"Celebrate The Success Of The Wright Brothers"  
 


Archive Section: Celebration Activities

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- Trouble At Kitty Hawk
- Ken Hyde Featured on National Aviation Day
- "Inventing Flight," Dayton's Centennial Celebration
- Final Decision On Coins
- Wright Flyer Flies at Wright State University
- 98th Wright Brothers' Centennial Anniversary Celebration
- Wright Brothers' Centennial Celebration is Struggling
- Wright Flight Re-Enactment Plan On Schedule
- 1902 Glider Flies Again
- First Flight Centennial Celebration Taking Shape
- The 43rd National Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement
- Orville’s 133rd Year Birthday Party, 2004
- 101st Anniversary Celebration
- Katharine Wright and Brothers Return from Europe
- Wright Brothers Publicly Honored in Dayton, Ohio
- Orville Wright Soars over Dayton: Editorial
- Orville Wright Guest of Honor at Franklin Institute Award Ceremony
- Centennial Dayton Parade

Centennial Dayton Parade

In June 1909, the residents of Dayton celebrated the homecoming of Wilbur and Orville Wright in recognition of their accomplishment of demonstrating to the world the first practical airplane.

It was a grand celebration lasting for two days, June 17-18, 1909. Dayton’s schools and factories closed for the occasion so that people could attend the parades, public reception, fireworks display and awards ceremony.

The city constructed a "Court of Honor," on Main Street consisting of columns adorned with flowers.

This year’s centennial celebration was held on June 2009 at the Heritage Historical Park and nearby Wright-Dunbar Village, located where the Wrights’ lived and worked. Instead of a big parade there were children’s activities, a flyover by a Wright Flyer "B" replica, and talks by parkrangers.

Stephen Wright, an Oakwood resident, great-grandson of the Wright brothers, autographed any materials that people brought with them. It provided a special treat for the day.

Earlier in time, it wasn’t until Wilbur and Orville astonished the French and other Europeans in 1908-1909 with their flying demonstrations that the world, including Dayton, accepted the fact that the Wrights had invented flight. It’s hard to believe that this was five years after the first flight in 1903.

The French had already honored the brothers and their sister with the prestigious Legion of Honor.

It was the Aero Club of America in 1908, of which the Wrights were members that were the first group in this country that decided to recognize the brothers. They decided to present both brothers with handsome medals. It would denote America’s gift of the aeroplane to the world.

The award ceremony was delayed until 1909 because Wilbur was busy flying in Europe and Orville was conducting qualification flights for the Army at Ft. Myer. When it was learned that the Wrights were returning from Europe in May, the Aero Club decided to have the ceremony in June and invite President Taft to present the medals.

When Governor Cox of Ohio heard about the plans he protested to the planners that Dayton had already planned a major celebration in Dayton during June.

President Taft was asked to decide the issue. Taft deferred to the Wrights who were still at sea on their way home. They told the parties involved that they had much work to do getting ready for the upcoming Army trials and would prefer to celebrate in Dayton.

President Taft said he was unable to attend the celebration in Dayton and invited the Wrights to make a short trip to Washington for award of the Gold Medals in the White House. The Wrights accepted the invitation and Dayton picked June 17-18 for their grand celebration. The presentation in Washington would be June 10.

It turned out that it was helpful that the Wrights were in Washington. Orville and Wilbur were able to meet with Brigadier General Allen, Chief Signal Officer of the Army, who would make the decision in the near future whether the Wright Flyer met the Army’s specifications. The Wrights were given a one-month extension to July 28 by Gen. Allen to complete the Army’s speed-test trials.

In the afternoon, President Taft presented the Gold Medals. Alexander Graham Bell was among the 159 guests in attendance in the East Room..

After the proceedings, the Wrights quickly returned to Dayton to get their new Flyer ready for the Army trials and participate in the Dayton celebration on June 17-18.

They weren’t enthusiastic about the celebration; they would rather have been working in their bike shop preparing their Flyer for the return to Ft. Myer.

Wilbur wrote a complaining letter to his friend, Octave Chanute:

"The Dayton celebration has been made the excuse for an elaborate carnival and advertisement of the city under the guise of being an honor to us."

That wasn’t completely true. The idea for a Dayton celebration came from a local social group of which Wilbur was a member, "10 Boys Club."

The city constructed an elaborate Court of Honor along Main Street between Third Street and the Soldier’s Monument. Two statues graced the arches erected at the four corners of Third and main Streets. Grecian-style columns lined Main Street with electric lights and garlands strung between them.

The official program billed the celebration as a "testimonial from the citizens of their home in appreciation and recognition of their success on navigating the air."

The first day of the two-day Celebration began on Thursday at 9 o’clock in the morning when every whistle and bell in Dayton cut loose for ten minutes. Katharine Wright, their sister, Bishop Wright, their father, and Lorin and Reuchlin Wright, their brothers, had already entered carriages when Wilbur and Orville emerged from their home, escorted by the militia troops of regulars and a brass band.

The Wrights were driven to the platform where they were given a pageant representing the events from the founding of Dayton 113 years ago down to the arrival of the Wright brothers.

That night there was a great display of fireworks that included 80-foot-high portraits of Wilbur and Orville entwined with an American flag. Dayton’s schools and businesses closed to allow people to attend.

On Friday, June 18, Dayton schoolchildren, bedecked in red, white and blue, filled the Montgomery County Fairgrounds in the shape of an American flag. Among the children was Ivonette, the Wrights’ young niece, who along with the other children sang "The Star Spangled Banner" followed by the invocation delivered by Milton Wright.

The presentations of medals were next. General James Allen presented the congressional medals, Ohio Governor, Judson Harmon, awarded the Ohio medal. Dayton Mayor, Edward Harmon, awarded a medal complete with a miniature airplane model.

The Wright brothers kept up a polite, upbeat demeanor throughout the festivities even though they would have rather been home working on their airplane.

One reader of the recent celebration noted in the local newspaper about the weekend event to salute Wright brothers homecoming on June 16:

"Let’s go down to the train station where the Wrights met the crowds in 1909 and have a parade to their bicycle shop and their house on Hawthorn Street. Wait, we tore down the train station and sold their shop and home to Henry Ford. The legacy is gone."

Reference: Dayton Daily News

 

Orville Wright Guest of Honor at Franklin Institute Award Ceremony

Orville was the guest of honor at the Franklin Institute annual award ceremony held in Philadelphia in May 1928. He came to Philadelphia to see his friend, Charles L. Lawrance, receive the prestigious Elliott Cresson Gold Medal from the Franklin Institute. There are a number of very interesting comments that came out of the affair.

For instance, Orville never mentioned that he attended the ceremony because Henry Ford was one of award recipients

It may be because in 1914 Ford had provided his lawyer, W. Benton Crisp, to Glen Curtiss to fight the Wright brothers’ patent. In later years (1936), relations may have improved because Orville sold the Wright home and bicycle shop in Dayton to Ford for the purpose of being displayed in Ford’s Greenfield Village near Detroit.

At the Charles Lawrence’s award ceremony, the local newspaper reported that although Orville was the guest of honor, he did not speak. He was presented to the audience with the announcement that Mr. Wright always preferred not to speak.

The Franklin Institute has been honoring men of science, engineering and technology since 1825.

Orville received the Cresson Medal in May 1914 "in recognition of the epoch-making work accomplished by him at first together with his brother Wilbur, and later alone, in establishing on a practical basis the science and art of aviation."

Orville was asked to address the audience, as was the usual practice. At first it seemed that he might actually give a short speech because he had responded with a telegram saying that he would prepare a short address on "Stability of Aeroplanes."

However, as in 1928 ceremony, he did not address the audience. It was just his nature to be unusually shy throughout his life.

Orville’s friend, Charles Lawrance, was an American socialite and aeronautical engineer who designed the first successful air-cooled aircraft engine. Unlike Orville, Lawrance wasn’t shy about his accomplishments. In his address he boasted that the long distance flights of Admiral Byrd, Charles Lindbergh, and Amelia Earhart were made possible by his J-5 Whirlwind engine which could operate continuously for 33.5 hours.

He had a sense of humor and joked about his relative obscurity --- "Who remembers Paul Revere’s horse?"

Lawrance further remarked that "better engines and planes are making aviation safer, that future planes will be so large that passengers can walk about the wings, which will be increased in thickness to six and seven feet."

"The airplane of the future will be so commodious that a mechanic can take a defective engine apart during the progress of the flight; fewer accidents will occur with such airplanes than now occur on railroads."

Henry Ford also received a Cresson Medal on this occasion. His medal was in "consideration of his rare inventive ability and power of organization, by means of which he was able to effect high-speed production of automobiles, revolutionizing the industry, and his outstanding executive powers and industrial leadership."

