Wills’s Aviation Card #56 – “Howard-Wright” Biplane.

Card #56.jpgHistory Behind The Card: “Howard-Wright” Biplane.
Card #56 of 75, W.D.& H.O Wills, Aviation series Capstan Navy Cut black back 1911 issue

  • Howard Theophilus Wright, circa 1867 in Dudley, England, Great Britain –  died circa 1945;
  • Thomas Octave Murdoch, January 18, 1888 in Kensington, England, Great Britain – January 27, 1989 in Hampshire, England, Great Britain. Yes – 101 years old!;
  • William Oke Manning, October 20, 1879 in Staines, Middlesex, England, Great Britain – March 2, 1958 in Farnham, Surrey, England, Great Britain;
  • Joseph Warwick Wright, circa 1876 in Dudley, England, Great Britain – died circa 1945;
  • Fredrico Capone, February 16, 1849 in Altavilla Irpina, Campania, Italy – June 14, 1918 in Torre of the Greek, Naples, Italy.
  • Horatio Claude Barber, circa 1875 in London, England, Great Britain – circa 1964 in Jersey, Channel Islands.

Man…. I don’t even know where to begin.This article is a biography and a half on multiple people… and since this may be the one and only time we ever come across these people… I’m going to give it the works.

There was so much contradictory information out there on the Internet about dates and what people flew and when… I have to admit that what I am presenting here is my best guess at wading through the mess and putting together a historical synopsis that makes the most sense.

The problems begin with the Wills’s tobacco card itself… which had, until this card, been pretty good at keeping errors to a minimum for the past cards.

Card 56R.jpg

Card #56 is from the 1911 issue… and yet, rather than show a Howard Wright 1910 Biplane, it instead shows the Howard Wright 1909 Biplane.

My guess is that this artwork was scheduled to be included in the original 50-card Wills’s series of 1910, but for whatever reason, wasn’t used.

When the 1911 series was expanded for the Australian overseas market to offer a 75-card series that included the first 50 cards from Wills’s, they received THIS artwork, thinking it was the most up-to-date model for Howard Wright.

The next error… the card calls the plane the Howard-Wright Biplane. By placing a hyphen between Howard and Wright, they make it seem as though there are two designers involved… but no… there is only Howard Wright. Technically. At least for the 1909 biplane. For the 1910 biplane, Howard Wright built it, but it was designed by W.O. Manning.

So, as usual… more research is required.

Howard Wright.jpg

Howard Wright

Not much is known about Howard Wright, except that he and his younger brother Joseph Warwick Wright were the other Wright Brothers involved in aviation, and were NOT related to the more famous American brothers, Orville and Wilbur.

Seriously… I can’t even get proper birth information on these two – or even death dates!

While Howard may have been the more famous of the two as far as aviation goes, his little brother Warwick was more famous for his role in the automobile industry.

Still… for the time period we are looking at—1908-1912—these two did work together. They also had another brother, Walter, who was an engineer and I think the middle brother.

Their father, Joseph Wright, was an engineer like his father before him, and was involved in the construction of India’s first railway. Returning to England in 1856, Joseph joined Thomas Howard Head to found the Teesdale Iron Works in Stockton, which at the time was called Head and Wright.

Joseph left that partnership in 1860 and set up the Neptune Foundry with partner Thomas Tinsely. Joseph married Tinsely’s cousin, Grace Tinsley, in 1859. She was the daughter of Theophilus Tinsley, mayor of Dudley. Now you know where Howard Wright got that middle name.

At the Neptune Foundry, they manufactured cast iron chains and anchors for ships, eventually doing a side business of building pre-heaters for steam engines (this will relate to Howard Wright later). Developing cancer, Joseph sold his interest in the foundry, but kept the steam technology business, eventually constructing large feed-water heaters and water softeners.

After the business moved to London,  and dad Joseph died in 1893, all the Warwick brothers then become involved in the company.

Between 1894-1898, Howard had five patents; and Warwick two patents. Still, the company went bankrupt. Howard and Walter and mother Grace were all affected by the bankruptcy’s drain—but not Warwick for some reason.

Warwick Wright.jpg

Warwick Wright

Enter Sir Hiram Maxim. See Card #30 and Card #52, and the first article I wrote on him HERE.


Sir Hiram Maxim

Maxim, who was looking to build a steam-powered aeroplane, began to work with Howard Wright as a works manager for the Maxim Electrical Engineering and Export Company, while also using him to work on his aviation experiments.

Warrick Wright was hired by The Vickers Maxim Company. In 1901, Vickers founded the Wolseley Motors Limited automobile company (in conjunction with Herbert Austin – but not the same Austin affiliated with the Austin Mini et al). It may have been Warwick’s introduction to the business of automobiles.

In 1903, after C.S. Rolls started the first automobile dealership in London importing Belgian Minerva luxury cars, Warwick opened up a Minerva dealership and also dealt with France’s Darracq cars made by A.Darracq & Company Limited.

When the Maxim Electrical Engineering and Export Company closed in 1904, Warwick and Howard partnered up in 1905 through 1912. Though a partnership, they were also free to establish partnerships with other businesses independently.

At first, Howard worked with machines to generate electricity such as gas and hot air turbines. Then he patented a type of carburetor. But in 1907 he joined forces with Italian Federico Capone who was interested in aviation.

