Aviation Innovation

Wright Brothers

The story of Wilbur and Orville Wright chronicles how two men, and the people surrounding them, overcame enormous odds to invent a machine capable of controlled, powered, heavier-than-air flight. Neither brother finished high school, yet both were exceptional students taking extra courses in Greek and mathematics. They were two of seven children born to a middle-class family. Being born in the mid-nineteenth century, the brothers grew up with advances in rail technology, ‘horseless carriages,’ and new steam technology. Printing presses, telegraphs, and typesetting machines brought news of inventions to doorsteps daily.

The Wright brothers were not the only inventors attempting heavier-than-air flight. Many experimenters were at work through the world, but due to methodical research and a systematic process of invention the brothers succeeded on December 17, 1903.

  • 1899: the brothers constructed a model kite with a 5-foot wingspan to test their wing-warping concept, the key to their eventual success
  • 1900: the brothers tested their first man-carrying glider at Kitty Hawk, NC
  • 1901: the brothers designed a wind tunnel to test a new glider design and collect accurate data
  • 1902: the brothers designed their first glider to have 3-axis control (elevator controlled pitch, wing-warping roll, and movable rudder controlled yaw) after extensive testing and design work in Dayton, OH
  • 1903: the brothers built their own 12 horsepower engine to power their newest glider and developed a new propeller design
  • December 17, 1903: Orville Wright flew for 12 seconds at Kitty Hawk, NC

Success. four flights Thursday morning all against twenty one mile wind  started from Level with engine power along average speed through air thirty one miles longest 57 seconds  inform Press home Christmas.  – Orevelle Wright – Orville Wright, December 17, 1903 (via telegram)

  • 1905: the brothers developed and flew the Wright Flyer III, the world’s first practical, fully controllable airplane, at Huffman Prairie Flying Field in Dayton, OH
  • June 17-18, 1909: Wright brothers’ Home Days Celebration in Dayton, OH celebrating the brothers’ successful flying demonstrations in Europe

For more information visit https://www.nps.gov/daav/index.htm

Dr. Lewis A. Jackson

Always fascinated by aviation, Lewis A. Jackson rode in his first airplane at the age of 15. He soloed his own plane at age 19. Jackson barnstormed through Indiana and Ohio to earn money for college, and by the end of his career he flew a total of 10 experimental airplanes.

In 1940, Jackson went to Tuskegee where he was appointed Director of Training at the Army Air Corps 66th Flight Training Detachment. It was here he prepared the pilots we now know as the “Tuskegee Airmen.”

Dr. Jackson’s teaching career spanned from a one-room schoolhouse to serving as the acting president of Sinclair Community College. In Xenia, OH he became an FAA Flight Examiner and developed an aircraft computer called a NAV-KIT. Until a few months before his death, Dr. Jackson worked on his dream – “an airplane in every garage.” The roadable airplane would be stored at home and driven to the airport. In the 1960s, Dr. Jackson created a foldable-wing airplane that fit into a garage and drove like a three-wheel motorcycle.

One of Dr. Jackson’s lasting achievements was the business entrepreneur program at Sinclair Community College in Dayton. He believed that the more students thought as employers and became self-reliant, the more employment they would create.

For more information visit https://www.ci.xenia.oh.us/733/Lewis-A-Jackson—Xenia-Aviation-History

Warren G. Grimes

Known as the “Father of Aircraft Lighting,” Warren G. Grimes ran away from his orphanage at age 15 to join his brother Frank in Detroit, working at the Ford Motor Company. Through Grimes’ work in electricity, Henry Ford asked him to produce lights for the Ford Tri-Motor “Tin Goose.” Grimes moved to Urbana after his success and started his own lighting plant, Grimes Manufacturing. His first aviation customer? The Weaver Aircraft Company (see Clayton Brukner).

After receiving his first patent in 1936, by 1970 there was virtually no plane flying in the free world that did not contain Grimes’ lighting. His inventions also served the Mercury, Gemini, and Apollo spacecraft.

For more information visit https://www.nationalaviation.org/our-enshrinees/grimes-warren/

Clayton Brukner

Born in Nebraska, Clayton Brukner came to Troy, OH in 1923 with his partners and their Weaver Aircraft Company. By 1929, the company would be known as the WACO Aircraft Company we know today. WACO was at that point the largest commercial builder of aircraft in the world. WACO strongly supported the war effort in the 1940s and made almost 14,000 gliders for the military.

After Brukner retired, he patented his “Lickity Log Splitter” and donated the money to establish the Brukner Nature Center in Troy.

For more information visit https://www.wacoairmuseum.org/