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GIUSEPPE MARIO BELLANCA (1886-1960)

Giuseppe Mario Bellanca was born in 1886 in Sciacca, Sicily. As a young man, he attended the Technical Institute in Milan, graduating with a teaching degree in mathematics in 1908. During his quest for a second mathematics and engineering degree, he became enamoured of aviation, and set out to design and build his own airplane. Bellanca’s first aircraft design was a “pusher” aircraft, somewhat similar to the Wright Flyer. Lacking funds for such an endeavor, he joined with two partners, Enea Bossi, and Paolo Invernizzi. The union of the three produced the first flight of a totally Italian-designed and Italian-built aircraft in December of 1909. Bellanca’s second design, was a tractor-type aircraft. Although the aircraft was successfully constructed, it was never flown due to insufficient funds for an engine. In 1925, Bellanca went to work for the Wright Aeronautical Corporation of Paterson, NJ. His assignment there was to develop an aircraft around the new Wright Whirlwind engine. He already had a design in mind, which was an improved version of the CF, called the CG. This design evolved into the Wright-Bellanca WB-1. The WB-1 enjoyed a short, but successful flying career. The aircraft had already won one race and efficiency contest before an untimely accident destroyed the craft during preparation for an attempt to break the world’s non-refueled endurance record. Fortunately, at the time of the crash, Bellanca was already working on an improved version, of the WB-1 designated the WB-2. In the latter half of 1926, Charles Lindbergh wanted to buy the WB-2, now named the ‘Columbia’, for his proposed flight from New York to Paris. During 1926, the WB-2 won two efficiency trophies at the National Air Races in Philadelphia. Wright considered putting the aircraft into production, but decided against it to avoid alienating other aircraft companies that were potential customers for their engines. Disappointed by Wright’s decision, Bellanca left the company and formed the Columbia Aircraft Company. Wright sold the WB-2 and all drawings and production rights to the new company. The WB-2 went on to a long and fruitful flying career starting with establishing a new world’s non-refueled endurance record of 51 hours, 11 minutes, and 59 seconds in April of 1927 (http://www.bellancamuseum.org/history/giuseppe-m-bellanca)

 

Bellanca, G. M. Bellanca History [Including What Appears to Be Handwritten Notes by G. M. Bellanca]. n.d. MS Collections related to Commercial Aeronautics: Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection NASM0061, Box 43, Folder 1. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Correspondence, Smithsonian Institution. n.d. MS Collections related to Commercial Aeronautics: Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection NASM0061, Box 132, Folder 3. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Photographs - Giuseppe M. Bellanca. n.d. MS Collections related to Commercial Aeronautics: Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection NASM0061, Box 152, Folder 17. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Civil Aeronautics Administration, 1952-1956. 1952-1956. MS Collections related to Commercial Aeronautics: Giuseppe M. Bellanca Collection NASM0061, Box 14, Folder 17. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division
 

JACQUELINE COCHRAN (1910?-1980)

Jacqueline Cochran rose from childhood poverty to become an aviation pioneer. She was the first woman to fly in the Bendix Trophy Transcontinental Race in 1935, winning it in 1938, and was the first woman to ferry a bomber across the Atlantic Ocean in support of the war effort in 1941. By 1961, she had become the first woman to break the sound barrier and held more speed records than any other pilot in the world. The achievements of Jacqueline Cochran would be remarkable for anyone but are even more spectacular considering her humble beginnings and the fact she chose to compete in an arena not readily open to women of her time. An orphan, Cochran's exact birth date is uncertain. While she was raised with the name of her foster family, Cochran later picked from a phone book the name she would make famous. 

Adapted from: "Jacqueline Cochran." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 18, Gale, 2004

 

Cochran, Miss Jacqueline [Correspondence], 1946-1964, #1. 1946-1964. MS National Aeronautical Association Archives: Series 5: Administrative Records, 1920-1980 Box 139, Folder 4. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Cochran, Miss Jacqueline [Correspondence], 1946-1964, #3. 1946-1964. MS National Aeronautical Association Archives: Series 5: Administrative Records, 1920-1980 Box 139, Folder 6. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Cochran, Miss Jacqueline [Correspondence], 1946-1964, #2. 1946 - 1964. MS National Aeronautical Association Archives: Series 5: Administrative Records, 1920-1980 Box 139, Folder 5. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

1933 Transcontinental Flights. 1933. MS National Aeronautical Association Archives: Series 4: Attempted & Sanctioned Records, 1922-1981 Box 110, Folder 26. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division
 

AUGUSTUS ROY KNABENSHUE (1875-1960)