Frederico Capone.jpg

Federico Capone

Back in 1905 Capone had constructed a pilotless helicopter. See below.


It looks like a tea trolley with wings. Despite some websites claiming it is, I am unsure if this IS the pilotless helicopter, because I don’t see a rotor system – and I see a guy sitting in the machine.

Howard Wright and Capone decided to build on that, and construct a piloted helicopter in 1908 in England… tested it… and then shipped it to Italy later that year for further trials in Naples in 1909.

Let’s talk helicopters for a moment.

Taken from Wikipedia (actually, I can’t recall and can’t find (again) where I got this from  – sorry. If anyone else can figure it out, let me know and I’ll provide proper credit.):

In 1907, Capone moved to Arpaise in the province of Benevento and there designed a second helicopter based on his earlier experiments. Unlike the first its construction was undertaken by Howard Wright. Detailed drawings for the helicopter were completed at Howard’s office at Belgravia Chambers during the winter of 1907-08 and shortly afterwards the aircraft took shape at the Marylebone workshops of Warwick Wright Ltd and subsequently at those at Battersea. The helicopter was built of thin-walled steel tubing, supplied by Accles & Pollock Ltd of Birmingham, welded together without the aid of sockets, to form a central box-shaped structure carrying two cantilever frameworks. The upper surface of the framework was extended in area by the addition of a steel tube lattice with balloon-cord leading and trailing edges, and the whole covered with fabric to provide flight surfaces. The rotors, their axes inclined outwards from the vertical, were mounted at the cantilevers’ extremities and driven through a system of shafts and spur and bevel gears by a single 50 hp Antoinette water-cooled engine, mounted transversely within the central structure. Two paddle-shaped blades were fitted to each rotor, the pitch of which was varied by means of a cam such that the blades had incidence only when travelling rearwards. The main undercarriage comprised four rubber-tyred wheels, whilst six smaller wheels were used to prevent the helicopter toppling over on landing. The rear starboard main undercarriage wheel was driven by a chain from the rotor drive shaft to enable the helicopter to be taxied. Directional control and stability of the machine were achieved with a system of movable surfaces: a large tailplane hinged at the trailing edge of the main surface; two triangular rudders, built on wooden frames, hinged at the corners of the tailplane and two triangular surfaces beneath the rotors, which provided roll control and propped the aircraft on the ground. The control surfaces were cable-operated from three small winches placed within easy reach of the pilot who sat cradled within the central structure aft of the engine. Another somewhat curious control device was fitted: it consisted of two large rectangular surfaces, mounted adjacent to the main framework, driven by the engine through a gear train, an eccentric and a slide. The resultant flapping motion, according to Capone, created ‘billowy-like air currents beneath the body of the apparatus to increase its stability.’
The flight of the helicopter, as envisaged by Capone, would have provided an interesting, if not alarming, spectacle. The rotors were to lift the aircraft to a reasonable height at which altitude the speed of the rotors would be reduced, and, because the machine’s centre of gravity was well ahead of its centre of lift, the aircraft would glide forward. The extent of the flight surfaces was such that at 20 mph the helicopter was expected to support its own weight. After a certain interval and before the machine had reached the ground, the rotor speed would be increased to lift it once more into the air. By intermittently increasing and decreasing the speed, the aircraft would proceed in a series of curves or billows.
In March 1908, the completed helicopter was conveyed to the privacy of a large tent, erected at one corner of Norbury Golf Links, which were situated southwest of London on the road to Croydon. On Friday, 7 March, Howard Wright and his assistants wheeled the machine from its hangar and proceeded to test it in secrecy. The initial trials, which involved taxi-ing and tethered hovering manoeuvres, revealed a number of defects. Contemporary reports of these tests and the accompanying descriptions of the helicopter fail to mention two small-diameter, four-blade tractor propellers geared to the rotor drive-shaft. The propellers are clearly visible in photographs (unsuitable for publication), of the helicopter at Norbury, and were shown on the drawing accompanying British patent 7,129 granted to Capone in 1908. Possibly, propellers were added in the intervening days before the helicopter’s second series of tests in an attempt to provide forward movement. However, all of the tests proved unsuccessful, inasmuch as the machine failed to lift its pilot and only when its all-up weight of 1,250 lb had been reduced to 650 lb did it rise readily to two feet clear of the ground, a restriction imposed on the helicopter by its tethers. Clearly, the power of the engine and the size of the rotors were inadequate, although the rotors were considered to be particularly efficient, giving a lift of 33 lb/hp at the rotor axis, with the blades set at a maximum incidence of 37 degrees and rotating at approximately 100 rpm.
To achieve success, Capone was faced with several solutions by which he could improve the helicopter’s performance: the main ones of which were to reduce substantially the all-up weight; increase the motive power or to improve the efficiency of the rotors. Capone took the last course of action by designing rotors of larger diameter, but also decided to design a new machine. Again, Howard Wright was asked to undertake its construction. Meanwhile, the helicopter at Norbury was dismantled for delivery to Capone in Italy.
In the course of designing the third helicopter a considerable weight saving was achieved and the need to install a more powerful engine, if one had been available, was less acute. The redesigned helicopter, according to the short-lived magazine The Airship, was fitted with a single 30 hp REP, seven-cylinder air-cooled semi-radial engine, and the weight of the aircraft, including the pilot, was 600 lb. The magazine continued: ‘The fans are each 26 ft in diameter and run at 90 to 100 rev/min. The soaring speed is only about fifteen miles per hour, and as the old fans lifted 650 lb there should be plenty of power with the fans of the new machine, which are 6 ft larger in diameter. The motor is cooled by a large fan, which acts as a propeller. It weighs 130 lb complete in running order, with magneto, carburettor, pipes, oil and all fittings. The framework of the aeroplane is entirely of steel tubes welded together without sockets. It weighs but 120 lb, which is decidedly light in view of the fact that the main plane is 30 ft wide, 22 ft deep. The reduction gear, which transmits 30 hp and gives a reduction of 10 to 1, weighs 12 1/2 lb. The 30 hp clutch weighs but 15 lb. Perhaps, however, the fans are most remarkable in this respect. Each of them only weighing 40 lb, including the hub. The blades are 6 ft 6 in long and 3 ft wide. The main plane is mounted on three strong motor-cycle wheels, with spring forks on the two in front, which are 20 ft apart.’ In all other respects the third helicopter was similar to the second.
The fact that The Airship was able to give a detailed specification in November 1908, when the article was published, indicates that the design or construction of the third helicopter was very advanced and must have been started soon after the trials of its predecessor. On 9 January, 1909, Flight recorded: ‘Howard Wright helicopter now completed and sent to Italy, tests in England were eminently satisfactory.’ Much later, on 30 October. 1909, with Howard Wright in attendance, the helicopter was tested on the military parade ground at Naples. Of the trials La Stampa reported them successful and a French source stated: ‘The inventor not having risked sitting in the machine to pilot it, the launch was made simply on the inclined plane which had been prepared to this end.’
Nothing further was heard of the helicopters but they were not to be Capone’s last efforts in the field of moving wing aircraft, for it has been recorded that Howard Wright built for him an ornithopter and another helicopter. Details of the former remain unknown. Work on the fourth helicopter was started in June 1909 and was completed that year.