Ford forecasted, "Someday the household that now has an automobile will have an airplane."

Ford was asked if he did not think that aviation had reached the limits of its potentialities? He responded that it is true that most highly developed planes are now within one ton of the lifting capacity of the extant engines.

But, Ford continued, "There are other lines of development for the airplane." Pressed for an example, he said, "The discovery of new kind of fuel is one example. "Aviation should attract any man who wants to be in on a great thing of the future."

One of the few recorded comments of Orville Wright was that the future of the airplane is limited and that it will never appreciably replace the railroad or steamship as a means of passenger and especially of freight transport.

Philip Gadsden, president of the Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce expressed the view that Philadelphia can become the center of aviation production in this country.

Apparently, Orville had another reason for coming to Philadelphia that could have been the main reason. He wanted to survey facilities in Philadelphia for caring perpetually for the Kitty Hawk Flyer in which he and his brother made the first flight in a heavier-than-air machine.

He was shown the site of the proposed museum of the Franklin Institute on the Parkway.

After viewing the site, Orville responded, "The return of this plane to America is conditional upon correction of the misconceptions issuing from the Smithsonian Institution concerning the relative importance of this plane in the development of aviation. If these conceptions are corrected in my lifetime, the plane will be returned. At such a time I shall certainly consider Philadelphia’s generous offer, along with other invitations."

What the above is all about is that three years earlier Orville announced that he was shipping the plane to England to be displayed in the London Science Museum. At the time Orville explained that he was sending the Flyer away because of the Smithsonian’s "hostile and unfair" campaign to give Langley credit for accomplishments that really belonged to the Wrights.

In 1928, he shipped the most important artifact of man’s successful attempt to fly to London. Neither Dayton, the hometown of the Wright brothers, nor Orville ever saw it again.

Orville in 1937 placed in his will a statement that the 1903 Flyer should remain in London after his death unless his will was amended by a subsequent letter from him.

By the narrowest of circumstances the Flyer did return to America in 1948 after the Smithsonian had admitted their duplicity.

Tragically, Orville died on January 30, 1948.

On December 17, 1948, 850 people were in attendance as the 1903 Flyer was ceremoniously hung from the ceiling according to Orville’s specifications in the North Hall of the Smithsonian’s Arts and Industries Building. It was done 55 years after its original flight.

Reference: Philadelphia Record, May 17, 1928.

 

Orville Wright Soars over Dayton: Editorial

Orville flew for the first time over the City of Dayton on the occasion of the 1910 Dayton Industrial Exposition and Fall Festival

The Exposition featured various means of transportation including bicycles, automobiles, and balloons Orville agreed to fly Aviation Day, Thursday September 22.

On the appointed day thousands of people swamped Dayton, standing along the river banks, house tops and every other vantage point that could be found.

Here is an edited account of the flight as printed the next day in the  Dayton Daily News editorial page:

First, there came into the eastern sky a tiny speck, no larger than the cloud, which came in answer to the prayer for rain, the size of the hand of a man. A shapeless thing it seemed, a darkened stain it looked against the leadened evening sky, high up where sits in all her majesty the star of the morning on a summer’s breaking day.

It grew in grace with every second. Became bolder as it approached. Took form like an eagle on the near approach of high-hung aerie, as steady as an apple suspended from the twig when the breeze has sunk to sleep. Only it grew in size until its every outline was seen as clean-cut as a cameo against the blue of heaven.

On, on it came, enlarging with its near approach until it stood high up above the city, a giant bird of paradise, an apparition, angel-like, swung from the hand of God and guided by infinity. It floated in its majesty like a flimsy cloud upon an April morning to delight the world. It moved across smoky heavens above the feted breath of factory, it glided over the perfumed lawns. It sailed across the choked and hardened streets. It cut with its shadow the curling water of the river --- high flung above them all like some great thing of life scanning the weakness of an ignorant world.

It circled over the home that sheltered those in whose brain it was born, and seemed to shower upon the humble roof a benediction. It trembled for a moment in its wheeling as if loathe to leave the vicinage of the abode of its creators.

It was a love-like look it seemed to give to those who for so many years have waited for this demonstration of the genius of those patient men of skill and science, yet waited with the firmest faith in their achievement.

And then, as if content, it sailed away toward the east again, from whence it came. Small it grew and fainter. The bold outlines were lost, To the human eye it again took on the formless aspect, a blur or blot upon the evening sky.

Fainter and fainter, a mere speck again, settling in the tinted hues of the evening until a whiff of smoke blotted it from sight.

And Orville Wright in the aeroplane which he and his brother, Wilbur invented, had soared over the city of Dayton and over the home of their youth and their manhood, and returned to the field of their endeavor near the city of Dayton.

Gray-haired men and fair-haired women, and younger men and little children all had seen this mighty and potential toy, this mechanism that is to bring peace to the nations of the world, and promote humanity, in all of its glory. They had beheld the final triumph of human endeavor over the air.

They had seen the beginning of the conquering of another element by man, to be used by him as a bearer and as his highway. Forgive them, God, if in their ignorance they failed to realize there is no limit to human intelligence, no unsolvable mysteriousness in the universe, no miracles but may be wrought by man.

 

Wright Brothers Publicly Honored in Dayton, Ohio

Here is an edited article about the event from The Republican-News published in Hamilton Ohio on June 17, 1909.

Bylines: "Dayton is Gay with Decorations and Lights in Honor of the Two World Renowned Aviators."

"First day of the Two Days Celebration Began on Thursday When Every Whistle and Bell in Dayton Cut Loose For Ten Minutes."

"Two Aviators Worked At Their Little Shop Until The Carriages Arrived To Take Them to The Scene of Their Greatest Triumph in The City of Their Birth – Medals to be Presented Friday."

Text: "The ceremonies in honor of Wilbur and Orville Wright began at 9 O’clock this morning when, for ten minutes, every whistle, bell and tin horn in the town joined in a outburst of hilarious sound.

From many triumphant arches swung aeroplanes, and on tops of tall buildings an aeroplane was made to appear as ready for flight while every where were flags and bunting.

Up to the hour of the opening ceremony, Wilbur and Orville were hammering away in their workshop. They were still busy with the details of packing up of the parts of their aeroplane for shipment to Fort Myer, Washington.

Miss Katharine Wright, their sister, Bishop Milton Wright, their father, and Lorin and Reuchlin Wright, their brothers, had already entered carriages when Wilbur and Orville emerged from their home, escorted by the state militia troops of regulars and a brass band. The Wrights were driven to the platform where they was given a pageant representing the events from the founding of Dayton 113 years ago down to the arrival of the Wright brothers.

A number of speeches were made by prominent citizens, thanking the aviators for the fame they had brought to the city and telling of their experiments from which they finally evolved the modern aeroplane. The chief event is to be the celebration that will occur tomorrow, when the medals are to be presented by the nation, State of Ohio and the city of Dayton.

Gov. Harmon will present the state medals, while General James Allen, chief signal officer, has been designated by Secretary of War Dickinson to make the presentation of medals authorized by congress.

Conrad J. Schmidt, president of the local school board, thanked the aviators for the fame they had brought to the city. Other speeches were made telling how on Huffman’s Prairie, eight miles east of Dayton, the Wrights in 1905 made the record-breaking fight which first brought upon them the attention of the world. How the father of the boys years ago had given them a helicopter to play with, and how it was really by this toy that Wilbur and Orville were stirred to the early experiments from which the modern aeroplane evolved.

After completing the qualification flights for the government which are to begin at Fort Myer next week, both the Wrights probably in August will sail for Germany to take up their work there." End

Note: Orville and Katharine went to Germany. Wilbur stayed home to handle their patent lawsuits.

Reference: "Wright Brothers Publicly Honored," The Republican-News, June 17, 1909.

 

Katharine Wright and Brothers Return from Europe

Katharine Wright and her brothers returned to America on May 11, 1909 after Wilbur’s triumphant flying performance in Europe. They arrived in New York aboard the Kronprinzessin Cecilie to the cheers of representatives of the Aero Club of America, The Aeronautic Society and several other organizations as well as friends and admirers.

Katharine and her brothers stood at the deck rail and surveyed the cheering crowd. Wilbur looked thoughtful and stern.

When asked about his thoughts, he responded. "I was thinking of another time that Orville and I came to New York."

When they had visited in New York five years ago seeking assistance to go on with their airplane, they were laughed at. Those that had A scoffed at them then now cheered the loudest.

Newspaper reporters and other onlookers began asking them many questions. As usual the brothers had little to say.

When pressed, Wilbur replied, "He couldn’t think of anything that happened in Europe that would be of interest here."

