Who were the Wright brothers' competitors?
I heard that there was a person who was sponsored by the government to make the first flying airplane. The Wright brothers beat him to it and this made him really depressed and he gave up his career.
Who was he? his name?
You are thinking of Sammuel Perpoint Langley and mis-remembering a few of the facts.
Yes Langley who was the secretary of the Smithsonian beat out the Wright Brothers for a grant from the Dept of War in 1898, however; Langley died February 27, 1906 a few months before The Wright Brothers were awarded their patent May 22, 1906 and their achievements in avionics became common knowledge. The Wright brothers were exceptionally disciplined and shunned all publicity prior to being awarded their patent. So Langley would not have been aware of the Wright Brother's success in Feb of 1906, nobody was.
The Wright Brothers competitors fall into three categories.. Those coming before and after their patent and those who have harassed the Wright's place in history into the 21 century. In all three of these categories their top antagonists / competitor was Samuel Perpoint Langley and by proxy the Smithsonian Institute. After having been awarded their patent the Wright's greatest competitor was Glen Curtis who aligned with the Smithsonian to leveraged Perpoint's work in an unsuccessful attempt to invalidate the Wrights patent beginning in 1914 and obliterate the Wright's place in history. Glen Curtis who's company eventually purchased the Wright's company in 1929 to create the Curtis-Wright Corporation in 1929.
The Wright brothers were very secretive. They developed their technology clandestinely and even while others, years behind them in capability claimed world records and accolades in flight for distance, time, and speed the Wright brothers remained silent. It was not until after the Wright brothers were awarded a patent (May 22, 1906) that they went public and demonstrated how far beyond their contemporary aeronautic competitors they were.
- In December 1902 a Wright brothers built glider flew 600 feet. A
World Record but they didn't publish it.
- December 17, 1903 The Wright built the first successful
powered airplane and Wilbur Wright flew 852 feet (260 m) in 59
seconds a World Record. but they didn't publish it.
- October 5, 1905 Wilbur Wright flew for 39 minutes and a total
distance of 24 1/2 miles. a World Record in what is called today “The world’s first practical airplane” A newspaper picked up the story and the Wrights didn't fly again for two years to avoid publicity.
WHAT'S GOING ON IN EUROPE? In 1906, the Brazilian Alberto Santos-Dumont set the first world record(**) recognized by the Federation Aeronautique Internationale of France by flying 220 meters (720
ft) in 21.5 seconds. more than 4 years behind the Wrights.
Wright Flights Are Publicly Disclosed in 1906 after they are awarded their Patent.
According to the April 1907 issue of the Scientific American
magazine the Wright brothers had the most advanced knowledge of
heavier-than-air navigation at the time.
September 9, 1908 from the United Press.
WRIGHT BREAKS WORLD FLYING RECORDS TODAY AT FORT MYER, VA.
The Wright aeroplane, operated by the aviator, whose brother Wilbur
has been conducting successful tests in France, sailed today over and
around the parade ground at Fort Myer, Va., for 57 minutes and 31
seconds, exceeding by more than 26 minutes the world-breaking record
made last Monday by Delagrange, near Paris.
** Although the Wright Brothers were setting and breaking world records from 1902-1908, they did not publish these records. So nobody in Europe would be aware of what they were doing.
As such the Wright Brothers competitors fall into three categories. Those who were in competition with the Wrights prior to being granted a patent, those were competed with the Wrights after the Wrights got their patent, and those who challenge the Wright's legacy as first in powered flight to this day. The man who falls into all three of these categories is Samuel Pierpoint Langley, the third secretary of the Smithsonian Institute who's publicly funded organization has continued a vendetta against the Wrights into the 21st century.
Prior to being awarded their patent by far Samuel Pierpont Langley was the Wright's greatest competitor. While the Wright brothers were two self taught engineers who professionally supported themselves by manufacturing, repairing, and selling bicycles Samuel Pierpoint Langley was a famous scientist (astronomer), professor and the secretary of the Smithsonian Institute. In 1898 Langley relying on his scientific credentials and prestige of his office would defeat the Wright brothers in a competition for a $50,000 research Grant from the U.S. War Dept.