Howard Wright Fredrico Capone 1908 helicopter.jpg

Helicopter No.2

  • Span across tips of rotors 48 feet 2-inches (14.68 meters);
  • Overall length with rotors fore and aft were 27 feet (8.23 meters);
  • Rotor centers and wing span 28 feet 10 inches (8.79 meters);
  • Rotor diameter 19 feet 4 inches (5.89 meters);
  • Rotor blade length 6 ft 4 inches (1.93 meters);
  • Rotor blade maximum chord 2 feet 4 inches (0.71 meters);
  • Wing root chord 11 feet 8 inches (3.56 meters);
  • Tailplane span 13 feet 2 inches (4.01 meters);
  • Tailplane chord 8 feet 2 inches (2.51 meters);
  • Propeller diameter 4 feet 8 inches (1.42 meters);
  • Propeller centers 10 feet (3.05 meters);
  • Undercarriage wheel base 6 feet (1.83 meters);
  • Undercarriage wheel track 4 feet (1.22 meters);
  • Wing area 160 square feet (14.8645 square meters);
  • Tailplane area including rudders 81 square feet (7.52515 square meters);
  • Weight loaded 1,250 pounds (567 kilograms);
  • Gliding speed 20 miles per hour (12.5 kilometers per hour).

Helicopter No.3

  • Span across tips of rotors 56 feet (17.07 meters);
  • Rotor centers and wing span 30 feet (9.14 meters);
  • Rotor diameter 26 feet (7.93 meters);
  • Rotor blade length 6 feet 6 inches (1.98 meters);
  • Rotor blade maximum chord 3 feet (0.91 meters);
  • Undercarriage wheel track 20 feet (6.10 meters);
  • Weight 600 pounds (272.16 kilograms);
  • Gliding speed 15 miles per hour (24.14 kilometers per hour).

By 1906, Warwick Wright had surrounded himself with famous, rich people such as Ross and John Brabazon (later Lord Brabazon) who were all in the Aero Club of Britain.

The three of them ordered the construction of a balloon from the Short Brothers manufacturers, that they called “Venus” and delivered in May 1906.

Still, Warwick Wright was interested in speed… speed from automobiles, entering various car races and police courts for excessive speeding.

Still working with his brother Howard, Warwick traveled to Chalons, France (with buddy Brabazon) to learn how to fly a Voisin biplane.

Howard… he “coincidentally” began working on the construction of a Voisin-type biplane, with his own modifications, and purchased a building next to the Short Brothers. The Short brothers were building balloons, but after the American Wright Brother’s success, decided that they should get a license to construct Wright Flyers from Orville and Wilbur.

William Oke Manning and Horatio Barber (in 1911, Barber flew the world’s first cargo flight when in Britain, he transported electric Osram light bulbs from Shoreham to Hove. He donated his L100 prize money towards a prize for his fellow pilots. He was also the first person in Great Britain to gain an aeronautical degree. He was also a pilot trainer during WWI) worked alongside Howard Wright at the new business known as the Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate. Barber designed a successful monoplane that was known as the Valkrie – and constructed by Howard Wright.

Howard Wright 1909 Biplane

The Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate received its first order for a biplane from Malcolm Seton Karr in December of 1908 at a cost of £1,200.

This was Howard Wright’s 1909 biplane, and is the aeroplane shown in the Wills’s card at the very top.


The Howard Wright 1909 Biplane. The one-and-only.