An English reporter asked if he had received a greater measure of honor and attention than Europe had given since the independence of the colonies. Wilbur responded curtly, "I can’t remember as far back as that."

When asked about the safety of their airplane, Orville responded, "Airplanes we are using today, if properly handled are very safe and such improvements have been made in them that the accident that happened at Fort Myer last September could not occur again."

Pressed about business concluded in Europe, they were reluctant to reveal very much, but did say that the right to manufacture their airplanes had been sold to France and that several machines were now being built in England.

By this time Katharine, seeing that that her brothers were becoming agitated, arranged to have the ship’s officer call them away on a pretext.

She remained behind and was soon surrounded by a group of people who wanted to know about her experiences in meeting various distinguished Europeans who had called upon the brothers in the course of their aerial performances.

She responded that "it is part of my work to look after the boys and keep them from being talked to death."

"You know they are such chatter boxes," she said with some sarcasm.

"I had to rescue them several times in London last week and pulled Wilbur out of some conversational mires in Paris."

One reporter asked her if it was true that she was engaged to an Italian nobleman?

"Engaged?" "Why bless your soul. I had never heard a word about it. You may be sure, though, that I am not. I didn’t go to Europe for that purpose."

"But really," she continued, "I haven’t a word to say against Europe’s kings and nobleman. They are every bit as good as other people, and they are appreciative and up to date also. I really didn’t mind them a bit."

While in Pau, France, Katharine flew as a passenger with Wilbur in front of Edward VII.

The Wrights were driven to the Waldorf-Astoria and entertained with a luncheon hosted by Holland Forbes, acting president of the Aero Club.

At five o’clock in the afternoon they left for Dayton.

Reference: NY Herald, May 12, 1909.

 

101st Anniversary Celebration

The 101st Celebration of the Wright Brothers’ first flight at Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina, didn’t draw the crowds of the previous year, but unlike the cold, rainy weather of the previous year, it was a beautiful warm day. The celebration has been observed annually since 1928.

Some 300 people gathered to enjoy the program in the temporary First Flight Pavilion built last year for the 100th anniversary. It is a welcomed addition to the Wright Brothers National Park. The master of ceremonies, Ken Mann, forgot that the program was going to be held inside the pavilion and wore his long underwear to protect against the expected cold weather. He said he would remember to wear his short pants next year.

Lawrence Belli, Group Superintendent of the National Park Service Outer Banks, noted that not all future anniversary events will be held in the temporary pavilion, but it’s nice to have the option. The $2.2 million structure will be paid for by the month’s end. A new flat video screen and sound system will be added before next year’s celebration. Eventually a new permanent building is to be added to the visitors’ center.

The highlight of the ceremony was the annual honoring of important people in the history of aviation. This year it was the Tuskegee Airmen of World War II fame. A portrait of General Benjamin Davis and Colonel George "Spanky" Roberts was unveiled in the presence of his widow, Edith Roberts and several Tuskegee airmen.

The training of black airmen began in 1941 in Tuskegee, Alabama. In all, almost 1,000 pilots were trained, 450 deployed overseas and 150 lost their lives in training or combat. The pilots were deployed to North Africa and Europe. None of the bombers escorted by Tuskegee Airmen were lost during World War II. 

Sixty-six of the fighter pilots lost their lives and 33 other pilots were shot down and taken prisoner.

These airmen helped open the doors for those who have followed. Their record paved the way for the young people of all races who volunteer for military service.

The picture at left shows Wilson V. Eagleson, Stimson, Leonard "Hawk" Hunter.

General Benjamin O. Davis was one of the first five graduates to earn wings at Tuskegee Army Air Field. He was squadron commander of the 99th Fighter Squadron and later assumed command of the 332nd Fighter Group.

Major George S. "Spanky" Roberts became the commanding officer of the 99th Fighter Squadron. Their portrait will join the portraits of other famous airman including the Wright Brothers in the Paul E. Garber First Flight gallery in the Wright Brothers visitors’ center where a reproduction of the 1903 Flyer is exhibited.

The picture is of Edith Roberts (wife of "Sparky") and Stimson.

In her talk, Sherry Rollason, Mayor of Kill Devil Hills, clarified that the first flight occurred at Kill Devil Hills. The area where the Wright Monument is located was first referred to as Kill Devil Hills in 1808. The first post office with the name of Kill Devil Hills was established in 1814 and the Kill Devil Hills Life Saving Station was establish in 1878.

The Wrights regularly visited the Village of Kitty Hawk, 4 miles to the north of Kill Devil Hills for supplies and used the telegraph office at the weather bureau at Kitty Hawk to announce their successful first flight.

Lisbeth Evans, NC Secretary of Cultural Resources announced that the sculpture of Johnny Moore will soon be added to the life size, bronze and stainless steel First Flight Sculpture duplicating the photograph of the first flight. The sculpture was installed last year in time for the centennial. The sculpture currently does not include Moore, W.S. Dough, A.D. Etheride and W.C. Brinkley because of budget limiatations. Each new statue costs $40,000.

Johnny Moore was a 16-year old boy who lived in Nags Head woods who just happened to be walking by. After the successful flight, he ran down the beech and yelled, "They done! They done it! damn’d if they ain’t flew!" Moore served as a fishing guide and died in 1952 without ever flying in an airplane.

At the conclusion of the program the large hanger doors at one end of the pavilion were opened to a magnificent view of the Wright Brothers National Memorial. The crowd watched a flyover of a formation of F-15s, a formation of Coast Guard aircraft and the C-54 Candy Bomber of Berlin airlift fame. Following the flyover there was a drop of parachutists, and four aerobatic airplanes thrilled the crowd, many of whom lined the streets outside the park.

 

Orville’s 133rd Year Birthday Party, 2004

The party was held on August 19th at the Wright Brother’s National Memorial at Kill Devil Hills. It was also National Aviation Day.

A number of photographs of the activities are provided below:

The people in this picture are members of the Wright family. They are from left to right Meredith M. Lane, Marianne Miller Hudec, Amanda Wright Lane, Ken Yoerg, Kyle Yoerg, Keith Yoerg, Janette Davis Yoerg, and Nicole Yoerg.

Amanda is a great-grandniece of Wilbur and Orville. Marianne is a grandniece.

Amanda and Marianne shared many Wright family memories with an attentive audience.

 

I had a good time talking to Amanda. She has a great sense of humor. During her talk she related some of the tricks that Orville liked to play on people.

One of them pertained to Orville's vacation home on Lambert Island in Lake Huron's Georgian Bay.

To easily reach the cottages at the top of a steep hill, Orville built a cart running on a set of wooden rails driven by an outboard motor attached to a cable and drum system. It was referred to as "Orville's Railway."

On one occasion he kidded some visiting ladies that they needed to go on a diet. When they were part way up the hill on the "railway," Orville stopped the engine and yelled down the hill that the engine couldn't handle the weight.

These four men are direct descendents of the lifesaving crew stationed at the Kill Devil Hills Lifesaving Station that helped Orville and Wilbur during their flights in 1900-1903.

The surfman on the far left is Jack Marcellous Ward whose ancestor was a station keeper. Orville's diary entry on December 19, 1903 contains the following note: "About noon Capt. Jesse Ward brought telegrams from Norfolk correspondents of N.Y World asking price for exclusive rights to pictures and story --- ."

 

Here is Tom Crouch signing his new book, Wings, for me.

During his presentation he addressed the question of whether Orville and Wilbur were really the first to fly. It should be no surprise to hear that the answer was yes!

This answer to a controversial question provides much credibility coming from this senior historian and most respected authority on the Wright Brothers from the Smithsonian Institution.

 

 

This is Beverly Hyde, the wife of Ken Hyde of the Wright Experience. She came dressed in a beautiful period dress that she had made to enhance the display of Wright artifacts provided by the Wright Experience. In the background is a reproduction of the Wright wind tunnel. There were wind tunnel, engine and propeller demonstrations.

Ken Hyde and Kevin Kochersberger, who piloted the centennial Wright Flyer described what they had learned from researching and flying the Flyer.

One of the most interesting facts that they presented was about the adverse impact the rain had on the attempt to fly at the Centennial. The water on the wings was not a problem; the real problem was the water on the launching rail.

They had waxed the rail and that caused the rainwater to form bubbles. When the Flyer hit the water bubbles it caused the water to spray over the engine. The spray landed on the ignition causing the engine to start missing at the critical point of take-off.

Ken showed a video of the launch and you could hear the engine sputtering towards the end of the launching rail. 

 

The 43rd National Aviation Hall of Fame Enshrinement

The Annual Enshrinement of Aviation Heroes was held in Dayton on July 17, 2004. Since its establishment in 1962, 178 people have been honored, starting with Orville and Wilbur Wright.

