Hacker News new | past | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Plane Lands/Takes Off in Only 20 Feet (2013) (kottke.org)
270 points by bookofjoe 75 days ago | hide | past | favorite | 118 comments

Although I can’t remember exactly which beach—it may have been Copalis or Ruby, both on the Washington coast—from which a friend of mine and I took off and landed behind the point where we took off. A strong, and steady headwind off the Pacific Ocean combined with his highly-STOL-modified and terrifically over-powered Cessna 170 allowed us to take off nearly vertically, drift backwards from the takeoff point and set down 30-40 feet behind the takeoff point. This was in 1979 or early 1980.

The airplane, that the owner, Tom, called a “Cessna 170 BXP,” had a power-modified Continental TSIO-360 engine taken from the front of a Cessna 337 Skymaster, big drooped wingtips, and STOL flaps and ailerons modifications. The STOL mods included various aerodynamic seals between the wing skin and control surfaces and, most significantly, an aileron droop mechanism where the degree of droop was linked to the degree of flaps deployed to vastly increase the low-speed effectiveness of the ailerons.

It was on big tundra tires.

(Edits: various idiotic-grammar fixes)

A possibly apocryphal story was passed around my flight school about someone who would to something similar at the airport - wait for a steady high wind down the runway, slowly take off and hang in front of the tower until they told him to clear the pattern, and then fly backwards to the start of the runway and touch down and taxi back to the hanger.

I believe the key is a strong headwind. I would like to see if this could be accomplished without the headwind. I believe short takeoff is possible but not quite that short.

The steady headwind was everything. The power and STOL mods just made it somewhat safer to do, although, had that headwind suddenly died, I am fairly sure we would have landed very, very hard.

We were young and stupid.

With the plane adjusted for hovering (or nearly so), a sudden drop in wind speed would cause you to quickly lose altitude, but you would also be accelerating forward relative to the ground to get back up to the former airspeed that the throttle is still set to produce. And the pilot would have had plenty of headroom to increase power, and that would have been an immediate response to an unwanted rate of descent. So a landing would not have been guaranteed, let alone a very hard one–but if you were too close to the ground for the pilot to react in time I could still see the landing being uncomfortable.

We were about 20ft off the ground. Tom said he was trying to stay in ground effect although I am not really sure that was a factor.

Intuitively the effect should be the same regardless, it's still the air being forced down by your wings forming a cushion increasing lift. There's probably some differences but the bulk of the effect should be the same.


Once you're airborne you're part of the airmass and moving with the airmass. Your ground speed becomes irrelevant for purpose of lift, as you've amply demonstrated.

"Wind died" implies that wind speed relative to the ground would change.

But whatever caused the massive airmass to alter velocity would impact you as well, right?

So my intuitive assumption is that while sudden air motions might disrupt you and flail you around, I'm not sure you would actually stall and fall down from loss of lift strictly because "Wind died down". (though you might be slammed into ground).

Any thought from anybody with more flight hours and aerodynamics theory than me? :->

It'd be like a microburst. Not so much the way the airmass moving fast is somehow different than the plane moving fast in a still airmass… more that it's a sudden change IN the state of the plane in the airmass. If the air suddenly stopped moving past the plane, that doesn't mean the plane suddenly starts moving past the airmass (ignoring its own inertia relative to its position in the world) to make the same airspeed.

Instead, if the airmass suddenly changes velocity, the plane stays in position, stalls, and drops like a rock. It's the rate of change that'd get ya: if it changed velocity very very slowly, you'd end up just zipping forward and not stalling at all. But the airmass suddenly reversing, that'd stall you immediately.

Not a pilot, but trained in physics. To a certain extent, what you say is true. However, the aircraft also has inertia, so if the wind suddenly dies, the aircraft doesn't simply surge forward to maintain its airspeed. It is inclined to stay where it is and the amount of air flowing over the wings will consequently drop. Constant wind is easy and can be treated more or less as you describe, but gusty variable wind can and will cause problems.

Without headwind you cannot get negative groundspeed with any conventional airplane design.

Yes, of course airflow over the wings is required for a plane to take off, and therefore it must move forward.

Unless it has a large (>1) power to weight ratio.

You still need airflow over the wings to turn it up to allow the propeller to produce lift. Unless you are flying a V-22 Osprey

Or you could have a tail-sitter... but I thought none of these were necessary points to mention.

You mean thrust to weight ratio?

Cool, now do it on a conveyor belt!