Wright’s design was of similar layout to the contemporary Voisin aircraft, being a pusher biplane with a front-mounted elevator and a rear-mounted box-like biplane tail with elongated fixed end-surfaces and a single central rudder. Wright’s aircraft differed in some details from Voisin’s designs, most obviously in having biplane front elevators and an undercarriage consisting of a single wheel carried by a pyramid of struts in front of the wings, with supplementary wheels on either wingtip and a tailwheel. This arrangement resembled that of the REP monoplane which had been displayed along with examples of Voisin aircraft at the Paris Aero Salon that December, and was intended to provide a degree of experience in lateral control of the aircraft without actually lifting off.

The fuselage was a tapered box-girder fabricated from welded steel tubes, the pilot’s seat being under the wings leading edge with the engine behind him.

From the March 27, 1909 edition of Flight magazine comes the following (w)right up on the Howard Wright Biplane of 1909.

I should note right here, that Flight magazine HYPHENATES the aircraft as Howard-Wright… which, if that was Wright’s intent, he was wrong. In this case, I am going out on a limb and suggest that Flight magazine was incorrect in adding a hyphen, and that Wills’s picked it up and used it. Wright couldn’t have hyphenated his own name when naming the aircraft – could he? Could it have been done to differentiate between himself and his aeroplane? Darn. Now I’m not sure. Flight magazine was pretty darn good at getting the facts correct.

The biplane designed by Mr. Howard T. Wright and built at his factory has several features, of which perhaps the most important is the entire use of steel tubes in the construction of the framework. These tubes are of special steel, and are specially drawn to different sections, those forming the main longitudinal members being tubular, while those which form the struts between the two decks have a pear-shaped section in accordance with the accepted theories of air-resistance. Other tubes again are oval in section, so that in the whole construction no trouble and expense has been spared to combine strength with lightness. Throughout, the joints are rigid, and in most cases have been formed by the oxy-acetylene welding process, which has even been used for securing the stapes to which the tie-wires are attached. In other places, flanged joints are used, but everywhere the work has been executed with the same care, so that the machine has a particularly neat, not to say delicate appearance, the latter effect being given to it by the small section of the steel tubing of the main framework.

In its general lines, the Howard-Wright biplane belongs to the Voisin type, inasmuch as it has a box-kite tail. This member encloses a vertical rudder, and there is also a biplane elevator in front. The mounting of the machine is unusual, for there is but one wheel for it to run on beneath the central chassis and another under the tail. On the extremeties of the lower deck there are, however, two small wheels of the bicycle type. The idea involved is that the embryo aviator will be able to learn something of the control of the machine without leaving terra firma by driving it about over the ground on two wheels only; in this way it is anticipated that he will learn to steer and balance the machine. Inset into the rear edges of the main planes at both ends and on both decks are small righting planes, which are used for restoring lateral stability.

The motive power is derived from a 50-h.p. Metallurgique aero-motor, and a special feature of the system of propulsion is the use of a pair of compensated two-bladed propellers mounted in tandem. At first sight it appears as if there is but one four-bladed propeller in position, but, as a matter of fact, each pair of blades are separate, and revolve in opposite directions. They are interconnected by means of a differential-gear—similar to that used on a motor car—one member of which is driven direct by the engine. The propeller nearest the motor has much larger blades than that behind it, and absorbs two-thirds of the power, but the speeds of the propellers are equal: each runs at one-third the engine speed. Mr. Howard Wright’s object in arranging his propellers so that they revolve in opposite directions is to neutralise their gyroscopic effect; the torque of the engine is not balanced by this system, as might at first appear, to be the case. The surfaces of the flyer are made of linen, coated with a specially smooth glossy varnish. The car or chassis of the machine is also entirely covered with fabric, and the pilot sits almost immediately over the front edge of the lower deck.

Aeroplanes built used the Metallurgique motor built by Warwick Wright, as well as the British-made ENV motor that was supplied by Warwick Wright.

The motor worked the aircraft’s most innovative design feature… two contra-rotating propellers featuring two blades per propellers, that used a patented 3:1 reduction gearbox.

The wings had ash spars and spruce ribs, with Voisin-style “side-curtains” between the ends of the wings. Lateral control was by means of four small ailerons fitted to the trailing edges of both wings, a feature not found on Voisin’s aircraft. The fabric-covered wood tail assembly was carried on steel booms. Steel tube was also used for the interplane struts, these being of a special streamlined section.

The aircraft was finished in time to be displayed at the 1909 Olympia Aero Exhibition, after which it was taken to the “flying field” established by Noel Pemberton Billing at Fambridge in Essex, England. After a journey in which the aircraft suffered damage first when the wagon carrying it was driven into a railway bridge and again when manhandling it across a ditch surrounding the airfield, further damage occurred when Wright’s shed was demolished by a storm. The aircraft had been repaired by May, and trials began supervised by William Oke Manning, who may also have contributed to the aircraft’s design. On testing the engine inexplicably over-revved, shearing the propeller shaft and causing the propeller to disintegrate spectacularly, sending fragments through the iron roof of the shed and damaging the tail booms. Repairs were complete by June, when Seaton Kerr began ground trials. Some satisfactory flights were achieved, but the ground at Fambridge was too rough, and the aircraft was taken to Camber Sands where the aircraft was flown successfully.