This year’s the honorees were William A. Anders, Harriet Quimby, Jack Ridley and Patty Wagstaff.

Anders gained worldwide fame in 1968 as an astronaut on Apollo 8 when he took a picture of earth as seen from the moon’s orbit. The picture was not part of the prescribed flight plan but it was too beautiful to miss. The famous picture, known as "Earthrise", became one of the most influential images of the 20h century.

Quimby was the first American woman to earn a pilot’s license. She became a favorite on the exhibition circuit and the first women to successfully fly across the English Channel on April 16, 1912. She was killed in an airplane accident in July 1, 1912. At a time when women were universally thought to be less capable than men, (the Wright Flying school wouldn’t accept her as a student) she proved that women could successfully fly.

Ridley was the flight test engineer for the rocket-powered Bell X-1 program in which Chuck Yeager was the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound. Yeager credits the success of the program to Ridley’s ingenuity and engineering skills. Yeager was having trouble flying faster that 0.94 Mach because he would loose pitch control. Ridley figured out how to manipulate the horizontal stabilizer so that Yeager could use it to have pitch control. It worked great and Yeager flew Mach 1.06 on October 14, 1947.

Wagstaff is an aerobatic champion. I saw her magnificent performance at the Wright Centennial at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Nags Head. She won her first U.S. Championship in 1991, becoming the first woman to do so. She repeated the feat the next two years in a row. She has thrilled air show spectators worldwide.

The Aviation Hall of Fame was established as a non-profit Ohio Corporation on October 5, 1962. Congress chartered it in 1964.

The presenters on the program were Frank Borrman, former astronaut and a 1982 enshrinee; Emily Howell Warner, first female of a jet-equipped, scheduled U.S. airline; Chuck Yeager, W.W.II ace, former test pilot and 1973 enshrinee; and co-presenters John and Martha King, founders of a pilot training resources supplier.

The Master of Ceremonies was Dennis Quaid, actor and pilot, and the narrator was Cliff Robertson, Academy and Emmy Award winning actor, writer and director.

Amanda Wright represented the Wright family and she told the audience that she was glad that two of the honorees proved that women could fly as well as men.

 

 

First Flight Centennial Celebration Taking Shape

The Wright Brothers’ centennial celebration in North Carolina, although still struggling to overcome a late start in planning and a shortage of funds, is taking shape. There is still much to do. The planners are beginning to pull together an entertaining and an appropriate schedule of events that is expected to draw an estimated 50,000 visitors to the Outer Banks, including President Bush.

The focus of the celebration will center on six-day period in December at the Wright Brothers Memorial Park, Kill Devil Hills, this December (www.outerbanks.org).

Here are the highlights:

Dec. 12: Igniting the Imagination - This day is designed to inspire the next generation of aviators by engaging children of all ages in the power of flight. Highlights include interacting with NASA, interviews with the Wright Family, and Candy Bomber demonstrations. The latter being a recreation of the candy drops during the Berlin Airlift.

Dec. 13-14: Remember the Past, Imagine the Future – This two-day festival will celebrate aviation’s impact over the last century and will feature appearances by historic aviators, exhibits chronicling this history of flights, aircraft and demonstrations.

Dec. 15: Protecting the Home of the Brave – Celebrating the impact of aviation in the military. This day is designed to honor those men and women who developed and flew military aircraft through the years. Highlights include military aircraft dating back to World War I and participation from U.S. military stationed around the world.

Dec. 16: In History’s Footsteps, Celebrating 100 Aviation Pioneers - The N.C. Centennial Commission will hold a ceremony to honor 100 aviation heroes, as selected by the commission. In addition, the historic contributions of these individuals will be examined through film and exhibits.

Dec. 17: 12 Seconds That Changed the World – The Experimental Aircraft Association’s initiative, "Countdown to Kitty Hawk sponsored by the Ford Motor Co.," culminates with the re-enactment of the first flight by Ken Hyde’s reproduction of the Wright Flyer at 10:35 a.m. The Wright brother’s flew the first heavier-than-air powered flight 100 years ago on this date. The Flyer took-off at 10:35 a.m. and flew 120 feet in 12 seconds. A flyover of 99 additional airplanes will top off the 100th anniversary.

Notice: Lodging on the Outer Banks is rapidly filling up. Some hotels are already full.

Some of other N.C. celebration events include:

April 16-17: Wilbur Wright Birthday Celebration at Jockey’s Ridge State Park, Nags Head and Paper Airplane Contest at the Wright Memorial. (www.outerbanks.org)

May 14-18: Celebration of Flight and Air Show, Municipal Airport, Lumberton. (www.celebrationofflightnc.com)

May 16-26: Festival of Flight, Fayetteville. (www.festivalofflight.org)

May 24-25: "The Thrill of Flying" Military Air Show, Pope Air Force Base, Fayetteville. (www.festivalofflight.org)

June 6-8: Women in Aviation, Rocky Mount-Wilson Airport, Rocky Mount (www.rwiairport.com)

June 13-15: 25th Annual Wright Kite Festival, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.kittyhawk.com)

July 3: Soaring Society (Gliders) Cross-Country Flight Finale Ceremony – Return to Kitty Hawk: Transcontinental Glider Race, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.fly2mqi.com)

July 6-9: Re/Max Balloon Celebration, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.remax.com)

August 19-25: National Aviation Week (Orville Wright’s Birthday is on the 19th), Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.outerbanks.org)

Oct. 10-11: Commemorating the 1902 Wright Brothers Glider Flights, Wright Brothers Monument, Kill Devil Hills. (www.wright-brothers.org)

 

1902 Glider Flies Again

The 1902 Wright Glider flew again during the first several days of October 2002. It was 100 years ago that the final configuration of the glider flew the first fully controlled flight October 8, 1902. It was the critical event that opened the door to man’s ability to fly.

The glider was designed to provide 3-axis control – pitch, roll, and yaw that makes it possible for a pilot to steer an airplane in the direction desired. The ingenious control system became the basis for the patent granted to the Wright Brothers in 1906.

This time four experienced military pilots flew the glider. Nick Engler invited them. He is the director of the educational nonprofit, Dayton, Ohio based Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co. Engler built the 112-pound ash and spruce replica glider and organized the event that took place at Jockey’s Ridge State Park. The park is located four miles south of the Wright Brothers Memorial Park, NC where the actual event originally occurred.

I watched Navy LT. CDR Klas Ohman, an F-18 pilot from the USS Kitty Hawk aircraft carrier and Army Captain Tanya Markow, an Army Apache pilot, do their stuff.

Making the transition from flying modern airplanes to the Wright glider was not an easy task. The controls are entirely different and an unsteady wind added to their difficulty. Early on, they couldn’t get off the ground and when they did, they had several crash landings that necessitated repairs to the elevator.

On one occasion, a helper who was steadying a wing on launch, wrenched his back and required an ambulance trip to the hospital. On another occasion, the glider was flipped over by the crosswind. Fortunately, the pilot emerged unhurt.

It wasn’t long before they got the hang of it, enabling them to fly more than 100 flights over a period of five days. Some flights were as long as 200 feet.

It brought home realistically the challenge the Wright Brothers experienced. The brothers flew the glider some 600 times in its final configuration in 1902 and another 1,000 times in 1903. On October 23, 1902, Wilbur flew a record 622.5 feet in 26 seconds.

The Wrights made their third trip to Kitty Hawk in 1902, arriving August 28th.

As a result of their wind tunnel tests, their new glider had a wing span ten feet longer (32 feet) than the previous year’s glider and the cord was two feet shorter (5 foot). The camber of the wings on the 17-foot glider was set at 1:20, providing excellent lift.

A tail was added for the first time as a means to prevent the spins that had occurred the previous year. The tail consisted of two rigidly mounted vertical fins.

They soon found out that the spin problem had not gone away. Orville found out the hard way when on one of his glides, he crashed into a sand dune, demolishing the glider but somehow emerging unharmed.

At first they blamed it on pilot error. But every so often no matter how careful they were when attempting a turn, the low wing would drop even lower and the glider would slide into an uncontrolled spinning fall. They gave it the name of "well digging."

They then turned to the design of the glider. They decided to focus on the tail. They removed one of the two fins, but it made no difference.

Orville solved the problem one night while lying awake in bed after drinking too much coffee. He reasoned that the fixed tail fin was the problem.

In a turn the glider began to fall off to one side because the air pressure on that side of the tail increased. This sets off a sequence of events. The higher wings in the banking turn increased in speed, resulting in increased lift. The corresponding lower wings slowed down and lost lift.

The pilot would try to counteract the increasing spin by applying positive warp to the lower wings. But this only increased the drag, further slowing the lower wings, losing more lift. The effect was that the glider corkscrewed around the lower wing as it fell until the wingtip dug into the sand.