Topical, someone just landed a Carbon Cub plane on a ~90ft helipad for a stunt with Red Bull a few days ago. The video[0] is insane, I've flown in STOL aircraft before but had no idea some were capable of landings like this.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kfKL7XEnxr4

When it showed the cockpit I was surprised it wasn't Mike Patey. It seems right up his alley!

Then I went to his channel, and it turns out Mike built the plane.



Is the takeoff here less impressive than the Super Cub in the OP? It looks like the Red Bull plane falls off the side, but can trade altitude for airspeed until its back in normal non-stalled flight. The Super Cub starts on flat land and only ever goes up.

(And likewise, the landing is less dangerous than it looks because even if the pilot overshoots, he has plenty of time to get the plane back to powered flight after it falls off).

Was just coming here to post the same link. Definitely a "hold my beer" moment.

I saw this too. When I saw the title, I assumed it would be a link to this stunt.

A lot of this is not a big surprise for those that are pilots. Aircraft design is has come a long way since the 40's.

It's very easy to get a plane off the around quickly that weighs less than 1300 pounds and has a 100 horsepower engine.

And for those that think getting your pilots license is insurmountable because of cost or medical issues, you can get a sport pilots license in as little as 20 hours of training with a drivers license as your medical to fly these aircraft. Limitations are one passenger, total weight of 1340 pounds, daytime good weather only, but you can still fly pretty much anywhere in the United States and Bahamas and to almost any airport, including Class B airspace and airports (read: largest airports in the country)

I'm pretty sure that I can get the light sport aircraft that I fly (Vashon Ranger) off the ground in a few hundred feet with full fuel (23 gallons) and a 170lb passenger on board and a decent headwind.

The Super Cub is a design from the 40s (1949) that weighs less than 1300 pounds (930 empty) and has more than 100 horsepower (105 at introduction, 150 by 1954).


>you can get a sport pilots license in as little as 20 hours of training

This is not enough training to operate safely, in my opinion. Even in VFR conditions, I think it would be negligent for an instructor to turn a 20-hour pilot loose without further oversight. Even if a student pilot has flown solo by that point in their training, their instructor still needs to sign off on all cross-country flights. Entering Class B with 20 hours is out of the question in my view.

I also disagree that the Sport license meaningfully decreases the cost of general aviation. The largest expenses are fuel and aircraft rental fees or maintenance, neither of which are mitigated in the long term by a shorter training period.

It sounds like you are probably more experienced than I am, so maybe I'm wrong.

The Royal Australian Air Force was flying the DHC4 Caribou aa a light airlifter until the early 2000's. It was an amazing piece of engineering and was first flown in the late 50s. You could literally fly backwards in a headeind and land on a dime. It was really useful for tiny dirt strips in places like Papua New Guinea. Unfortunately, there's not much out there that can match it's capability for what it was.

"Aircraft design is has come a long way since the 40's."

You could do this in 1940s aircraft as well. Biplanes can also do short-field takeoffs with impressively short distances.

I have very little experience riding in small aircraft, but I remember taking a tourist flight from Finow (Germany) in an Antonov An-2 during the CCC camp.

Strikingly, the pilot didn't really bother to line up with the runway at all prior to his landing. He just kind of flew toward the airport and then made an almost automobile-style turn in the air at the last minute from his approach vector onto the runway.


> As such, pilots of the An-2 have stated that they are capable of flying the aircraft in full control at 48 km/h (30 mph)

True. The Fieseler Storch first flew in 1936 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fieseler_Fi_156_Storch at could do this.

Some are still flying, according to the Wikipedia page

"A few hundred feet" and "20 feet" is a huge difference!

Of course.

But when you do it on an 11,000 foot runway with full fuel and a passenger it's almost comical to fly almost two miles down the runway centerline. :)

I really wish the MIT crowd would (Lincoln Labs, Mitre, et al) would spend more time telling the generals what they don't want to hear: that the Osprey is a fucking widow-maker and they should invest in more traditional helicopters and light aircraft. Props aren't sexy but they don't melt the tarmac, set the lawn on fire, they don't have nacelle fires, they don't blow the LZ away (1) and they don't have the transient wash conditions where there's literally no way generate sufficient lift near the ground. Look for all the "hard landings" they use to avoid declaring class A mishaps (2).

Oh, and it can't land in sandy conditions. Literally they have to secure the LZ and then hose it down before they can "assault" it.

