WRIGHT FLYER PASSES PATHFINDER TEST
by Jack Cherne, Chairman,
September 4, 1998
Over the August 29-30 weekend, a team from the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) Los Angeles Section's Wright Flyer Project, with the help of Pete Zell and two of NASA Ames Research Center staff, subjected the Wright Flyer to a pathfinder test of mounting the airplane on the sting.
The 1903 replica of the Wright Flyer, built by the AIAA Los Angeles Section, has been on display in the historic Hangar No. 1 at Moffett Field since it was delivered to NASA on April 28th of this year. Hangar No. 1 was built by the Navy to house the Macon Class Dirigibles.
The sting which will be used to support the Flyer in the 80 x 120-foot wind tunnel was brought over to Hangar No. 1. However the mounting point is currently standing only 12 feet above the ground rather than at the approximate center of the tunnel during the wind tunnel test.
Original plans called for using a hoist to simulate the procedure of lifting the airplane up and over the top of the tunnel. However, the portable crane was inoperative so the next solution was to use a fork lift. For a fork lift to be able to lift the complete airplane, the tines would have to be 13.5 feet long and be able to lift 13 feet above the ground. The available equipment did not have these attributes so we had to make do with what we had.
The canard assembly was removed to allow lifting the wing and tail structure up a distance of 12.5 feet, but this was not high enough to place the wing support structure on the end of the sting. The sting was moveable in pitch allowing the balance on the end of the sting to be brought in under the wing and raised to meet the airplane. The problem of bolting the two assemblies with 16 bolts proved to be quite a chore due to the tight tolerances, but perseverance prevailed and the connection was made. This taught us that in the tunnel installation, this difficult fit up would be made on the ground and a simpler interface used up in the air.
The next step was to reassemble the canard assembly to the wing structure. This was also made difficult by the problem of not having a forklift with a high enough lift. Again, with the use of the tilting capability of both the sting and the forklift, the writer in a bucket crane, and other team members on ladders, the connection was made.
The excellent help we received from the NASA people saw a difficult task completed and taught us what changes would have to be made before we make the actual lift into the wind tunnel. As if to accent our work, when we were completed, the sun shown through the windows of the hangar and focused on our airplane on the sting, making the photo above possible.