On the morning of October 3, Orville suggested to Wilbur that they convert the vertical tail from a fixed vane to a steerable rudder. Orville reasoned that by turning the rudder in synchronization with warping the wings, the pilot would recover lateral balance and prevent "well digging."

Wilbur bought the idea and added an improvement. He proposed connecting the rudder wires with those of wing warping so that the operator could control both with a single movement.

It worked! All of the essentials of the Wright control system were now complete.

Orville wrote home: "Day before yesterday we had a wind of 16 meters per second, or 30-mph, and glided in it without any trouble. That was the highest wind any gliding machine was ever in, so that now we hold all the records."

Wilbur once said that the biggest obstacle to human flight was the inability to control a machine in the air. "When this one feature has been worked out, the age of flying machines will have arrived." He was prescient; the three-axis control system the brothers conceived is used today in all airplanes, including the space shuttle.

Wright Flight Re-Enactment Plan On Schedule

At exactly 10:35 a.m. on December 17, 2003 an exact reproduction of the original Wright Flyer will take off from the original field before an estimated 50,000 onlookers at the Wright Brothers Memorial on the Outer Banks, NC. President Bush may be one of the spectators. An update on the flight and other activities planned on the centennial anniversary were presented at a press conference at the Memorial on May 9, 2002, by Carolyn McCormick of the Outer Banks Visitors Bureau.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), a private association with 170,000 members, contracted with the National Park Service to organize and conduct the celebration of the five day event 13-17 December.

EAA contracted with the Wright Experience to research, construct and fly an accurate reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer. The Wright Experience is a Warrenton, Virginia, Company owned by Ken Hyde. The construction is well underway and in the near future will undergo wind tunnel testing at NASA Langley starting in January.

Prior to the big event, the Flyer will be the centerpiece of a traveling exhibit, "Countdown to Kitty Hawk" in 2003, sponsored by the Ford Motor Company. It will visit at least four cities before its arrival at Kitty Hawk. 

The 100th anniversary of the Ford Motor Company is also in 1903. Henry Ford was an admirer of the Wrights although in the early years Ford thought that the Wrights' secrecy served as barrier to advances in aviation. In 1936, he received Orville's approval to move the original Wright home on Hawthorn Street and the Wrights' bicycle shop, where they designed and built the 1903 Flyer, from Dayton, Ohio to Ford's Greenfield Village in Michigan.

According to Steve Brown, executive vice-president of EAA, the Flyer will be displayed in the center of the 24,000 square feet pavilion on a rotating pedestal bathed in bright lights. Also, inside the pavilion, will be displays and interactive activities for kids including pedal planes, and rockets and kites to make and take.

Microsoft is a sponsor of one the most interesting interactive displays. It is a Wright Flyer simulator with full motion. It will fly just like the real Flyer, requiring the pilots to lie down on the simulator and shift their hips in a saddle to simulate turning the plane. Bill Gates has long admired the Wrights.

The touring pavilion will make its final stop at the Wright memorial for the five-day gala. On the December 17th at 10:30 a.m. the recreation of the original first flight of 120 feet in 12 seconds will take place and in the afternoon at 2:00 p.m. a recreation of the original fourth flight of 852 feet in 59 seconds will occur.

Following both flights there will be flyovers of significant historic airplanes, such as a replica of Lindbergh's Spirit of St. Louis and the 1928 Ford Tri-Motor.

At noon, General (retired) Charles E. "Chuck" Yeager, the first man to fly faster than the speed of sound (he flew at 700 mph), will fly over the memorial accompanied by the one millionth Young Eagle to fly. His historic flight occurred on October 14, 1947, at 10:30 a.m. at precisely the same time as the historic first flight. 

The Young Eagle program is sponsored by EAA. The program provides a flying experience for young people. Since 1992, 770,000 youngsters have flown under the program. The goal is to fly the one-millionth young person at the centennial celebration.

Steve Wright, whose grandfather was Lorin Wright, the brother of Wilbur and Orville, announced that an agreement had been reached to provide a Wright Brothers' float in this years Rose Bowl on News Years Day Parade. The float will entertain, as well as inform, people around the world about the Wright centennial.

Ms. McCormick announced a million-dollar print and television marketing campaign, including introduction of a new logo for the Wright Celebration on the Outer Banks. The campaign will begin in August of this year and appear in such media as New York Times, Sport Fishing, USA Today, Parade Magazine, Raleigh News and Observer, History Channel and Fox News.

The new logo and use of the Wright Brothers name and likeness is covered by a copyright owned by the Wright Family Fund, a charitable foundation administered by The Roger Richman Agency, Inc. of Beverly Hills, California. The agreement permits the Outer Banks area to use the Wright Brother's name and likeness in advertising and promotion until December 31, 2013. 

Themes include: "100 years after the first flight, ONE-WAY FLIGHT, we're finally planning the return trip" and "Wilbur & Orville's First Flight Lasted 12 Seconds. For You, It May Take Days."

No public parking will be permitted at the memorial park for the main event. Shuttle buses will be provided from designated parking areas and motels and houses. For those flying in with small airplanes, landing sites will be designated in airports as far away as Rocky Mount, NC.

There are other events being planned throughout the year, but are not ready to be announced yet because of a slow start. The planning process now appears to be better organized and an events coordinator is expected to be hired in the near future, which should speed-up the process. 

Everyone will need to hope that the weather will be accommodating on December 17, 2003. In 1903, the weather was cold and windy with gusts up to 27 mph. Ironically a beautiful day with little wind on December 17, 2003, could cause problems in getting the Flyer off the ground.

It happened in 2001 when the anniversary flight of the 1901 glider couldn't fly because there was absolutely no wind that day. On the Outer Banks that is a rare day, so there is reason for optimism.

Wright Brothers' Centennial Celebration is Struggling

The Wright Brothers' centennial celebration at Kitty Hawk is struggling to overcome a late start in planning and a shortage of funds. The North Carolina First Flight Centennial Commission (FFCC), the state agency overseeing North Carolina's celebration of the first flight at Kitty Hawk, has contributed to the problem.

The FFCC has been slow in developing detailed, comprehensive planning and has been reluctant to delegate responsibility, authority and provide funding for planning and execution of the event of the century. The event will take place in Dare County, North Carolina at the Wright Brothers' National Memorial.

Dare County Ill Prepared

The U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission located in Washington, D.C. has announced a yearlong celebration extending overseas and culminating in Dare County, the location of the first flight on December 17, 2003. Unfortunately, Dare County is ill prepared and under funded for the event with only one year remaining before the yearlong celebration begins.

Dare County finds themselves in this crisis situation through no fault of their own. Until just recently, they have been constrained by the FFCC in performing the required necessary planning. At a rancorous meeting of the FFCC on December 17, 2001, Sherry Rollason, Mayor of the town of Kill Devil Hills where the Wright Memorial is located, characterized the issue by proclaiming that the FFCC hasn't made any progress since 1994. "We need help."

Some help did come after tense debate at the meeting in the form of a resolution that gives Dare County an endorsement of a calendar of events developed and endorsed by the interconnected towns of Kill Devil Hills, Kitty Hawk, Nags Head, Manteo and Southern Shores. 

The vote of the commission members was ten in favor and three against the motion, with some ten members abstaining. The lukewarm result, while approving the resolution, lacked the unanimous support that it should have had to give Dare County the positive support they need to overcome the challenge ahead of them. 

It is particularly disappointing that one of those who voted against the motion is the state director of the NC Department of Cultural Resources, who has overall responsibility for the state's centennial celebration. The FFCC reports to this department.

Insufficient Funds

The approved resolution did not come with any funds or even a proposed budget for Dare County to work with. This leaves Dare County at a severe handicap in developing their detailed implementation plans.

The money problem will not be easily solved. The State of NC has an overall budget deficit which leaves unsettled how many dollars will be allocated to the FFCC to support celebration activities. Further compounding the problem is the manner in which the commission plans to allocate the limited amount of money that they do have. 

The commission views their task as one of supporting celebration activities around the whole state. FFCC Co-Chairman, Tom Lambeth, explained at the meeting that 99% of the board's funding and the population it serves are from outside Dare County.

It is noted here that all of the Wright Brothers' activities in North Carolina were confined to Dare County. One could argue, that if there is limited funding, the focus of funding should be where the activities of the Wrights actually occurred. 

Geneva Perry, granddaughter of Elijah Baum who welcomed Wilbur when he first arrived at Kitty Hawk, did open the issue. She retorted that we don't expect all the efforts of the commission to be here but we need to equally share in the resources. The main event is going to be here and if it is not what it could and should be visitors are going to go away thinking negatively about our area. "We will bear the brunt of it."