Howard Wright 1909 Biplane Specifications

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 43 feet (13 meters);
  • Wingspan: 40 feet (12 meters);
  • Wing area: 620 square feet (58 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,600 pounds (726 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Metallurgique 50 horsepower motor driving contra-rotating two-bladed propellers;
  • Propellers: 2-bladed, 8 feet (2.4 meters) diameter.

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane 1909

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane.jpg

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane

The Avis monoplane was designed by Howard Wright and Willam Manning. It was a single seat tractor (motor at front) plane with an open wire-braced wooden fuselage that utilized wing-warping to affect turns. The wings were braced by wires attached to two pairs of cabane struts coming down to form two A-frames that carried skids with wheels (two) attached via shock cords.

The Avis monoplane had a moving cruciform tail built as a single unit but moved via universal joint. There was a tailwheel at the base.

It used foot pedals for lateral control (side-to-side) which caused the wing warping. It had a stick with a steering wheel to control the rudder and elevator, respectively.

A prototype known as the Golden Plover (I believe a plover is a type of bird) used a Anzani 30 horsepower motor, but after trials in December of 1909, it was swapped out for a 35 horsepower Anzani. It powered a Howard Wright constructed wooden kauri pine propeller based on the Chauviere-style of propeller. This prototype flew successfully in March of 1901 by Alan Boyle – who was the de facto leader of the Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate. The prototype was sold to a Mr. Maconie.

Now that they knew the prototype monoplane could really fly, the Syndicate built a second monoplane – the Avis. Some called it the Avis II, because it was the second such monoplane built by the company, but really… this is the first Avis… but let’s call it Avis II for reasons below.

The Avis II had a more powerful motor than the Golden Plover prototype, using a 40 horsepower J.A.P. motor. It was exhibited by the Syndicate at Olympia in January of 1910… and it was purchased by R.F. Wickman, flying it at Brooklands until an engine failure caused the plane to come down hard, damaging it too much to be rebuilt. For the record, he was flying over a sewage farm at Brooklands when the accident occurred. Ewww.

The actual Avis I was built and used by Boyle for personal use. It used a 40 horsepower E.N.V. motor. He crashed the plane (wrecked) at the Bournemouth Air Show in July of 1910, just weeks after he became the 13th person to gain certification with the British Aero Club. The Avis I actually had a #3 placed on its tail, as Boyle considered this to be the third Syndicate-built aeroplane, including the Golden Plover – and its two incarnations based on the two engines. That’s daft.

Avis III was the same as the Avis II, and was purchased by J.H. Spottiswode, a race car driver, who later sold it to Cambell Gray, a photographer.

The Avis IV was built to replace Boyle’s destroyed Avis I monoplane, but when the Scottish Aeroplane Syndicate dissolved at the end of 1910, it was sold for £50 to Eustace Gray, the Brooklands airfield press steward.

Howard Wright Avis Monoplane 1909 specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 27 feet (8.2 meters);
  • Wingspan: 28 feet (8.5 meters)
  • Wing area: 160 square feet (15 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 430 pounds (195 kilograms);
  • Weigh without engine: 280 pounds (127 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 630 pounds (286 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × J.A.P. 8-cylinder, 40 horsepower (30 kW);
  • Propellers: 2-bladed;
  • Price: £370-£490;
  • Cruising Speed: 35 miles per hour (56.3 kilometers per hour);
  • Maximum Speed: 40 miles per hour (64.4 kilometers per hour).

The Lascelles Ornis Monoplane – 1909

Tom Sopwith, one of the most famous men during WWI thanks to his Sopwith Camel (more on Tom Sopwith later on, as he also has a card in this Wills’s aviation card series), rode on that Venus balloon owned by Warwick Wright and friends, but also had Howard Wright build him a variation of the Howard Wright Avis monoplane in 1909 called the Lascelles Ornis.

Howard Wright Ornis.jpg

Howard Wright Lascelles Ornis monoplane.

The aircraft arrived there from Battersea, on October 21, 1909, and Sopwith spent little time taxi-ing it before attempting a straight flight. After covering some 300 yards in a more or less steady state, he stalled the monoplane on landing and in doing so broke the undercarriage and propeller.

After repairs, his next attempts, made with more caution, on Friday, November 4, 1909, were rewarded with several straight flights and circuits. Five days later, flights ended with a burst cylinder-head, but on the following Monday, although the weather was bad, Sopwith went up again.

A week later, Sopwith gained his licence at Brooklands in the Howard Wright 1909 Lascelles Ornis monoplane.

Sopwith used it on December 18, 1909 to win the £4,000 Baron de Forest Prize for the longest flight that year from England to the Continent, flying 169 miles (272 km) from Eastchurch, England to Beaumont in Belgium.

But, as mentioned, Sopwith gave up the monoplane for a Howard Wright 1910 Biplane

The Lascelles Ornis was built by the Scotish Aroplane Syndicate for the Lascelles company who built the aeroplane’s powerplant. The aeroplane was exhibited within their space at the 1910 Aero Show at Olympia in London, England, differed in having a two foot (0.6 meter) longer fuselage, a rectangular balanced rudder, and different control arrangements. It was fitted with a propeller made by José Weiss.

After the Olympia show the Lascelles Ornis was bought by A.G. Power, who flew it at Brooklands during 1910.