Samuel Pierpoint Langley produced an early unmanned powered airplane he dubbed the Arodrome. (Wind Runner)... Based on these models he was financed by the US War Dept to create a manned version of his plane. Langley's series of airodromes were lanched by catapult on the Potomac river, and while he had no way to steering and all of his manned and unmanned launches ended in crashes Pierpoint langley claimed the title of first powered flight, and has been recognized in that conspicuously by the Smithsonian Institute which Pierpoint ran.
from the Smithsonian Samuel P. Langley: Aviation Pioneer
After the Wrights were awarded their patent Glen Curtis who would be sued by the Wrights for stealing their technology would on behest of the Smithsonian Institute would try to leverage Langley's earlier work in contesting the Wrights Patent.
The Wright's Smithsonian Feud
Glenn Curtiss and the Langley Aerodrome.
Orville Wright's concerns deepened in 1914 (Wilbur died in 1912) when the Smithsonian contracted aeronautical experimenter and aircraft manufacturer Glenn Curtiss to rebuild Langley's unsuccessful 1903 full-size airplane, the Great Aerodrome, which crashed for the second time just nine days before the Wrights' success at Kitty Hawk.
Immersed in bitter patent infringement litigation with the Wrights for years, Curtiss recognized that the Smithsonian's desire to tout the aeronautical achievements of Langley could serve his own interests. A partnership was formed and the Smithsonian issued a $2,000 contract to Curtiss to rebuild and test the Langley Aerodrome.
After completely rebuilding the Langley Aerodrome with extensive modifications and a different engine, Curtiss did manage to make brief, straight-line hops with it. The aircraft was then returned to the Smithsonian, restored to its failed 1903 configuration, and displayed with a label stating that it was the "first man-carrying aeroplane in the history of the world capable of sustained free flight." Orville was outraged.
For many years the Smithsonian Institution did not formally recognize the 1903 Wright Flyer as first in flight. Instead, it proclaimed the Langley Aerodrome as first to be "capable" of manned powered flight. This policy offended the surviving Wright brother, Orville, who sent the Wright Flyer to the Science Museum in London on long-term loan, rather than donate it to the Smithsonian. In 1942 the Smithsonian publicly recanted its position, and Orville agreed to bring back the Flyer.
As a condition for receiving the airplane, the Smithsonian signed an agreement in 1948 with executors of Orville Wright's estate. Popularly called a "contract," the agreement required the Smithsonian to recognize only the 1903 Wright Flyer, and no other aircraft, as first to make a manned, powered, controlled flight. The agreement, which was not made public, allowed the Wright family to reclaim the Flyer if the Smithsonian failed to comply.[Note 2]
In 1975, O'Dwyer learned about the agreement from Harold S. Miller, an executor of the Orville Wright estate. O'Dwyer obtained release of the document with help from Connecticut U.S. Senator Lowell Weicker and the U.S. Freedom of Information Act. O'Dwyer said that during an earlier 1969 conversation with Paul E. Garber, a Smithsonian curator of early aircraft, Garber denied that a contract existed and said he "could never agree to such a thing."
According to the Smithsonian, the agreement was implemented to close the long-running feud with the Wright family over the Institution's false claims for the Aerodrome. Brinchman documented that Gardner and Findley, who helped Orville rebut the Whitehead claims, also participated in crafting text in the agreement that the Institution is required to use in its labeling of the Wright Flyer.
Before the Smithsonian was to open it's Air and Space Museum in Washington DC, it declared its intention to hang the Langley Aerodrome, The Wright Family under the 1942 agreement threatened to reclaim the Wright Flyer and hang it in the Wright Brother's Museum in Kitty Hawk North Carolina. The Smithsonian recanted and did not hang the Aerodrome.
When the Smithsonian opened the Udvar Hazy Center. Dec 15, 2003, They hung the Samuel Pierpoint Langley Aerodrome where it still is hung today, underneath the plane, on the elivated walkway in 2003, was a small bronze plaque which read. "First Powered Flight". I haven't been back for a few years, but every time I go I look for that plaque and try to tell at least one museum guest the controversy.