A. Roy Knabenshue made outstanding contributions to aviation as an aeronaut making balloon flights. He was among the first to pilot a steerable balloon, one of the pilots of the first successful American dirigible, a builder and exhibitor of dirigibles of his own design, manager of the Wright Brothers’ Exhibition Team, and a leading builder of observation balloons during World War I. In late 1907 Knabenshue began to build a three-man airship designed to carry passengers as well as for exhibition work. In May 1908 Roy made an ascent at Toledo in this airship with two others aboard. In January 1910 Knabenshue participated in the First International Air Meet at Dominques Field, Los Angeles, racing his dirigible against others. By late 1909, public interest began to turn to airplanes and the Wright Brothers decided to put on flight exhibitions. They employed Knabenshue to plan exhibitions for the Wright Fliers being trained at a flying school in Montgomery, Alabama opened in March 1910, now known as Maxwell Field. In 1912 Knabenshue started a dirigible passenger flight service in Pasadena, California. In 1914 he flew his dirigible White City over Chicago. This blimp had made history in 1913 and 1914 with aerial sightseeing over the Midwest. During World War I, he built observation balloons for the Government. (https://www.nationalaviation.org/our-enshrinees/knabenshue-roy/)

 

Knabenshue, A. Roy. "The First Flights of the New Dirigible." Aeronautics [New York], June 1908

"'Business Possibilities with United States Army.'By A. Roy Knabenshue." Collections related to Balloons and Airships

Knabenshue, A. Roy. Articles by A. Roy Knabenshue. n.d. MS Collections related to Balloons and Airships: A. Roy Knabenshue Collection NASM0018, Box 1, Folder 9. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Correspondence of A. Roy Knabenshue 1943-1953. 1943-1953. MS Collections related to Balloons and Airships: A. Roy Knabenshue Collection NASM0018, Box 1, Folder 13. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division
 

SAMUEL PIERPOINT LANGLEY (1834-1906)

As a boy Langley studied diligently and read widely in history, the classics, and various branches of science, but his formal education ended with graduation from high school in 1851. For the next several years Langley worked as an engineer and architect. After a trip abroad in 1864-1865 to visit observatories and research centers, he received an assistantship in the Harvard Observatory, Cambridge, Mass. Later he was put in charge of the small observatory at the Naval Academy in Annapolis, Md. In 1867 he became director of the Allegheny Observatory and professor of physics and astronomy at the Western University of Pennsylvania (now the University of Pittsburgh). Langley was appointed secretary of the Smithsonian Institution in Washington, D. C., in 1887 and served in that post until his death. During this time he investigated the possibilities of manned flight, studying the lift and drift of moving plane surfaces on a sophisticated scientific basis. Experimenting with small models propelled by elastic strips, he worked out the mathematics of the problem. His contributions to aviation rest not only on the knowledge he acquired and shared with others or upon his successful long-distance flights of power-driven models, but also upon the dignity he brought, as a man of sound scientific reputation, to the new and often-ridiculed field of aeronautics. Eventually Langley built a full-sized machine driven by a 53-horsepower gasoline engine. He made two well-publicized attempts to fly it in 1903. These flights failed, probably because of defects in the launching device, not because of design or engine malfunction. But Langley was subjected to much public ridicule. Only 9 days after his second disappointment, the Wright brothers made their historic first flight. A restored and slightly modified version of Langley's airplane was flown successfully by Glenn Curtiss in 1914, and Langley's contributions to flight have been recognized by naming an airfield and an aeronautics laboratory after him.

Adapted from: "Samuel Pierpont Langley." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 9, Gale, 2004

 

Langley, Samuel P. "Experiments in Aerodynamics." Fly, Feb. 1910

Langley, S. P. Articles & Papers by S. P. Langley (Non-Aeronautic) 1 of 3 (1874-1884). 1874-1884. MS Collections related to Aeronautics: Samuel P. Langley Collection, 1891-1914 NASM0019, Box 43, Folder 11. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Langley, Samuel P. Professor Samuel P. Langley Observing Demonstration of Alberto Santos- Dumont's Airship, St. Cloud, France, September 1900. Sept. 1900. MS Collections related to Aeronautics: William J. Hammer Collection, 1881-1934 NASM0010, Box 8, Folder 3. National Air and Space Museum, Archives Division

Langley, Samuel Pierpont. James Smithson: by Samuel Pierpont Langley. Judd & Detweiler, Printers, 1904
 

LAWRENCE SPERRY (1892-1923)