Howard Wright Lascelles Ornis Monoplane 1909 Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Length: 30 feet (9.1 meters);
  • Wingspan: 28 feet (8.5 meters);
  • Wing area: 154 square feet (14.3 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 600 pounds (272 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Lascelles 5-cylinder air-cooled semi-radial, 35 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 35 miles per hour (56 kilometers per hour).

Okay… let’s get away from monoplanes for now, and see about the Howard Wright 1909 Biplane, which is pictured in the Wills’s card.

From what I can determine… only one 1909 Wright Howard biplane was ever built… with every other biplane built by him considered to be a 1910 version.

Howard Wright 1910 Biplane

Let’s now look at the Howard Wright 1910 Biplane.

Originally powered by a 50 hp Gnome air-cooled radial engine, the Howard Wright prototype was later fitted with a 60 horsepower E.N.V. water-cooled engine in order to qualify for the £4,000 Baron de Forest prize for the longest all-British flight to a destination on the Continent made before the end of 1910.

The first 1910 Biplane first flew at Larkhill on Salisbury Plain in August 1910 piloted by E.M Maitland. Following a crash and a repair, it was lent to Lieutenant L.E. Watkins who later entered it for the Baron de Forest prize.

The biplane was fitted with wireless equipment so it could be tracked as it crossed the English Channel. The aircraft crashed in Kent before it could compete for the prize and was later sold to the British War Office for £625, where it would be used by the Air Battalion of the Royal Engineers at Larkhill.


Thomas Sopwith at the controls of his 1910 Howard Wright Biplane.

The third ENV-engine aircraft was bought by Thomas Sopwith, who after brief ground trials of his new machine on November 21, 1910, gained his Royal Aero Club (of Great Britain) flying certificate (Number 31) the same day.

On NOvember 26, 1910, Sopwith flew 107 miles (172 kilometers) in three hours and 12 minutes setting a new British endurance and distance record.

On December 18, 1910, Sopwith made a flight of 169 miles (272 kilometers) from the Royal Aero Club’s Eastchurch flying field to Beaumont in Belgium. This was not bettered before the end of the year, so Sopwith won the Baron de Forest prize. This feat was considered remarkable enough for Sopwith to be invited to meet Great Britain’s King George V, flying to Windsor Castle on February 1, 1911 to do so.

He then took the machine to the United States, where he made a number of exhibition flights, eventually damaging the poor plane beyond repair.


1910 Howard Wright Biplane, the Manurewa about to take-off from Glenora Park, Papakura, Auckland, New Zealand.

The fourth ENV-powered biplane was shipped to New Zealand in 1910 for use by the Walsh brothers (Leo and Vivian) who assembled the aircraft when it arrived. Vivian Walsh then taught himself to fly it. The biplane was then flown by Vivian Walsh in the first public powered flight in New Zealand on February 5, 1911 at Papakura near Auckland. See photo above.

A Gnome-powered example was used by the Graham White flying school at Hendon, used there in 1912. Another Gnome-powered example was entered by Lewis Turner in the 1912 Aerial Derby, but only took part in the speed trials.

Another aircraft powered by a 40 horsepower (30 kW) Green motor was used by the Graham White school in 1911. This was bought by W. C. England, who exported it to Rangoon, Burma (now Yangon, Myanmar) where he flew it in 1912.

Howard Wright 1910 Biplane Specifications:

  • Crew: 1;
  • Capacity: 1;
  • Length: 36 feet 6 inches (11.13 meters);
  • Wingspan: 36 feet (11 meters);
  • Wing area: 415 square feet (38.6 square meters);
  • Gross weight: 1,200 pounds (544 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × E.N.V. V-8 water-cooled, 60 horsepower (45 kW);
  • Maximum speed: 45 miles per hour (72 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 5 hours.

So… Howard Wright… at this time, Howard Wright was considered to be one of the most respected aeroplane manufacturers in England… so what happened?

The main thing is that Howard and Warwick Wright – for whatever reason – decided to end their business partnership in late 1911.

Howard Wright’s business interests were bought out by Coventry Ordnance Works as a means for their entry into the aviation business. Howard Wright and Manning both worked for the company for a while and even designed a biplane for the British War Office competition of 1912.

While the plane seemed decent enough-they used Tom Sopwith as their test pilot, Howard Wright left the company. The Coventry Ordnance Works was not a successful business, but it did become part of English Electric Aviation, which was part of The English Electric Company Limited – a manufacturer formed after the armistice of World War I at the end of 1918. It was created to make one of Britain’s three principal electrical manufacturing concerns by amalgamating five businesses which, during the war, had been making munitions, armaments and aeroplanes.

The English Electric Aviation aspect of the company in 1960 merged with Vickers and Bristol to form the British Aircraft Corporation.

After learning to fly an aeroplane with Tom Sopwith as his teacher, Howard Wright got into the seaplane design and construction business in November of 1912, with a company called J. Samuel White & Company (Wight Aircraft) on the Isle of Wight. Howard Wright became the head of the company.

The company built and exhibited hydro biplane at Olympia in London in 1913, and then built a naval seaplane later that year.

The German Navy liked the latter seaplane and ordered them, but thanks to the outbreak of WWI with Germany as the enemy, the sea planes were never delivered.

Just before WWI erupted, the French requested an example of a twin engine “land” bomber from the Samuel White company… so Howard Wright designed one… and the company manufactured it – it was called the Wight Twin (Landplane).

