The Wright Flyer III was the third powered aircraft built by the Wright Brothers. Orville Wright first flew the Flyer III on 23 June 1905. The Flyer III had a new airframe of spruce construction with a wing camber of 1-in-20 as used in 1903 rather than the less than ideal 1-in-25 used in 1904. The new machine used the propulsion system from the Flyer II, and was essentially the same design and same performance as Flyers I and II.
When rebuilding the Flyer III after a severe crash on 14 July 1905
, the Wrights made radical changes to the design. They almost doubled the size of the elevator
and moved them about twice the distance from the wings
. They added two fixed vertical vanes (called "blinkers") between the elevators, and widened the skid-undercarriage which helped give the wings a very slight dihedral
. They disconnected the rudder of the rebuilt Flyer III from the wing-warping
control, and as in most future aircraft, placed it on a separate control handle. When testing of Flyer III resumed in September the results were almost immediate. The pitch
instability that had hampered Flyers I & II was brought under control. The crashes, some severe, which the Wrights had experienced disappeared. The flights with the redesigned Flyer III started lasting over 20 minutes. Thus Flyer III became a practicable, as well as dependable aircraft, flying solidly for a consistent duration and bringing its pilot back to the starting point safely and landing without damage to itself.
On 5 October 1905
flew 24 miles (38.9 km) in 39 minutes 23 seconds, longer than the total duration of all the flights of 1903
. Four days later, they wrote to the United States Secretary of War William Howard Taft
, offering to sell the world's first practical fixed-wing aircraft.
Flying at Kill Devil Hills
Disassembled on 7 November 1905
, they refurbished it as the 1908 prototype
of their new Model A
aircraft. This two-man carrying version of Flyer III was flown south of Kitty Hawk
from 6 May
to 14 May 1908
. These flights in the reconfigured Flyer III served as a means for Wilbur and Orville to test the new controls and also the passenger-carrying abilities of the aircraft. On May 14 1908
Wilbur took up mechanic Charles Furnas
in Flyer III, making Furnas the first passenger the brothers ever flew. Orville also flew with Furnas for four minutes. Later that day, Wilbur was flying solo when he pulled one of the new control levers the wrong way and crashed into a sand dune. Only the front elevator was damaged but the brothers had to move on to newer aircraft.
Flyer III was left in the hangar there at Kitty Hawk unrepaired. In 1911 the Berkshire Museum of Pittsfield, Massachusetts obtained parts of the disassembled aircraft and the 1911 Wright glider, but never assembled or exhibited them. These parts of the 1905 aircraft remained in Massachusetts for almost forty years until Orville requested its return in 1946 for its restoration as a central exhibit at Edward A. Deeds
' Carillon Park in Dayton, Ohio. Some Kitty Hawk residents also possessed pieces of the 1905 airplane; Deeds and Orville also obtained many of these for the restoration. At the end of the 1947-1950 restoration process, restorers estimated that the 1905 aircraft retained between 60 and 85% of its original material. The 1905 airplane is now displayed in the Wright Brothers Aviation Center
at Carillon Historical Park
in Dayton, Ohio
and is a component of Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park
. The restored 1905 Wright Flyer III is the only fixed-wing aircraft to be designated a National Historic Landmark
by an act of Congress
Specifications (Flyer III)
- Sharpe, Michael (2000). Biplanes, Triplanes, an Seaplanes. London: Friedman/Fairfax Books.
Wright Flyer II
Similar Aircraft Sequence
Wright Flyer 3 today