The last aircraft to receive design input from the Wright Brothers - the Model L biplane - proved a commercial failure for the Wright Company and forced a focus on aero-engines instead.
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The final aircraft to be produced by the Wright Company was the Wright "Model L". Designed and developed along the lines of a fast military-minded reconnaissance platform (referred to during the period as a "scout"), the aircraft followed conventional thinking of 1916 with its biplane wing arrangement, open -air cockpit and fixed wheeled undercarriage. The wings were affixed to one another by way of parallel struts and cabling assisted in controlling the new aircraft. This product became the last aircraft to receive any input from one of the famous brothers.
As speed for the design was of the essence, much care was taken to produce a most streamlined shape and this resulted in a relatively clean, long fuselage showcasing slab sides and the engine fitted to the nose in the usual way, driving a two-bladed wooden propeller. The aft section of the aircraft was dominated by a rather large and ungainly tailplane arrangement - the horizontal planes were well-contoured along the sides of the empennage but of considerable surface area. Conversely, the sole vertical tail fin was small in area and rounded for aerodynamic efficiency. No foot-actuated rudder controls were fitted in the cockpit - instead such controlling was managed by a grip found on the right side of the steering-wheel-like control yoke. The engine powering the aircraft was an in-house Wright 6-60 series installation.
In testing the Model L was proven to be no faster than competing designs of the period - it reached approximately 80 miles per hour in its basic load out as too much drag was being generated by the large horizontal tail surfaces. This eventually led to very little interest on the part of military players around the globe - included the United States Army's air service branch. With no endorsement to be found at home, the product saw even less interest overseas - this even amidst a World War over Europe.
As such the Wright Model L proved a market failure for the company and forced its attention on the design and development of aero-engines and automobile engines for the foreseeable future. This opened a new chapter for the company as Wright became associated with many of the powerplants fitted to various aircraft that emerged in the decades ahead - well into World War 2.
The Wright company name was eventually merged with the famous Glenn L. Martin company to form Wright-Martin Aircraft Corporation. The arrangement fell apart shortly thereafter when Martin himself resigned and the company became Wright Aeronautical in 1919 and then ending as Curtiss-Wright Corporation in a 1929 merger.
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