The Wight Twin (Landplane) was a biplane with five-bay folding wings. Its crew of three sat in a small central nacelle between the twin booms sitting atop the lower wing.

It was powered by two Salmson (Emile Salmson & Cie of France) water-cooled radial engines providing 200 horsepower each. The engines were placed at the front of the fuselage booms – one each.



The Wight Twin Landplane – land version.

Completed in July of 1915 and tested – it flew! But, in September of 1915 when it was being tested by a French pilot prior to acceptance of the plane… it crashed, and the contract was kaput.

Down, but not yet out, the British Navy came calling, asking the company if they could design and construct a long range aeroplane that could carry 18-inch torpedoes (not a typo) to sink warships.

Howard Wright designed the Wight Twin Seaplane… which was based on the Landplane… except that the central nacelle was removed with the cockpits (plural) for the two crewmen placed within the two fuselages behind the wings.

While there was a delay in completing the first aeroplane owing to a shortage of motors, it was completed in 1916… but tests proved it under-powered, unable to carry a full load of fuel and a torpedo.

Two more aeroplanes were built – modified with longer float struts and new tail surfaces… but the planes were still under-powered… but the British bought them and used them during the war.

Called the Wight Elephants by those in the aviation industry… the Wight Twin aircraft designs were not followed up with again.

By the way… I can not find any images of the Wight Twin Seaplane… anyone?

Specifications of the Wight Twin Sealplane:

  • Crew: Two;
  • Length: 43 feet 9 inches (13.33 meters);
  • Wingspan: 84 feet (25.6 meters);
  • Powerplant: 2 × Salmson water-cooled radial engine, 200 horsepower each;
  • Maximum speed: 80 miles per hour (128 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 5 hours;
  • Armament: 1x .303 in Lewis gun; and one 18 inch (45.7 centimeter) torpedo or two 500 pound (227 kilogram) bombs.

The Wight Twin aeroplanes had been nicknamed the Wight Elephants for their large size and for their ability to lose money (white elephant).

Fortunately, the company was also constructing other seaplanes.

Wight Navyplane(s)

The first big success for the company was its Pusher Seaplane or Navyplane, an unequal-span pusher biplane with five-bay wings mounted on two long floats. It was powered by a single 200 horsepower Salmson Canton Unné water-cooled radial engine.

It was exhibited at the 1914 Olympia Air Show in March that year, and was first flown on April 8, 1914.

Because it could fly with good take-off, climb performance and endurance both the British Royal Naval Air Service and German Navy placed orders…  and again, with WWI happening, the Germans never got their aeroplane… but the British decided they would take their order and the Germans.

Orders for another seven aeroplane called the Improved Navyplane Type A.I followed, these having a stronger airframe, folding wings and an 8 foot (2.4 meter) greater wingspan, but retaining the Salmson engine.

Four more aeroplanes were built, called the Improved Navyplane Type A.II, and were identical to the Type A.I, except the new ones used a 225 horsepower Sunbeam engine manufactured by the Sunbeam Motor Car Company.

The initial Wight Navyplanes were used by the British Royal Naval Air Service to provide reconnaissance missions over the North Sea.

The Improved Navyplane Type A.I were sent to the Dardanelles (the waters off Turkey) to serve in the Gallipoli Campaign of WWI between April 15, 1915 and January 9, 1916.

The four Improved Navyplane Type A.II aeroplanes saw limited usage during WWI owing to the unreliability of the Sunbeam motor.


Specifications Of The Wight Navyplane

  • Crew: 2;
  • Wingspan: 63 fee (19.2 meters);
  • Wing area: 735 square feet (68.3 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 5,732 pounds (2,600 kilograms);
  • Gross weight: 3,500 pounds (1,588 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Salmson 2M7 14-cylinder, two-row, water-cooled radial piston engine, 199.9 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 72 miles per hour (116 kilometers per hour);
  • Endurance: 6 hours;
  • Service ceiling: 9,600 feet (2,926 meters);
  • Rate of climb: 400 feet/minute (2 meters per second).

Wight Seaplane (aka Admiralty Type 840)

Next, was the Wight Seaplane – building 54 of the aircraft that the British Royal Naval Air Service called the Admiralty Type 840.

The Wight Seaplane was a smaller version of the Navyplane.

It was a two-float aeroplane with tandem open cockpits, and instead of the pusher motor, used a tractor motor placed on the aircraft’s nose – a Sunbeam 225 horsepower motor.

A total of 52 Wight Seaplanes were built – with 20 more extra – constructed for Wight by both Portholme Aviation and William Beardmore & Co., Ltd.


The Wight Seaplane served with the Royal Navy Air Service at Dundee Felixstowe (seaplane Experimental Station), Scapa Flow (a body of water in the Orkney Islands, Scotland) and Gibraltar – at the latter two sites, it was used for anti-submarine patrols between 1915 and 1917.

General characteristics of the Wight Seaplane

  • Length: 41 feet (12.50 meters);
  • Wingspan: 61 feet (18.59 meters);
  • Height: (?);
  • Wing area: 568 square feet (52.8 square meters);
  • Empty weight: 3,408 pounds (1,549 kilograms);
  • Max. takeoff weight: 4,810 pounds (2,186 kilograms);
  • Powerplant: 1 × Sunbeam, 225 horsepower;
  • Maximum speed: 81 miles per hour (130 kilometers per hour);
  • Armament: One 810 pound (370 kilogram) 14-inch (355.6 millimeter) torpedo or equivalent weight in bombs.

