate use excepting in making a record, the development that has occurred in designing the machine and in producing such a machine, is used in civil aviation and I suppose in the branches of military aviation."

Senator Bingham- "You feel, then, that it has been worth while to promote the national air races and similar things?"

Mr. Wright- "I believe heartily in them."

Senator Bingham- "You spoke of the importance of the Government doing something for meteorology. How far do you think we ought to carry this?"

Mr. Wright- "I think that should be carried as it is found necessary. In flying cross-country the pilot is going out of one area to another and possibly to a storm area. He should have advice in advance as to what is ahead of him so that he can avoid danger. I think at the present this could be provided for by having stations at some of the principal air ports and furnishing charts to the intermediate stations, so that the pilot can pick up the information as he travels along."

The Chairman- "Any further questions?"

Mr. Coffin- "One question, Mr. Wright: The commercial air tour finished in Detroit on Sunday afternoon a week ago in a driving rainstorm after covering 2000 miles. Eighteen planes started, as I remember it, and 17 finished: what do you think of that sort of a contest?"

Mr. Wright- "I believe in that also; very useful."

Mr. Coffin- "Only one other thing, Mr. Chairman; we are hearing and have heard of the Wright brothers and their accomplishments, but we hear very little of Miss Catherine (Katharine) Wright, who after all, was just as instrumental in developing the airplane as were her brothers. (This was a misconception). I think we ought to at least be introduced to her. She is in the room."

The Chairman- "The chairman apologizes to Mr. Wright for not recognizing the most valuable member of the family."

Mr. Wright- "The apology is accepted." (Orville just lets this pass, which was classy on his part).

The Chairman- "Are there any further questions?"

Mr. Durand- "Mr. Wright, I want to ask: What in your view may be looked for in the near future along the lines of advances in weight-carrying capacity and radius of operation?"

Mr. Wright- "That has been gradually extending for the last six or seven years. I see no reason why is should not go on for some time to come at least at the same rate that is has been progressing."

Mr. Durand- "That is, you look for a continuous development?"

Mr. Wright- "Up to a limit. There will be an ultimate limit. There will be a limit, but I do not feel that we have nearly reached that."

Mr. Durand- "You would not feel like attempting to specify that limit?"

Mr. Wright- "No; I have not made a calculation of that kind and therefore would not wish to express a definite figure."

The Chairman- "Congressman Parker."

Representative Parker- "Mr. Wright, you heard Mr. Madden's testimony. Now if we should stop the Government experimentation and leave it all in the hands of the industry do you suppose we would progress as fast as we would- I mean having the Government specify what they want in the plane and leaving the experimentation in the hands of the industry; do you suppose we would progress as fast as would under the present system?"

Mr. Wright- "I think we would progress faster under a system in which both the industry and the Government carry on experimentation. I do not believe in concentrating all of it in any one place."

Representative Parker- "In the industry?"

Mr. Wright- "Yes; I do not believe in concentrating all of it either in the industry or in the Government, nor in just one division of the Government, for instance at McCook Field. I believe in having an engineering division in the Army and one also in the Navy. I believe friendly competition between these divisions is for the public good."

Representative Parker- "I wanted your opinion on that."

The Chairman- "We are very much indebted to you, Mr. Wright."

Notes-
Dayton History link was updated 7/10/16
Several typos corrected 7/15/16


Tuesday, October 7, 2014

The Nine Lives of Orville Wright


(Minor updates 12/30/2018) Orville Wright had a number of brushes with death. As recorded in Current Biography 1946, Orville's self-instruction in flying: "In case of accident a round ball.....of hand, arms, and legs....would roll neatly along the ground, and when it stopped Orville Wright would stand up, scratched and bruised, but always calm, dignified, and unemotional."

Orville's first brush with death: Diphtheria
Milton Wright's diary, Wednesday, Nov 6, 1878, "Orville continues very sick."
Thursday, Nov 7, "Orville still sick but seems not specially dangerous till in the night...Orville has sinking spells and appears to be nearly gone..."
Friday, Nov 8, "Orville some better, but feeble."
Saturday, Nov 9, "Orville much improved..."

Orville's second brush with death: Typhoid Fever
From The Oberlin Review, September 30, 1896, "How Vacation Was Spent....Miss Wright went home after summer school to nurse her brother through typhoid fever."

Orville Wright with typhoid fever.
The Oberlin Review, Sept 30, 1896- news of Katharine Wright returning home to nurse Orville Wright through typhoid fever. Author's copy.

Milton Wright's diary September 4, 1896, "Found Orville very sick with typhoid fever. The temperature at one time, days ago, ran to 105.5 degrees. Temperature is now about 102 or 103 degrees."
Tuesday September 10, 1896, "At home, Orville's fever is possibly decreasing a little."
Sunday, September 20, 1896, "Orville had a little if any fever, but has some delirium, part of the time."
Thursday, October 8, 1896, "Orville had tapioca today for the first time. He has lived for six weeks on milk, with a little beef broth for a couple of weeks past. He also sat up in bed for the first time in six weeks."
Friday, October 9, "Katherine started for Oberlin at 10:30 forenoon." 

Orville was fortunate. Wilbur wasn't, and did not survive typhoid fever, dying of it in May of 1912.