Boeing's military group has a culture that is seriously problematic when it comes to profit vs safety, and frankly safety vs performance.

(1) https://www.thedrive.com/the-war-zone/40289/watch-this-cv-22...

(2) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Accidents_and_incidents_involv...

Doesn't the v280 solve this?

I'm not a pilot but my friends tell me this doesn't solve the sinking problem, nothing is going to help with the differential pressure you get crossing a landing deck of a moving ship.

9 feet 5 inches: https://youtu.be/hPakbghLe38

On a separate note, while I was in a flying lesson once, my instructor flew the plane backwards. The plane, a Cessna 172, was moving backwards (the ground was moving forward underneath us).

Same principle as the STOL contests in Alaska- steong headwinds.

In our case the headwind was greater than our stall speed, so the airspeed was greater than our stall speed and the wings generated enough lift to keep us in the air; we idled the throttle so our airspeed would not exceed the wind speed.

If headwind is greater than your takeoff speed then there’s no reason you can’t take off and land in very short distances.

So you're saying if the wind is strong enough the right airplane can take off with 0 or negative speed?

Has this ever been done? Excluding VTOL aircrafts of course.

Yes. It's been done a lot. I was at an Oshkosh EAA Fly-In in the late 80s as an ultralight club was trying to take off to travel back home. But the headwinds were crazy that day. We watched these guys take off repeatedly without moving forward and then slowly drift back before giving up and landing behind where they took off. It was pretty amusing.

If the wind is strong enough, the wings are just sails; you can catch it like a kite, and up you go.

Headwind is a significant consideration of pretty much every take-off and landing. For instance, battle-ready aircraft carriers constantly maintain a position with their catapults launching into the wind.

I don’t see why not but I am not an aerodynamic engineer.

I found this: https://youtu.be/vas0nVTLyCM

Every time you think to yourself that the frontier is gone, remember: Alaska exists.

The land of truly YOLO pilots. Glacier Pilot: The Story of Bob Reeve is a great book about one of the early ones in AK.

I just spent a month there in the heart of winter. Explored from Anchorage to Chena Hot Springs, out east in Tok, and back through the glaciers.

Was an incredible experience of immense beauty. Highly recommended.

It is pretty incredible. I remember exploring up north of Fairbanks and you’d be a nice paved two lane road. Not a tiny road, but think secondary highway.

Then you get to the end of it and it just stops - nothing beyond it but wilderness.

Pretty wild compared to even the Western US where the road network even in the empty parts of Nevada is pretty good and you can cross through it.

In Alaska some roads just end because there is nothing beyond it.

Every time someone advertises Alaska like this, the frontier disappears a little.

Alaska's population is lower than it was 7 years ago. More people have moved away than moved in every year for the past 10 years.

Don't really matter. As the population increases and is increasingly urban, those values and restrictions are imposed on frontier as well.

There are probably more unlicensed pilots in Alaska than there are licensed. "Restrictions" on the frontier out in Alaska are a LONG way away...

Being truly free to do something is different than just not getting caught.

I grew up in Bozeman, Montana, so I've got my own sob story of beloved disappearing hometown to contend with, thanks.

Agreed. Alaska is pretty much fully mapped out, there’s no real secrets out there anymore.

The deep ocean is the last unmapped frontier on Earth.

Check out the Experimental Aircraft Association. If you have one in your city and you like planes definitely pay them a visit. It's a niche group of guys making their own planes and flying them and they are usually pretty excited about visitors. I went a few times and got on a couple of rides. They even offer free clases for those wanting to learn how to fly. Some of the crazy things I learned is that you can build your own plane for under $10K and if it is under certain weight, I believe 400 lbs, you can flight without a permit. Some planes feature a nice kit of avionics but some are completely manual, not even a radio. The stall speed of the ones I flew I believe is 45 mph and max speed about 80 mph but some little jets can go 200-300 mph.

With the weight limit you're referring to the part 103 rules addressing ultralight aircraft.

14 CFR 103.1(e)(1)

[If powered:]

Weighs less than 254 pounds empty weight, excluding floats and safety devices which are intended for deployment in a potentially catastrophic situation;

Thanks for the clarification/correction.

It seems crazy to me some rules are so relaxed.

I remember asking if there were any limits on where they could flight their experimental planes, say urban/densely populated areas, the answer was "nah".

Well, there are no special restrictions for experimentals over populated areas, but they are still subject to all the standard restrictions (1000ft above the highest obstacle within a horizontal radius of 2000ft) and any airspace restrictions.