Lawrence was an energetic youth, and by age 10 he had acquired a bicycle and a newspaper route. The events at Kitty Hawk, N.C., that made the front pages in December 1903 left a strong impression on him. The ingenuity of the Wright brothers spurred young Lawrence to open a bicycle, roller skate and doorbell repair shop in the basement of the family house. It was an instant success, and in short order he expanded his operations to include motorcycle repair. From an early age, he displayed a natural yen for mechanical devices, despite a lack of formal training. Realizing that a mostly on-the-job education in flying was insufficient, Lawrence decided to formalize his conquest of the air. After a few more years of academic study, he enrolled in the aviation school run by Glenn Curtiss at Hammondsport, N.Y. Sperry learned quickly. On October 15, 1913, he received Federal Aeronautics Pilot License No. 11 from the Aero Club of America. (https://www.historynet.com/lawrence-sperry-autopilot-inventor-and-aviation-innovator.htm) 

American inventor and entrepreneur Elmer Ambrose Sperry (1860–1930) had produced two gyrocompasses for use onboard ships. Sperry also invented the first automatic pilot for ships, named Metal Mike, which used the information from the ship's gyrocompass to steer the vessel. Sperry again led the way, when one of his devices was used aboard a Curtiss flying boat in 1912. It used a single gyroscope that, like all spinning masses, tended to resist any change in the plane's axis of rotation. Whenever the airplane departed from its original altitude, a small force was applied to a spring connected to one end of the gyro axis, and this, magnified mechanically, was used to restore movement of the aircraft controls. In 1914, Sperry's son, Lawrence, competed in Paris with fifty-three other entrants to win a prize of fifty thousand francs for the most stable airplane. ("Automatic Pilot." The Gale Encyclopedia of Science, edited by K. Lee Lerner and Brenda Wilmoth Lerner, 5th ed., vol. 1, Gale, 2014)

 

Sperry, Lawrence B. "Stability Devices." Aerial Age Weekly, 17 May 1915

Sperry, Lawrence B. "The Sperry Gyroscopic Stabilizer." Flying [New York], Aug. 1914

Sperry, Lawrence B. "Alleged 'Stunting'." Aerial Age Weekly, 12 Feb. 1917

Sperry, Lawrence B. "The Sperry Automatic Pilot." Flying [New York], Sept. 1916
 

THE WRIGHT BROTHERS

The American aviation pioneers Wilbur (1867-1912) and Orville (1871-1948) Wright were the first to accomplish manned, powered flight in a heavier-than-air machine. Their personalities were perfectly complementary: Orville was full of ideas and enthusiasms, an impetuous dreamer, while Wilbur was more steady in his habits, more mature in his judgments, and more likely to see a project through. The exploits of one of the great glider pilots of the late 19th century, Otto Lilienthal, had attracted the attention of the Wright brothers as early as 1891, but it was not until the death of this famous aeronautical engineer in 1896 that the two became interested in gliding experiments. The Wrights took up the problem of flight at an auspicious time, for some of the fundamental theories of aerodynamics were already known; a body of experimental data existed; and most importantly, the recent development of the internal combustion engine made available a sufficient source of power for manned flight. Although they sometimes acted as scientists, the basic approach of the Wrights was that of the engineer. They had no formal training as either scientist or engineer, but they combined the instincts of both. The Wright brothers soon discovered, however, that no manufacturer would undertake to build an engine that would meet their specifications, so they had to build their own. They produced one that had four cylinders and developed 12 horsepower. When it was installed in the air frame, the entire machine weighed just 750 pounds and proved to be capable of traveling 31 miles per hour. They took this new airplane to Kitty Hawk in the fall of 1903 and on December 17 made the world's first manned, powered flight in a heavier-than-air craft. The first flight was made by Orville and lasted only 12 seconds, during which the airplane flew 120 feet. That same day, however, on its fourth flight, with Wilbur at the controls, the plane stayed in the air for 59 seconds and traveled [sic.] 852 feet. 

Adapted from: "Wright Brothers." Encyclopedia of World Biography, 2nd ed., vol. 16, Gale, 2004

ORVILLE WRIGHT

Wright, Orville. "How We Made the First Flight." Flying [New York], Dec. 1918

Wright, Orville. "Our Early Flying Machine Developments." Slipstream, Jan. 1925

Wright, Orville. "Wright's First Statement since the War." U.S. Air Services, Dec. 1921

Wright, Orville. "How We Made the First Flight." Aero Club of America Bulletin, vol. II, no. 11, 1913

WILBUR WRIGHT

Wright, Wilbur. "Soaring Flight." Flight, 27 Nov. 1909

Wright, Wilbur. "How to Glide." Flight, 16 Oct. 1909

Wright, Wilbur. "What Clement Ader Did." Aero Club of America Bulletin, vol. I, no. 4, 1912

Wright, Wilbur. "Otto Lilienthal." Aero Club of America Bulletin, vol. I, no. 8, 1912

 

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