Wight Quadruplane (Wight Type 4)

During WWI – 1915… when the Sopwith Airplane company began to construct successful triplanes (they did so before the Fokker triplane – like the one flown by the Red Baron), the Wight Company asked itself: WWHWD (what would Howard Wright do)?

The answer: design a quadruplane… a four-winged fighter aeroplane.

The Wight Quadruplane – known as the Wight Type 4 (I like that they didn’t use Roman numerals) was supposed a single seat aeroplane to be used by the British during WWI.

But it sucked.


Wight Quadruplane – version 1

Inspired by the Sopwith Triplane, it had an unusual arrangement in which the fuselage was placed between the middle two wings with upper and lower wings attached by struts.

As well, its wings weren’t as ong as the plane’s length, and altogether, the wings were not a good fit for this aeroplane.

The plane used a 110 horsepower Clerget9Z nine-cylinder air-cooled rotary engine, and came equipped with two 7.7mm Vickers machine guns.

The wing problem was discovered during tests in 1916 when the aeroplane had difficulty in lifting off.

In February 1917 the second version was ready for testing.


The single thick struts were replaced with more conventional parallel wire braced struts and the landing gear was lengthened.Look at the struts in the above two photos of Version 1 and 2… there’s the most obvious visual difference.

The new wings were of varying chord and the overall diameter of the fuselage was increased. Most importantly, a larger dorsal fin and rudder were installed.

But again, the plane was considered a failure, and more redesigns were in the works.

The final version had new wings of decreasing span from top to bottom and ailerons only on the upper two wings.

But again… tests in 1917 showed the Quadruplane to bea failure, with the final nail in the coffin occurring during a test in February of 1918 when it crashed into a cemetery.You can’t make this stuff up!

Final version with decreasing span wings July 1917


General characteristics

  • Crew: One
  • Length: 21 ft 6 in (6.55 m)
  • Wingspan: 19 ft 0 in (5.79 m)
  • Height: 10 ft 6 in (3.20 m)
  • Powerplant: 1 × Clerget 9Z nine-cylinder rotary engine, 110 hp (82 kW)
  • Armament: 2 fixed forward-firing synchronized 0.303 in (7.70 mm) Vickers machine guns

The Wight Quadruplane was the last aircraft built by the Samuel Wight Company.

Howard Wright left the company, and when WWI concluded in 1919, the company closed up shop for good.

During WWI, we know that Howard Wright had 3 patents in this period, for the “Dual-profile aerofoil”, a “Folding Wing”, and for “Engine valves”. And his work on seaplane float design was influential. He was also on the Committee of the Society of British Aircraft Constructors.

He then became something of a Management Guru. He had begun to write before WWI had ended his “Some Thoughts on Organisation” paper with the background that “organisation is a subject in which we as a nation do not excel” – but the Germans do.

Howard Wright then devoted his energies to the ‘scientific’ study of
engineering management, writing a notable book, finally published in 1922.
He never returned to aircraft design and construction, but he remained an
influential figure through the 1920s – on committees, and in the organization of
aviation events. And he also seems to have become interested in the oil
refining industry, patents granted.
However… when he died exactly – I have no clue…

About mreman47

Andrew was born in London, UK, raised in Toronto, Canada, and cavorted in Ohtawara, Japan for three years. He is married, has a son and a cat. He has over 35,000 comic books and a plethora of pioneer aviation-related tobacco and sports cards and likes to build LEGO dioramas. He has written and been an editor for various industrial magazines, has scripted comic books, ghost-written blogs for business sectors galore, and hates writing in the 3rd person. He also hates having to write this crap that no one will ever read. He works on his Pioneers Of Aviation - a cool blog on early fliers - even though it takes him so much time to do. He also wants to do more writing - for money, though. Help him out so he can stop talking in the 3rd person.
This entry was posted in Aeroplane Factories, Air Shows, Airfields, Balloons, Failures, Heavier-Than-Air, Helicopters, Motors and Engines, Tobacco Card and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Wills’s Aviation Card #56 – “Howard-Wright” Biplane.

  1. Pingback: Modellismo Italia | Aérogyroplane di Federico Capone

  2. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1911 – 75-Card Series | Pioneers Of Aviation

  3. sarah says:

    ‘Joseph left that partnership in 1860 and set up the Neptune Foundry with partner Thomas Tinsely. Joseph married Tinsely’s cousin, Grace Tinsley, in 1859. She was the daughter of Theophilus Tinsley, mayor of Dudley. Now you know where Howard Wright got that middle name.’

    Grace TInsley was the daughter of Thomas Tinsley and Eliza Tinsley and the niece of Theophilus Tinsley


  4. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1911 – 85-Card Series | Pioneers Of Aviation

  5. Pingback: Checklist For Wills’s Cigarettes Aviation 1911 – 85-Card Series – soon to be updated | Pioneers Of Aviation

  6. Pingback: Wills’s Aviation Card #85 – “Coventry Ordnance” Military Bipane. | Pioneers Of Aviation

  7. julia wright says:

    Hi! The middle Wright brother, Walter Stanford Wright, was my great grandfather… though I never knew that side of the family. There was also a sister. Thank you for amassing so much information about the Wrights. I have a few birth and death records though can’t find where they are all buried….


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s