I had the same reaction! Shockingly laissez faire for the FAA.

The linked article with details on design (http://www.zenithair.com/stolch801/design/design.html) is very interesting and I wish every company marketing a product would write down their design choices like that.

Imagine engineers designing a car would have to write about the design rationale of their touch interfaces...

>rationale of their touch interfaces...

Automotive EE here, I can explain that.

Its cost. Done.

There is design and engineering in buttons and micros that are responsive, durable, perform how the user expects.

There is designer placement. Ergonomics and accessibility. This button is perfect and looks great here, but for a 5-percentile height Female it is outside the limits so, let’s redesign a ton of things to move it done here where it is stupid for everyone.

Digital buttons have almost zero cost and could be changed at will. There is also no holding a vehicle on a lot for weeks because the micro that switch bank X uses is unavailable.

For annoying reference, some of the new GM trucks have no fog light buttons. You need to access that through the primary screen. It’s all cost.

It’s basically an afterthought now. If they get enough complaints they can change it, otherwise, it must be fine and within expected grumpy user margins.

Chevy (and I guess Tesla before them) is removing headlight switches entirely which is the topic of much justified angst. Safety controls should never only be accessible from a touch screen.


Can't wait to try that line with my boss:

> Katcherian claims that his team removed all possible bugs from the infotainment system.

Yeah any software engineer knows what a terrible BS statement this is.

Very annoyed at these digital buttons and especially buried options on touch screens (high-skilled driver, had racing license etc.). IT's da,n dangerous, increasing driver workload fumbling around for the right control that used to be by touch

OK I get the cost - if that's the case, let us configure it! E.g., essential to have the windsield defrost in an upper corner of the button array so when it fogs suddenly in traffic at night, I can just reach and hit it, instead of fumbling around blind....

Sorry, that would be more cost!

Plus, they need it to look fancy. If someone gets in your vehicle and the screen doesn’t look good, they might not buy the same vehicle.

It’s all cost, and digital isn’t free, but it’s way cheaper than physical buttons.

Oh geez, that's probably right. So, we're doomed?

I suppose the market is clearly moving away from anyone who actually drives e.g., see the lousy uptake of manual transmissions.

Yet this seems very serious. I think the job of the automobile's cockpit designer is to reduce the driver's workload and maximize the ease and reliability/repeatability of any needed action to control the car. This now seems to have been replaced with "provide the cheapest possible controls to minimally carry out some functions".

The result is that even significant functions that are carried out while driving require multi-layer on-screen menu navigation! I can hardly think of anything more hazardous - actively reating a function that requires continuous attention for multiple seconds (when you'll go 100m in 3-4 seconds); even with actual training to rapidly rotate my gaze between windscreen, mirrors, & dashboard, this is difficult, and likely mostly impossible for ordinary drivers.

Does management just not GAF about these issues? Crazy

EDIT: My first thought is a set of physical buttons with the logo for the function (heat, defrost, rear defrost, seat heater, etc.) that we can just pull and put in the arrangement on the row where we want them. But then that's probably more expensive. At least let us move items around at the block level in the touchscreen menu tree and screens? Again, more coding, and I get why we can't just open-source it. Isn't there any way to get someone involved that has an understanding of actual driver kinesiology and workload?

There would have to be some really strong wind in the opposite direction, so relative to the ground the plane speed is 10 knots, but it's airspeed is >100 knots. Demonstration: https://v.redd.it/8ejvh30f9d081

The second and third videos are shot head on so you can't really tell the speed

This video was obviously shot in very windy conditions, but 100kt airspeed is wildly wrong. We're talking about a class of planes where 100kt is a typical cruising speed, with maximum speeds not much higher. With stall speeds like 37kt or less (before accounting for ground effect), landing with a ground speed of 10kt doesn't require a hurricane-force headwind. See eg. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Piper_PA-18_Super_Cub#Specific... and https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/CubCrafters_CC11-160_Carbon_Cu...

Yeah I think the super stols might be down to like 25 knots

A (mostly) stock Cessna 182 lands at around 70kts - these stol comp aircraft are down below 40. I can slow flight my 182 down to 40ish on a clean day.

A former airline pilot has developed the Explorer, a modern high-end STOL with a Pratt & Whitney turbine as its power plant, capable of carrying almost 1.5 tons.


I believe their Facebook page has some videos from a recent Iceland journey, hopping between backcountry runways.