In an attempt to calm the expected rising storm of criticism, prior to the meeting, Governor Mike Easley appointed Ken Mann of the First Flight Society as co-chairman of the FFCC. The First Flight Society, a private organization, has traditionally sponsored the annual first flight celebration at the Wright Memorial.

Whatever good feeling was created by the appointment didn't last long. During a discussion of the relevance of some of the past expenditures of the FFCC, Mann's critical comments so unsettled co-chair Lambeth that he threw his pen on the conference table in frustration.

Preliminary Plans

The preliminary plans for the the week of December 13-16, 2003 at the Wright Memorial are to hold a variety of air shows, static ground displays, and educational programs, as well as a host of exhibits. A 20,000 square foot pavilion on parkland to house the displays and exhibits is on the drawing board to be available by April 2003.

Another group associated with the FFCC known as the First Flight Foundation has been charged with obtaining the funding for the pavilion and other site improvements. They have yet to neither raise the funds nor do they have engineering plans and cost estimates completed for the pavilion. They claim to have some interested sponsors. 

Time is drawing short for raising significant funds. They have missed the 2002 budget cycle for charitable contributions for most big companies. Many of the target companies may have already committed their funds to other locations such as the Wright celebration in Dayton. And, it is not a good time to be soliciting for funds, as the aerospace industry and airlines are in a recession.

Fortunately, one big event planned for the celebration at the Wright Brothers' National Memorial park is funded and on schedule. That is the re-enactment of the Wright Brothers' historic flight at 10:35 a.m. on December 17th, the time of the first flight.

Dare County is planning a yearlong series of events beginning with torch lighting and countdown clock beginning January 2002. There is also the possibility of the creation of a centennial park off the site of the Wright Memorial to handle overflow by providing entertainment, additional exhibits and county exposition.

National Park Service

The Park Service handed out a proposed schedule of events at the FFCC meeting, but it contained little detail. The park ranger who had been temporarily detailed from another park site to develop the plan has left because the funding ran out. The job has been given to an existing staff member, but the symbolism of this episode demonstrates a lack of urgency on the part of the National Park Service at a time where there is a once in a life time opportunity to produce a world-class celebration.

The roof of the Wright memorial exhibition building leaks and must be replaced. The job is behind schedule and had not begun as of December 2001. The repairs will necessitate the closing of the building during most of 2002 and may even stretch into 2003.

This fiasco began a number of years ago when the park service spent near $200,000 on architectural designs for a much needed new center, then let them drop because the current obsolete building was considered a historic building worth preserving.

The window of opportunity is rapidly closing for promoting the celebration to national convention and tour groups. They need to know about times, places and prices.

Other Celebrations

Other major celebrations in North Carolina are planned for Lumberton and Fayetteville in May 2003

Nationally, an Aviation World's Fair 2003 is planned at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. The Society of Experimental Test Pilots is planning an event for Los Angeles in September 2003.

It now appears that the premier celebration will be in Dayton in July. Dayton's groups have worked on their plans since 1989. They have raised over half of the $40 million they set as a goal. Madeline Iseli, executive director for the Inventing Flight says the Dayton is clearly the forerunner in terms of preparedness for the centennial.

98th Wright Brothers' Centennial Anniversary Celebration

The Wright Brothers' Centennial Celebration year (2003) is drawing near. The countdown began with the 98th Anniversary celebration held at the Wright Brothers' Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, North Carolina on December 17, 2001. I was there serving as a park service volunteer. It was a beautiful day with over 400 onlookers in attendance.

They were treated with a flyover of some 30 airplanes. The highlight was the B-2 Batwing, "Spirit of Kitty Hawk" stealth bomber with its black bat shape. Also flying over the 60-foot Wright Monument was a C-54 Skymaster, which participated in the Berlin Airlift, A-10 Thunderbolts, F-14 Tomcats, F-15E Strike Eagles, F/A-18 Hornets and a variety of Cessna models.

A couple of 5th graders from the local First Flight Elementary School in Kill Devil Hills were at the controls of some of the airplanes. This was their reward for passing a curriculum of study sponsored by Wright Flight, Inc. of Tucson, Arizona. The program integrates academic achievement and values into a study of aviation history.

Clyde Cessna, early flight pioneer and the founder of the Cessna Aircraft Co. in 1927 was inducted posthumously into the First Flight Shrine located at the memorial. Cessna, a farm boy, became interested in airplanes in 1911 and taught himself how to fly. 

The First Flight Society, a private group, has sponsored this award every year since 1966. The first three honorees inducted into the shrine were Wilbur and Orville Wright and their employee Charlie Taylor who produced the gasoline engine that powered the 1903 Flyer.

"This is truly hallowed ground," commented the featured speaker, General Ralph E. Eberhart, Commander-in-Chief, North American Aerospace Defense Command. The 20th century will be remembered as the century of flight."

Darrell Collins, the National Park Service historian at the Wright Memorial gave his usual inspiring speech about the Wright Brothers. He noted that the Wright Brothers have been lost in history. Most history books devote less than a page to them. There are no Air Force Bases named solely for the Wrights. Even Wright-Patterson AFB must share its name with Patterson.

Speaking with emotion, he said that in two years people would have the opportunity to witness the history that escaped most eyes at Kill Devil Hills in 1903. "On that day, and at the exact time, 10:35 a.m., an authentic replica of the machine will fly, or attempt to fly." "Audience," he said, "This will be the event of the century!"

Collins was referring to Ken Hyde of Warrenton, Virginia, who is building the 1903 Flyer. Hyde has been diligently researching the exact design of the 1903 Flyer and how it was manufactured. The Wrights left no engineering documents for the Flyer. They didn't need detailed drawings because they were building their own design and because they wanted to protect their secret. Hyde is on schedule for the flying attempt at Kitty Hawk in 1903.

Next year (2002) the flyover will kick off the planned yearlong series of events leading up to the centennial event. The First Flight Society, who has sponsored the anniversary event since 1928 is hoping to have 99 airplanes fly over the memorial to mark the 99th anniversary.

Bad weather in Dayton, Ohio, caused cancellation of a planned flyover there. Two members of the Wright family laid a wreath at the base of the Wright Memorial located on Wright-Patterson AFB. 

Trouble At Kitty Hawk

An estimated 50,000 people will visit the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park at Kitty Hawk to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the first free, controlled, and sustained flight in a power-driven, heavier than air machine. Time is growing short and the planning for the event has been slow to take off but is now picking up speed..

The First Flight Centennial Commission (FFCC) and the National Park Service share primary responsibility for planning the affair. The state funded, 28-member commission was established by the General Assembly in 1994 to organize the celebration in North Carolina.

Although the commission has been given almost twice the time the Wright Brothers had to design, build and successfully launch their machine, progress has been slow. That generated considerable concern within the park service that planned to feature a re-enactment of the first flight as the premier event for the anniversary celebration.

Recreation Of First Flight

The plan is to build and fly an exact reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer. This is no small task, because no one other than the Wright Brothers has flown the 1903 model Flyer. The job is difficult because the Wrights never did make detailed engineering drawings of the Flyer, including the gas engine. Whatever early blueprints they may have made, were not saved, in part because the brothers were secretive.

Frustrated after three years of inaction from the commission and realizing this task needs as much lead-time as possible, the park service proceeded to award a contract for constructing the Flyer to the Wisconsin-based Experimental Aircraft Association. They in turn subcontracted the task to the Wright Experience, an aircraft restoration firm located in Warrenton, Virginia, owned by Ken Hyde.

The FFCC was not happy by this precipitous action, claiming they were not involved or officially informed of this decision ahead of time.

The good news is that Ken Hyde is on schedule building the Wright Flyer. An added benefit of his work will be that he is researching and documenting how the Wrights went about developing and manufacturing the airplane.

Dare County Frustrated

Now, there is tension between the FFCC and the Dare County (where Kitty Hawk is located) local citizens planning the celebration. Frustrated by the lack of planning and guidance from FFCC, Dare County people unilaterally established their own steering committee headed by Geneva Perry. 

Ms. Perry is the granddaughter of Elijah Baum, who as a boy fishing along the banks of Kitty Hawk, first greeted Wilbur when he arrived in 1900. Elijah gave Wilbur directions to William Tates's house. William Tate had invited the Wrights to do their experiments at Kitty Hawk.

The local people are worried that time is growing short and much planning is required for the celebration activities including support functions such as law enforcement, emergency medical service, fire departments, etc.

Exacerbating the problem is the state budget woes. FFCC's original biennial budget request of $5.6 has been cut to $785,000 in fiscal year 2001-2002 with a promise of the same amount for next year. The impact of the reduction is that each locality in the state will need to plan and fund their own events.