Orville's third brush with death- Gas asphyxiation
From Miracle at Kitty Hawk, by Fred Kelly, "One night after they had been working late at their shop, Orville returned home ahead of Wilbur. He was in bed when Wilbur came in. A surprising thing was that Wilbur, contrary to his invariable habit, forgot to bolt the front door. Orville, nearly asleep, reminded him of his oversight. Then when Wilbur went back to put on the lock, Orville thought to himself, 'I'll bet he does something else peculiar. He'll blow out the gas in his room.'  Why he thought Wilbur would blow out the gas, instead of turning it off, he never could explain. Fearing he would drop off to sleep, he sat up in bed until the light in Wilbur's room was off. Then he went to investigate and found the gas was still turned on. Wilbur had blown out the flame. Except for Orville's presentiment, both could have been asphyxiated."

Orville's fourth brush with death- 1905 Huffman Prairie Crash
From The Bishop's Boys, by Tom Crouch, "The most serious mishap in two years of experimenting with powered machines occurred on July 14 (1905). Orville had been in the air for only twelve seconds when, as Wilbur reported, 'the machine began to wobble somewhat and suddenly turned downward and struck at a considerable angle.' The accident was a result of those undulations- Orv had lost control of the elevator. The machine smashed to earth, head first, at a speed of 30 miles per hour. The elevator and outrigger supports crumpled instantly. What was left of the machine bounced three times down the field, upending on the front edges as it slid to a stop. Orville was catapulted out of the cradle and through a broken section of the top wing. They found him, dazed and bruised, lying in the remains of the elevator."

Orville's fifth brush with death- 1908 Ft. Myer
First fatality suffered in a powered airplane crash occurred September 17, 1908 at Ft. Myer. Orville's passenger Lieutenant Thomas E. Selfridge did not survive. Orville spent 7 weeks at the Ft. Myer hospital. From The American Review of Reviews, October, 1908 issue, "In the course of the Government tests at Fort Myer one of those distressing accidents that so often accompany the development of inventions caused the death of Lieutenant Selfridge, the young army officer who had been detailed to assist in conducting the experimental flights, while Orville Wright himself barely escaped with his life. The breaking of the propeller caused the aeroplane to pitch suddenly to the ground from an altitude of forty feet. Both men were caught under the machine. Mr. Wright was seriously injured...."

Fort Myer, Va Orville Wright accident
American Review of Reviews, October 1908, Orville Wright's flights at Fort Myer, Va. Author's copy.

Orville's sixth brush with death- Passenger Train collision
Orville and Katharine traveled by passenger liner from New York to Europe, to join Wilbur at Pau in southern France. As told in The Wright Sister, by Richard Maurer, "Orv and Katharine arrived in Pau on January 16 (1909), delayed by several hours because their passenger train collided with a freight train. Two people died in the crash and many were injured, but Orv and Katharine escaped unscathed. After the wreck, Katharine observed that French officials seemed helpless in the face of the emergency, unable to take action until they were given orders......Not only would she survive a train wreck in France, she would later barely avoid injury in Italy when a too zealous car chauffeur steered her into a stone wall."


Orville's seventh brush with death- Dayton 1913 Flood
See my post "The 1913 Dayton Flood and the Wright Family"


Orville's eighth brush with death- Automobile Crash 
As told in Wright Reminiscences, Compiled by Ivonette Wright Miller, "In 1933 Uncle Orv drove to Penetang, Canada by way of Buffalo and Toronto. He spent most of his summer vacation at Lambert Island on Georgian Bay. When he returned at the end of the summer, he ran off the road somewhere between Penetang and Toronto, and went into a ditch and turned over. He was not hurt, but the acid from the battery leaked through and ate holes in his clothing..."


Orville's ninth and final brush with death- First heart attack
Per Rosamond Young in Twelve Seconds to the Moon, A Story of the Wright Brothers, "Orville was two minutes late for an appointment with Edward Deeds at NCR on the morning of October 10, 1947. He ran up the steps of the headquarters building and fell. At Miami Valley Hospital his physician said he had had a slight heart attack. He returned home after four days in the hospital. In a letter to Frank P. Lahm he said on November 12, 'if they had not taken my clothes away from me, probably I would have been out of the hospital a day or two sooner. I am now almost back to normal health and am driving a car and have been coming to the office every day for several weeks...'

Having used his nine lives, Orville did not survive his second heart attack of January, 1948.

Dayton Journal, January 31, 1948, Orville Wright Dies In Sleep. Author's copy.

NCR Factory News, February-March 1948 issue, NCR Loses A Close Friend- Orville Wright. Author's copy.


Orville's brush with death (honorable mention)- Cyclone
From The Wright Brothers Fathers of Flight, by John R. McMahon, "Under the convulsive kicking of eager feet, the lathe sped into action with a deafening noise. It shivered and shook while the marble ball bearings raced between wood shaft and horse-bridle iron rings with a rattling roar. The din was heightened by the happy clamor of the operators, to an extent which made them oblivious of a rival performance by nature outdoors. In fact, a cyclone was just then overhead! It tore a skylight off the barn and unroofed a church two blocks distant. The boys kept pumping at the lathe treadle. If they heard an extra sound, they credited themselves with it. At last Orville saw the barn tip a trifle. And glancing outdoors, he beheld his sister oddly flattened and even pasted by wind pressure against the kitchen door of the house...."


If Orville had not had nine lives, history would have been much different. Check out my alternate time line post  "What if the Wright Brothers had not experimented in flight in the early 1900's?" to find out what would have happened if Orville had not survived Typhoid fever in 1896.

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