Wright Flight Stability and Control

One of the Wrights’ most innovative

solutions for the problem of flight was their patented ‘wing-warping’ mechanism for control in roll. Inspired by birds, they used a torsional action of their wings to create more lift on one side of the wing than the other. In the Wrights’ design the pilot moves his hips in a cradle, moving the cables and thus warping the wings.


A third axis of control in yaw was implemented in order to deal with a secondary effect of the wing-warping, namely adverse yaw. This effect was caused by the wing creating more lift generating increased drag, yawing the aircraft away from the desired turn. The moveable rudder was devised to create yawing moments counteracting the adverse yaw.

The Wright brothers gliders and Flyers were unstable in pitch. Any disturbance, if left unchecked, caused the motion of the aircraft to diverge rapidly.

The Wrights knew that having sufficient control was more important that stability. This situation shows that their unstable aircraft could be flown by a skilled pilot, although the high level of instability of their 1903 Flyer especially, made controlled flight a very demanding task.

Using modern analytical tools such as a root locus diagram (see opposite), the Liverpool Wright project has been able to investigate the stability and control of the Wright aircraft.