Update: The Department of Interior and the Omnibus Bill provided by Congress now provides a total of $2,432,000 to fund the weeklong celebration in December. The original request was for $7 million. (3/1903) 

Memorial Visitor Center In Disrepair

There is another big problem. This one is caused by the Federal Government and involves the Wright Brother Memorial Visitor's Center. 

The park service originally planned to replace the existing 41-year-old visitor center in time for the centennial celebration with a new structure over twice as large as the existing structure. 

The existing center leaks like a sieve whenever it rains. The foam on the 10,000-square-foot roof is cracked and the engineers aren't sure of what other structural problems exist until the roof is removed. In addition, the building is inadequate for handling crowds, has no auditorium and offers inadequate space for displays.

Out-of-the-blue last year, the Department of Interior (DOI), headquarters for the park service, shot down the replacement idea by deciding that the existing visitor center is a unique structure with its distinctive domed roof and large glass-paneled walls and is worth preserving as an historical landmark. 

The decision was driven by the conclusion that the structure is a key work in the emerging "Philadelphia" movement of architecture that focuses on the concept of "expressive modernist architecture." 

The Philadelphia architectural firm of Mitchell & Giurgoia is apparently behind this decision. A group of young architects designed 114 visitors' centers across the country between 1956 and 1966 under a DOI program known as "Mission 66."

Whatever the merit of the architecture, the focus of the park is the Wright Brothers, not a building. The existing building distracts from that function. 

The new plan is to repair the existing leaky building and possibly build an additional learning center sometime in the future that will, architecturally, be minimal to maintain the prominence of the modernist elements of the existing building.

A contract of over $810,000 has been allocated to repair the roof. The building will be closed during repairs for an unidentified period of time. If past delays on the project are any guide for the future, the building may not be completely ready for the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers' first flight on Dec. 17, 2003. Update: Roof is now 95% complete. (3/1903)

The current repair includes removal of the existing roof, underlying insulation, vent flashing, vents, acrylic dome skylights and curbs. Once they get the roof open, there may be other problems they will find.

An architectural consultant has already identified many other problems with the building. They include extensive cracking of the eaves, soffits and walls, leaking windows, settling of the concrete slab, electrical wiring that doesn't meet code, no handicap bathroom facilities, antiquated heating and cooling system, inadequate lighting, no fire detection devices or sprinklers, inadequate lighting and corroded structural steel. $350,000 worth of improvements are on the "to do list." 

Fixing the roof and other renovations doesn't begin to fix the problem. The building needs to be razed and replaced by a new facility as was originally planned. This is not in the cards at the present time.

Update: A 20,000 square foot pavilion is under construction. It will have a 1,000 seat auditorium and space for high-tech exhibits. It is designed to last five years. Ribbon-cutting is scheduled for May 21. (3/1903)

Will The Weather Cooperate?

If there isn't enough to worry about, there is concern that the weather conditions may not cooperate to support the premier attraction of the re-enactment of the First Flight on December 17, 2003. December's weather is unpredictable. The Wrights had trouble with the weather and experienced much delay because of it. 

The 1903 Flyer had extremely marginal flight performance. Experts believe that a minimum headwind of 25 mph will be required to enable the Flyer to takeoff. The average flightspeed of the machine in 1903 averaged 31mph over four flights. If the headwind too high, the Flyer may even "fly backwards." 

The re-enactment flight is planned for 10:35 a.m., exactly 100 years to the minute after the Wrights' famous flight. A repeat performance is planned at 2:30 p.m. Flights are also planned during the week.

If conditions on December 17 don't allow an actual re-enactment, a film of the re-enactment will be shown. 

Now that would really be a downer.

Ken Hyde Featured on National Aviation Day

The highlight of the Wright Brother's Centennial celebration on December 17, 2003 at Kill Devil Hills, N.C., will be a recreation of the first flight of the 1903 Wright Flyer with an exact reproduction of the Flyer.

Ken Hyde Creating Reproduction of Wright Flyer

Ken Hyde, who is building the reproduction, was the featured speaker at the Wright Memorial in Kill Devil Hills on Aviation Day, August 19, 2001. Hyde is attempting to accomplish something that no one else has done. He is creating an exact reproduction of the 1903 machine that can be flown. 

Creating an exact duplication is made extra difficult because the Wrights did not leave behind engineering drawings specifying their manufacturing methods or construction details. This reflects their extreme sensitivity to secrecy because they didn't want others copying their design. 

The task has required painstaking research on Hyde's part to gather sufficient information to permit the reverse engineering of what the Wrights did.

One thing the Wrights did do is take plenty of photographs. Hyde and his people, working in Warrenton, Virginia, have worked backward from the photographs scanned into a computer and enlarged to enhance details to be reproduced. 

Hyde commented that he is two months ahead of schedule. He is currently working on the engine and hardware. 

He noted that one of his biggest challenges is obtaining the turn-of the-century muslin fabric used on the wings known as "Pride of the West." The fabric is unavailable and must be manufactured especially for the project.

Once the machine is completed, it will be test-flown in a wind tunnel before it is actually flown. Piloting the machine will be difficult. Even the Wrights had trouble, flying four undulating flight paths that first day, and they had plenty of practice piloting their gliders.

The 1903 Flyer was meant as an experimental machine to test the feasibility of flight and was extremely unstable. Orville and Wilbur were in essence test pilots. Flying it meant lying prone in a cradle that one moved with the hips to "warp" the wings for horizontal control, while at the same time moving a lever with the left hand that controlled the front elevator for pitch control. 

Several experienced pilots in California recently crashed the machine while attempting to perform this feat in a simulator of the Flyer.

Hyde plans to conducts test flights at Kill Devil Hills prior to December 17, 2003.

The Flyer will also be exhibited in several cities, including Dayton, prior to December 17, 2003. It will not fly on the tour, however.

Hyde is driven by his vision to rediscover the early history of Aeronautical Engineering. He expressed concern to his audience, attending his presentation on Aviation day, that there is a critical need to capture the knowledge of all those who knew the Wright Brothers before they are gone.

The Wisconsin-based Experimental Aircraft Association is sponsoring Hyde's work on the 1903 Flyer.

Other Attendees

Rex Peters, President of the First Flight Society, introduced Hyde. Another VIP who was present was Dr. Kathryn Holten, Executive Director of the First Flight Centennial Commission. Dr. Holten is responsible for planning the centennial activities in North Carolina.

My wife and I were also present serving as VIP National Park Service Volunteers for the day. My wife served in the visitor center and I presented two programs during the day as well as other duties.

"Inventing Flight," Dayton's Centennial Celebration

It has been awhile since Dayton has celebrated her hometown heroes, the Wright Brothers. The last time was 1909, when their homecoming was celebrated with a parade down Main Street. School children in the bleachers were dressed in red, white or blue clothing to form an American flag.

Now they are making up for lost time in a big way by planning a multimillion-dollar flight centennial bash for the Wright Brothers in 2003. They established "Inventing Flight" in 1989 to plan the celebration. Madeline J. Iseli, Inventing Flight's executive director, heads a team that is putting together a grand affair for Dayton's most famous citizens that could cost up to $47 million in private and public funds.

Creating a New Park - Deeds Park

The celebration's main concentration will last 18 days --- July 3 through 20, 2003. The hub of the celebration will be at Deeds Point, a park situated on a 12 acre wedge of land facing downtown Dayton at the confluence of the Great Miami and Mad Rivers. Deeds Point and adjoining Kettering Field will serve as the gateway to all "Inventing Flight's" activities spread throughout the Dayton area.

While at Deeds Point, visitors will be able to avail themselves of exhibits, stage shows, flight simulators and other family entertainment taking place in four large pavilions that celebrate the themes of invention, exploration, communications and imagination. There will be a children's area full of colorful interactive activities and workshops. Along the river, there will be a nightly spectacular "Wings" show that will take place on floating barges, accompanied by orchestra concerts and fireworks.

A $170,000 stainless steel-and-aluminum version of the Flyer III was recently unveiled in downtown Dayton across from Deeds Point. It has a 40-foot wingspan and includes bronze statues of Wilbur flying the plane and Orville running alongside. The 5,000-pound sculpture is supported on a cantilevered steel base ten-feet above the ground at a 10-degree tilt in order to give the impression of the Flyer in flight.

While the hub of activity will be based at Deeds Point, the celebration radiates out to a series of satellite locations and citywide events, conventions and on-going exhibits happening during the same period. These include the Dayton Air Show, Carillon Historical Park's Living Heritage Program, The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and the United States Air Force Museum.

Air Show

The Annual United States Air and Trade Show at Dayton International Airport will feature an unparalleled program of four days of flying exhibitions and ground display aircraft. The aircraft will represent each era, category and type of flying machine that have contributed to and shaped aviation progress during the first century of manned, powered flight.