I was lucky enough to be resupplied by a Super Cub air taxi service multiple times while on a long mountaineering trip in Alaska many years ago. It was incredible to see all the random places that the pilot could land, including a gravel bar similar to the video in the article.

There is a very cool race series that revolves around racing STOL aircraft like these. The planes start at a standstill, need take off, fly in a straight line, land, turn around and take off again back to the starting line. All within the length of a traditional 1/4 mile dragstrip.

It's weirdly exciting. And it's highly entertaining to see a crowd at an airshow going absolutely wild for a couple of piper cubs while big military planes do flybys in the background.

That's neat.

In the biplane era, there were some very short takeoff aircraft. The tiny Sperry Messenger [1] was a good example. In the 1920s, Sperry once landed one of those in front of the U.S. Capitol. (This was not considered a security incident at the time.)

That's a well-executed 1920s vision of a flying car.

[1] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Verville-Sperry_M-1_Messenger

From the article linked:

> Angered because the government was slow to make payments on his contracts, Lawrence fueled the plane and flew to Washington to strike a telling blow against the bureaucracy. Circling the Capitol at ground level to disrupt Congress, he landed directly on the Capitol steps and stormed into the office of the Assistant Secretary of the Navy.

I'm gonna guess this is when they started writing up some restrictions re: landing on the Capitol steps.

How is this significant? Can't you land/takeoff with 0 feet given a strong enough headwind?

The article doesn't seem to mention wind at all.

How many planes have a stall speed low enough to do that even in a strong headwind?

Depends. How strong is the headwind?

IIRC, the US record is 231 MPH at Mt Washington. You could take off a 747 in 0 feet in that.

I guess the guy who posted this is not a pilot.

Wind is a thing. Wind is real. Pilots know this.

I don’t know Jason Kottke’s depth of knowledge about being a pilot, but I’d be willing to give him some credit. His father was a pilot and operated a small cargo airline. Jason regularly few with his father in small craft.

Blog posts about his father


And his decades of blog posts about flying.


Well, okay. I'm a pilot from a family of pilots, too. I am looking at a plane landing and taking off in a stiff head wind and finding nothing remarkable about it.

A Cub running with little fuel and cargo on a cold day at low altitude has a pretty low stall speed. Something like 40mph. It doesn't take an extraordinary wind to do a short take off roll.

See also an interesting video series of a crazy guy that put a turbine engine on a small STOL plane: https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PL9OFkVHYEhoEfWmN0lQRZ...

Took longer than I thought to see Mike Patey and his Draco plane (RIP) mentioned

(2013) article.

An article from Kottke.org on this exact topic was posted last week.


`(via digg)`

Wait does digg still exist? I hope it is better than reddit now.

I remember when Digg took over from Slashdot. I was skeptical at first but eventually I gave in. Now people wonder if Digg exists.

It does and the top story has 4 likes and 1 comment.

Got to fly in an A-22 Foxbat in AZ. You rotate immediately on applying power. In Sedona with a decent headwind we were off the ground at 22kts. Took us a bit more than 22ft but not much, that's for sure.

Tiny little go kart of a plane with a lawnmower engine (rotax) engine attached.

There's a video of one of these planes landing and taking off again on the Burj Khalifa helipad. It's a pretty impressive piece of flying.


That's the Burj Al Arab, but yeah, very impressive.

Yes you are correct of course.

I wonder, when somebody will make STOL plane with good per mile economy.

- Now exists excellent Piper and Maule, but they have comparable small range (for modern 1-motor typical more than 1000kilometers range), because high drag coefficient (non-retractable gear, textile skin).

I think, it is possible to make small STOL with big range, or for example, electric STOL.

See also: The catapult and tailhook. Famous for use in launch and recovery off aircraft carriers, this sort of tech is becoming increasing common for smallish unmanned aircraft. Eliminates the requirement of a runway (or otherwise prepared/large launch/recovery area), without needing the weight and complexity of VTOL equipment.

There is a pretty decent YouTube community of guys flying these bush planes around. They fly in to meetups at some pretty fascinating places usually in the middle of nowhere. If they need gas they just drop at a gas station in some desolate area to refill. It's a pretty interesting hobby to say the least.

you can literally land a carbon cub on a helipad on top of a hotel: https://www.flyingmag.com/carbon-cub-pilot-takes-stol-to-the...

> Never seen a plane do that before…well, aside from tiny model planes. What an incredible power-to-weight ratio that plane must have.

