Benjamin A. Gorman
Because the subject of flight is a vast topic, this unit deals with three major concepts—the Wright brother’s achievement, the role of the pilot and aviation developments. Related concepts include the science of flight, career awareness and air travel safety; they allow the presenter opportunity to expand according to student interest. For each topic, there is introductory information and a fictional story that relates to the human element with follow-up questions. Subsequent information, some of which can be duplicated, can be used for continued discussion; as well, there is an activity to reinforce student learning. The material can be taught in a six to eight day block depending on the class and on whether the activity sheets are assigned for homework. The teaching of this unit should take place before the material in the text,
, on the aircraft industry is covered. The class activities and stories may also be given to students using
States and the Other Americas
(1885 edition) when the section “Coming of Airplanes” page 206 is taught.
To open the unit, the section on technology presents the framework by which social studies and science can be combined; it provides for immediate student involvement with the topic and serves as an introduction to flight as a remarkable achievement in human transportation.
To sharpen the focus and increase interest, the three fictional stories, which can be duplicated, give students a “you are there” perspective. First, from the “Watchers”, students might learn of that historic moment of December 17, 1903 and peak their interest in how planes fly. In the second story, students may become acquainted with the roles of the flight crew and how an in-flight emergency is solved. Lastly the story of the “Travelers” reveals in brief an airport experience while providing history and introducing the issue of air safety. These vignettes will be read against the background information provided by the teacher and lead into related topics and activities.
* * *
. . . .Start your engines
Technology includes the tools and techniques that people develop to help them get what they need. The spark of human genius is kindled by technology into the fire of civilization; it allows mankind to exist in and to conquer nature’ s world. From doorknobs to calculators, technology moves our progress forward, not always enhancing, but always changing our lives and our environment.
At this point, it may serve the students to take a closer look at technology. The word is often used to refer to such devices as computers, lasers or other complex machines, but simple devices such as pens, hammers, safety pins and pencil sharpeners are examples of technology. The students may be asked to list examples of technology that they use. It might prove interesting for them to reveal and discuss their examples. The object is to identify tools and techniques that change simple actions. It should be noted that technology is more than just tools and methods; it is arithmetic, traffic tickets, banking and even rain dances. We can hardly make a move that is not affected in some way by technology. As it changes, so do our lives.
Students growing up in the late twentieth century American society often do not notice how technology affects their behavior. We live so close to it or it has become too ordinary for us to reflect much about it. A way of realizing how our actions might be affected ia to consider how tools and techniques have changed the way that we live. Students can speculate on how human behavior has been changed by the technological developments of:
1. Instant replay as opposed to spectator speculation.
2. Microwave ovens as opposed to gas or electric ones.
3. Weather forecasts as opposed to the use of weather vanes.
4. Antibiotics as opposed to natural herbs and tonics.
The next step would be to investigate how life may be different without a particular tool. The objective is to examine the relationship between technology and human behavior patterns. Students can be asked to react to the affect on their lives with the absence of:
1. A refrigerator.
2. Motorized vehicles.
3. Timekeeping devices.
This exercise in the subtraction of technology will demonstrate how much taken for granted technology has become in our lives.
As a final lesson, a look into the future could underline how people adjust their behavior to new technology. Consider this scenario borrowed from Isaac Asimov.
Your city is without cars, buses, trucks or trains. Instead of sidewalks and streets upon which to travel, there are moving strips or belts arranged side-by-side. The outside strip moves the slowest and can be stepped onto from a stationary platform. The center strip moves faster up to 50 miles per hour.
Ask the students:
1. When would it be best to learn how to use this transport?
2. What skills would be needed?
3. How would you know and give directions?
4. What would be the benefit of no cars or buses?
5. What would be the affects upon parking, traffic congestion, police and crime, shopping and going to school?
6. How would the lack of other transportation affect life in the city?
The technology of transportation, an element of the Industrial Revolution, has propelled people through a series of developments in travel on land and water. The canal systems, steamboats, railroads, trucks, autos and other motorized vehicles have been achievements in moving materials and people, in spreading social habitation and in influencing cultural interaction. Each step forward and every improvement resulted in faster, more efficient and more comfortable modes of transportation. As these remarkable advancements were fulfilling their potentials, dreamers and technicians were working to unlock yet another door for human travel—the world of aviation.
The Industrial Revolution of the 18th century redefined human work by introducing power machines. Beside the increasing urbanization due to the factory system and the social-economic benefits, a new class of self-trained inventors emerged. Eli Whitney, Samuel F. B. Morse, Thomas Edison, Elisha Otis, Henry Ford and other gave innovation to machines and methods that sustained the growth of modern technology. To the list of genius inventors, the names of Orville and Wilbur Wright would be added because of their technological triumph.
* * *
The Wright Brothers
. . . .Prepare for take off
On the eve of the twentieth century, Americans were fascinated with speed, national growth and the productive miracles of applied science. The publics’ love affair began when a single-cylinder “motor carriage” chugged its way down the streets of Springfield, Massachusetts in 1893. Its builders were Frank and Charles Duryea, who incidentally were bicycle mechanics. At the same time, there was great interest in aeronautics. Humane like other animals had the capability to walk, crawl, run and swim, but had been denied the means to fly at will. The centuries were full of poets give humane the ability of flight.
Four hundred years earlier, Leonardo da Vinci (145215-19) had studied the flight of birds, the movements of the air, and designed several flying machines. He recorded that “a bird is an instrument working according to mathematical laws which it is within the capacity of man to reproduce.” His drawings of birds includes notes on lift, thrust, equilibrium, steering and stability. He evaluated their wing design by dissecting the bird’s body and concluded that an angular blade with net inserts would overcome air resistance. But da Vinci’s imitation of bird flight proved unsuccessful; he concentrated on human power instead of power generated by machines. The drawings in his note book reveal strange flying machines—men running like hamsters on a wheel to give power and oarlike wings that flapped up and down to provide lift. The failure to launch his flying machines led him to abandon muscle-powered flight. Yet da Vinci’s achievements remain as the first scientific study of flight. Among his elaborate fantasies can be found his vision of the parachute, a helicopter like aerial screw and retractable landing gear. Da Vinci, the giant among geniuses, knew that human flight would be realized through engineering but it would be the technology of a different age that would make his visions come true.
For more than a hundred years before the Wright brothers’ success, other pioneers had attempted flight successfully in balloons and in gliders. Sir George Cayley, in England at the turn of the 1800’s, suggested the first modern airplane configuration of fixed main wings, a tailunit with elevator and rudder, and a separate propulsion system. Cayley deserves the title “Father of Aerial Navigation. “ In the 1870’s Hermann von Helmholtz concluded that man had a poor chance of flying by using his own muscle power. His study of the wings of birds showed that curved surfaces were more advantageous. This was confirmed by Otto Lilienthal in Germany by his glider experiments; he also discovered that natural wind is better than a uniform airflow due to a cross-velocity gradient that exists in the lower atmosphere. Lilienthal’s work on hang gliders using his recently developed air pressure data benefited a growing enthusiasm for aeronautics. In the United States, the French born, engineer Octave Chanute spread interest in aviation through his lectures and manned glider tests. Samuel P. Langley made successful tandem-wing, steam powered models with wing spans up to fourteen feet. In 1903, he attempted to catapult launch an “Aerodrome” but it plunged into the Potomac River because it was underpowered and complicated by a launch system that added to the structural load.
The Wrights began so experiment with kite-like gliders in 1900. They devoted themselves to detailed study of the earlier engineering experiences; the Wrights’ ability to learn the most from the lessons of the past was one of the marks of their genius. They sought advice from Langley and from Chanute who became a close associate in the science of aeronautics. The Wrights were not professional scientists but they became familiar with the practical aerodynamical ideas developed by others. Their early gliders were models of Chanute’s biplane designs. Their work used Lilienthal air pressure tables and when the data proved inaccurate, they turned to using the wind tunnel developed by Wenham and Phillips. The Wright brothers added their own talent to the research tradition by using models to test their full-scale design in wind tunnels and carrying out almost a thousand gliding flights.
Wilbur (1867-1912), older of the brothers, was born on a farm in Milville, Indiana; Orville (1871-1948) was born in Dayton, Ohio where the family had settled permanently. Their father, a United Brethren bishop, and his daughter raised the boys after their mother’s death and encouraged their scientific interests. Neither brother received a high school diploma, as their mechanical ability led them at an early age into practical enterprise. While in their teens, they started a printing business, issuing a weekly newspaper with Wilbur as editor. In 1892, they opened a bicycle sales and repair shop; three years later they began to manufacture bicycles of their own design. Interested in aviation since boyhood they avidly read pamphlets by engineers and aeronauticists. Their successful business provided the funds for their aviation experiments. Their first gliders introduced a revolutionary means of achieving lateral control in flight. The forerunner of the aileron, the device consisted of a cable arrangement whereby the wing tips could be twisted (warping) to change the angle presented to the wind. In 1902, the Wrights mastered glider flying and established control by co-ordinating rudder and warping. Elated by the success, the Brothers were determined to build a powered airplane.
Two challenges faced them: the development of a lightweight powerful engine and the provision of propellers. The Wrights designed and constructed a light 4-cylinder engine, weighing only 170 lbs. with 12 h.p. They developed an efficient propeller aerodynamically similar to a wing. The completed flying machine was a biplane weighing 750 lbs. including pilot with a skid under carriage. From Dayton, they were now ready to return to the site of their glider testing, Kitty Hawk in North Carolina.
* * *