The Early Bird Gets The…Patent?
How long after their first flight did the Wright brothers submit their first patent application?
- six years
- three years
- three months
- three days
Answer: none of the above. You might expect that you would have to have accomplished the thing that your invention was ostensibly designed to do, before you could dash off to the Patent Office! But actually, the Wright brothers submitted their application for a patent in early 1903, nine months before their first flight. (They had applied for a patent in 1902, but were turned down.) As to when a patent was awarded, that is a different matter. Universally recognized as having made one of the most important contributions, namely the identification of an effective method of lateral control (the idea finally protected by their patent) it wasn’t actually issued until May 22, 1906. An interesting historical note is that the Wright Brothers did not fly at all for many months beginning in mid-October of 1905, for fear of somehow jeopardizing their pending patent. Another interesting note explains why we don’t see very many Wright airplanes flying: they may have gotten the patent, but the industry came to greatly favor ailerons, over wing-warping.
The First Composite Airplane
In what year was the first commercially built composite aircraft flown?
- 1983, Beech Starship
- 1980, Glasair
- 1967, Windecker Eagle
- 1938, Short Mayo
Answer: D. Short Mayo who? Rocket scientists weren’t the first to try increasing their vehicle’s range by adding additional stages. (This is a trick question, yes.) Back in 1938, the Short S21 Maia flying boat was wedded to an S20 Mercury seaplane on a flight from Ireland, during which the upper aircraft was separated and flew on to Montreal, Canada with a cargo of mail and newspapers. This was continued, on a route between Southhampton to Alexandria, until the start of WWII. One may wonder which airplane was the first to be built primarily of composite material (at least as far as its exterior surfaces), and the Windecker does seem to be the likely choice. Many airplanes from as far back as the 1930’s used at least a small amount of material that was eligible for the term “composite” or at least “synthetic“. (In the case of the Windecker, no, it was not carbon fiber, but it was the first civil aircraft having an outer structure made almost entirely of fiberglass.)
A Six-pack On Your Dash?
If anyone were eccentric enough (as well as possessed of enough skill) to augment their car’s dashboard instrumentation with an additional “six-pack” suite of fully functioning flight instruments, how well could they be made to work?
- They wouldn’t. Automobiles lack a vacuum system, and of course there would be nothing to supply dynamic and static pressures.
- The difference between the car’s 12-volt system and the airplane’s 14-volt system (in addition to the much higher amperage required in an airplane) would render the gyroscopic instruments useless.
- Cars don’t travel extensively enough nor rapidly enough in three dimensions for any such instruments to give meaningful indications.
- They could indeed be installed, aside from logistical problems with existing dashboard real estate. One would need to install a vacuum pump, and of course a pitot tube, static port, and associated plumbing. But the readings in a car would be just like what you would see in a taxiing airplane.
Answer: D. There would be a few limitations. Assuming that you had a calibrated pitot tube and a properly positioned static port installed, your airspeed indicator wouldn’t register much below 45 mph, your altimeter would be useless unless you either always set it to 29.92 or always had the current atmospheric pressure, and you would have to buy a pre-swung compass to go with your DG. Furthermore, your attitude indicator would probably mostly play dead unless you lived in San Francisco, as would your VSI unless you drove somewhere like West Virginia. Your turn coordinator would almost always be showing a slip or skid, and you would almost always peg its poor wings during even the most modest turns around any suburban corner. You wouldn’t need a transformer for the additional voltage, because a car battery and an aircraft battery are both 12 volts, and both of their alternators put out the same voltage: 13.5 to 14.5 V; they’re both 14 V systems. Also, the current draw is nominal. Finally, there’s more: the gyroscopic instruments would work, but only if they were either all-electric, or you added a vacuum system to power a conventional pair of attitude and heading indicators. (Don’t expect much help on the Form 337 from your local FSDO, though…)