I mean, that was a lot of head wind. That is why they could do that. It's still pretty cool, but it wasn't just the plane.

Everything to do with headwinds. If you think only aircrafts can do this, watch this hang glider land: https://www.youtube.com/shorts/uQimddEKrFw Fort Funston, California.

Probably there is a strong headwind?

A little longer than 20 feet, but a much heavier aircraft and still impressive - a C-130 landing on an aircraft carrier: https://youtu.be/ar-poc38C84

That's amazing airmanship in an amazing aircraft. The first C-130 flew in 1954. They are still in service today, almost 70 years later. [0]

[0] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lockheed_C-130_Hercules

I don't think that's a fair way to describe the landing/takeoff distance. It would be more fair if they put two steep walls at the beginning and ending of the runway.

Although, for things like an aircraft carrier ship, the metric could be useful.

How high would you make the arbitrary walls?

that's actually how take-off distance is defined regulatory. The take-off distance of a plane is over a 50ft obstacle (i.e. a line of trees at the end of the runway or similar).

So high that the pilot can prove that they did not use more distance for the landing/takeoff.

So you're defining take-off and landing such that each must also include a period of flying?

> Or on a gravel bar in a river:

this one looks very cool but the consequences of getting those estimations wrong would be pretty dire. idk man

What is the trick, big wheels that don’t hold the air?

Looks like that is what’s slowing the plane when landing, and let it start without a runway

Huge wheels mostly for safety and for convenience.

Idea, that typical landing strip is ideal road, perfectly flat and clear from garbage, like stones, but not for STOL. And from automobiles exists empirical rule - wheel could easy deal with obstacles less than 25% of wheel diameter (some sources say about 10%).

STOL specially made for unprepared sites, like agricultural fields or just non-used wasteland, so they could meet stones or grooves, and should safety land in such conditions, and should be convenient for general field procedures.

Even happened tries to make STOL with air cushion, or even crawlers, instead of wheel gear. They fly, but was too sophisticated to be economically comparable to just big wheels.

The trick is that the plane flies while still going absurdly slow. 37 kt vs >120 kt for similar planes.

So less momentum on landing to dispose of, or to generate while taking off.

120kt is a really high approach speed for any small plane. It's more around cruise for a C172 bit approach speeds are way lower.

Specially modified wings accept very slow flight, where typical plane already stall.

For example, typical stall speed for similar planes about 70kmh, but modified for STOL could stay at air at 45-50. With some fortunate wind, could land vertically, and even flight backward (as seen from surface).

Sure, need very reliable engine, because engine fail in such conditions could be fatal. Because of this nuance, small STOLs nearly only practice in US/EU (old US or German engines, or licensed clones).

It's all about the headwind. All planes can have a short ground roll on take off or landing if the wind is sufficient.


(Some nice video on home page)

Didn't the 1903 Wright Flyer do that?

Wright brothers used few tricks, to make success faster, because of very early stages of flight tech.

First, they spent few years in meteorological archives, to choose very special place for flights - with constant strong winds and with significant long descent.

Only second, they spent time to create best motor, with unprecedented power/mass ratio, and only because automobile manufacturers avoid their order (because thinking, it will not lead to big series).

And Wrights was not first to flight, but they was first to make more or less reliable controlled flight. And Wright was first to create rule - two brothers should not fly at one plane at same time, for safety reasons.

The Dec 17 flights noted as successful were 120, 175, 200, and 852 feet in 1903 I don't see any other attempts noted. Some of their earlier flights were probably shorter but didn't really get off the ground successfully enough to really be called flights or even really get noted most places. The rest from 1903 seem to have been gliding attempts that wouldn't fit the records here.

I believe those were distances flown, not the takeoff distance. If you look at the photo of the first flight, it hasn't gone very far.

Those are the distances flown. Their take off rail was 60 feet total not sure if they noted their take off distance at the time, it's not mentioned in the accounts I've read but they're not super in depth.


They're well aloft before the end of that rail, in my most favorite photo of history.

Kitty Hawk was chosen because the strong consistent winds so definitely helped. I don't know about 20 feet though.

Even airplanes today always try to take off into the wind :-) An aircraft carrier will steam full blast into the wind when launching airplanes.

The Wright Flyer surely landed in less than 20 feet, too, as it just had a skid.

Applications are open for YC Summer 2023

Guidelines | FAQ | Lists | API | Security | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact