...A "Spooky" Parallel...

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Back home in Virginia after the Outer Banks trip, Hyde found some notes written by Wilbur Wright, which eerily predicted the experience of Hyde's team. On May 5, 1904, Wilbur wrote that he and Orville were working in secret, and "so far we've not been subjected to the slightest disturbance from the press." On May 23 the brothers invited reporters to Huffmann Prairie to view their progress. But the weather was uncooperative: "Light rain, wind too anemic," Wilbur wrote. "The result ... a run down the track and a flop onto the ground. Only three of the four cylinders firing properly. Many were disappointed." Hyde's team had the same troubles on Dec. 17 -- light wind and a misfiring cylinder -- and a disappointed audience. "It was spooky when I read that," Hyde said.

The flights completed this year, with a flight data recorder on board, plus the wind-tunnel tests, already have generated reams of data that will help to refine the procedures for future trials, Hyde said. "We learned a lot. ... The light bulb comes on when you start getting all this data." They learned, for example, that wind gusts can flex the surface of the canard, changing the angle of attack beyond the pilot's control. "It's like having an extra hand on the control surface there, that you don't need," Hyde said. They also found that, as Wilbur's notes had suggested, the airplane is controllable only within a very narrow range of speed. "The minimum is about 22 mph, and the maximum about 30 mph. After that, it becomes 'unmanageable,' as Wilbur put it."