The Wright Flyers 1899-1916...

...The Kites, Gliders and Aircraft that Launched the  'Air Age', from Osprey Publishing

Title: The Wright Flyers 1899-1916

Author: Richard P. Hallion

Publisher: Osprey

ISBN: 978-1-4728-3777-6

Number 13 in Osprey's X-Planes  series I have to admit took me a bit by surprise. It is the series of post-war US jets which always come to my mind at the first mention of 'X-Planes', but actually what better subject can there be than the very first powered aircraft, the Wright Flyer. At Kitty Hawk in 1905 it was the Wright brothers who made the first successful powered flight.

The book tells us so much more though, much of it I have to admit I had not known before, despite having been an aircraft enthusiast all my life. I hadn't realised the degree of research they had completed to lead up to the first flight, using kites and then large gliders capable of carrying a pilot, their experimentation with airfoil shapes and even in using a wind tunnel. The brothers had plenty of competitors both at home and in Europe. The Wrights did make the first production aircraft and went on to be the first to carry a passenger, the first to carry and fire a machine gun and the first to become a 'military' aircraft. The story goes on to their tour of Europe, where they amazed so many with their flying demonstrations. All the same, they did not advance from their Pusher type designs, while others went on to have success with their 'Tractor' layout designs. With their various designs as well as their early kites and gliders, plenty of archive photos, excellent artwork and tables of specifications for the different aircraft, there is plenty of detail in here. With Wilbur's death in 1912 it marked the decline of the company.

The author closes the book with a fine assessment of the Wright Brothers products, and why they failed to compete with new designs. There are also details where you can find surviving examples of their aircraft. I recall seeing a small piece of fabric from the Flyer and a letter from the Wright Brothers to Lord Trenchard, now on display in the Trenchard Museum at RAF Halton, a little piece of historic memorabilia from that famous first flight. A really enjoyable read and a super addition to the X-Planes series.


Thanks to Osprey Publishing for this review copy.