Carillon Historical Park

The original 1905 Wright Flyer III will be the main attraction at the Carillon Historical Park. The plane just received a $365,000 restoration. The Wrights' called this model their first practical airplane and it was the first that could fly circles and figure eight's. Also on display will be the camera that took the famous picture of the first flight at Kill Devil Hills.

Disney-style parades, street performers, music and stage productions will add entertainment. 

Aviation Heritage National Park

The Aviation Heritage National Park consists of The Wright Bicycle Shop, The Paul Laurence Dunbar Home, the Huffman Prairie Airfield and the Wright Memorial.

Wright Bicycle Shop

The Wright Bicycle shop, one of four they had in the area, and the Dunbar Home are located in the same neighborhood several blocks apart. Dunbar, the famous black poet, and Orville Wright were friends and were in the same class in high school. Their once thriving neighborhood has deteriorated over the years. Nearly $4.5 million is being spent recreating the way it was in 1900 by renovating a number of dilapidated buildings in the area.

A new visitor center is being established in the Hoover Block building, one of the renovated buildings. One of the Wrights' printing shops occupied the second floor. 

Just down the street from the bike shop is a vacant lot where the Wright family lived from 1871 to 1914. The city-owned lot has been vacant since 1936 when Henry Ford moved the house to his Greenfield Village Museum at Dearborn, Michigan. An archeological dig is currently underway at the original home site.

Huffman Prairie Airfield

The Huffman Prairie Airfield is where the Wrights continued their flight experiments after 1903. It is the world's first airport and was used by the brothers to train the first aviators. Over 119 early flyers were taught to fly there. The most famous was "Hap" Arnold who later commanded the U.S. Army Air Force during World War II.

The first time a Wright Airplane has flown at Huffman since 1905 is planned, using a reproduction of the 1911 Wright B Flyer.

Wright Brothers Memorial

The Wright Brothers Memorial stands on Wright Brothers Hill overlooking the Huffman Prairie flying field. Erected in 1904, the shaft and base of the memorial are made of marble quarried near Kitty Hawk, N.C. A new visitor center is being constructed at this site.

Air Force Museum

Another key player in the 100th anniversary celebration will be the U.S. Air Force Museum. The museum is the largest and oldest military aviation museum in the world and is the new home of the National Aviation Hall of Fame. A replica of the first military airplane, the Wright Model A, was purchased by the U.S. Signal Corps in 1909 and is one of the important exhibits. The museum plans to finish a new, hanger-like 190,000-square foot gallery, in time for the celebration. 

One of the unique events the museum will sponsor for the celebration is an attempt of a world record rally of 10 to 20 blimps.

The National Aviation Hall of Fame housed at the museum will host a reunion of all living inductees in an appropriately named "Heroes of Flight Homecoming." Some 30 surviving inductees are expected to attend and be honored.

The Wrights' Home

Hawthorn Hill, the Wright's home beginning in 1914 until Orville's death in 1948, located in the City of Oakwood outside of Dayton, will be open to the public four times during the next three years. The home is owned by the NCR Corporation and is rarely opened to the public.

The centennial celebration is expected to draw 3 million visitors. It is the largest affair that the Dayton community has ever orchestrated. They are working hard to make sure that Dayton's place in aviation history is understood. The Wrights first flew at Kitty Hawk, but they conceived, researched, built and perfected their invention in Dayton.

Dayton's dream is reflected in their motto: "What if for one spectacular year Dayton was the center of the universe?"

Wright Flyer Flies at Wright State University

A full-size replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer that flew at Kitty Hawk now flies in a library! Well not exactly flying, but it hangs sixteen feet up in the air supported by thin wires giving the appearance of flight. The location is in the atrium of the Paul Laurence Dunbar Library at Wright State University in Dayton, Ohio.

A crowd of more than 500, myself included, attended the dedication ceremony on September 6, 2001.

The Flyer is an exact replica of the original. A team of 17 volunteers headed by Howard R. DuFour constructed it. The team expended three years and 4,200 hours creating the replica. DuFour called it "a marvelous, wonderful piece of equipment that was far beyond its time."

The replica is dedicated to the memory of Wilkinson Wright, great-nephew of Orville and Wilbur. His widow, Marion Wright, said it would be interesting whether future students in the library will notice the Flyer's simplicity or its complexity, both of which are awesome.

Wilkinson, better known as "Wick," was the spokesman for the Wright family for many years. His great-grandfather was Loren Wright, an older brother of Orville and Wilbur. Loren was an active supporter of his younger brothers' work on the problem of flight.

Orville and Wilbur never married and had no direct descendents. 

The Wright Brother's Mechanician

The 86 year old DuFour has been interested in the Wright Brothers for some time. One of his other interesting projects was researching how Charlie Taylor built the gas engine that propelled the 1903 Wright Flyer.

Taylor, a machinist, was hired in 1901 by the Wright Brothers to work in their bicycle shop. His presence would allow the brothers to go to Kitty Hawk in the summer during the busy season for their bicycle shop. It turned out that Taylor did a lot more than work on bicycles.

In 1902, the brothers were not able to find a manufacturer that would build them a lightweight engine for the Flyer. They concluded they would have to build their own. They asked Charlie if he could build an engine from their sketches. Years later, Charlie said he answered simply, "I can, and I did it."

Discovering The Secrets Of The 1903 Engine

DuFour, a model maker, was fascinated with how he had produced the 1903 engine. Upon DuFour's retirement, he decided to find out. Unfortunately, there were no original drawings of the engine. After all, this was supposed to be a one-of-a-kind experimental engine, so none were made. 

Undaunted, DuFour himself conducted extensive research that finally paid off in a set of accurate blueprints. From these drawings, he built an accurate reproduction of the 1903 engine using the same manufacturing techniques that Taylor had used years ago. DuFour subsequently wrote a book about Taylor's life and the recreation of the engine, "Charles Taylor: The Wright Brothers Mechanician."

Recreating The Wright Flyer

I had the honor of spending an afternoon with DuFour in his workshop last summer. I had the opportunity of seeing first hand the meticulous work that was going into reproducing the 1903 Flyer. Tolerances were being held to 1/10,000 of an inch. 

He and his fellow volunteers were faithfully following the original Wright drawings from the Library of Congress. The wood ribs that form the wings were bent to camber shape in a simple mold. The muslin cloth that covered the wings was sewn on a sewing machine nearby.

There are some substitutes for the original materials. Basswood and poplar woods were used because the beech that was used on the original Flyer was not available in the needed lengths.

The original muslin cloth, known as "Pride of the West," is no longer manufactured so a substitute had to be used.

The replica of the gasoline engine is a dummy. 

Project Honors Wright Family

The project was commissioned by Wright State in honor of the university's long time relationship with the Wright family and the centennial of the first flight of the Wright Flyer in 2003. "Wick" was a long time supporter of the library and their archives programs.

Much of the personal effects of Orville and Wilbur are housed in the library, having been donated by the Wright heirs in 1975. During my visit to the library one of the more interesting things I held in my white-gloved hands were the grade reports of the brothers. In case you are interested, they received good grades.

Dunbar Was Wright Brothers' Friend

The library at Wright State is named in honor of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national eminence as a poet. Dunbar was a friend of the Wrights and a high school classmate of Orville. 

During his short lifetime, he wrote 600 poems, 12 books, 5 novels, and 4 volumes of short poetry, as well as hundreds of newspaper articles and lyrics for musicals. His "Tuskegee Song" is the alma mater of Tuskegee Institute.

Dunbar's early writings were published on Orville's printing press.

Dunbar died of tuberculosis in 1906 at the young age of 33. His home today is part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park and is located within walking distance of the Wrights' home.

The Wright State University campus is located adjacent to Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Wright Brothers memorial is located close by. The memorial overlooks Huffman Field where the Wrights perfected their machines in 1904 and 1905.

Commemorative Coin Controversy Resolved But Not Everyone Happy

North Carolina and Ohio have been feuding over who deserves the credit for the first sustained, powered flight under control at Kitty Hawk, N.C. on December 17, 1903. The intensity of the debate has been fueled by the planned grand celebration by both states for the 100th anniversary of the first flight in 2003.

North Carolina Honors Famous Event

The commemorative quarters honoring North Carolina were released in March. It featured the famous picture taken by John Daniels of the first flight with the inscription, "First Flight."

That was close to what North Carolina wanted, but not completely. They wanted the inscription to say, "First in Flight." The phrase, "First Flight," does not have the same meaning and impact. It is a more limited description depicting an event, rather than a motto.

There is an interesting sidelight to the North Carolina story. The First Flight design wasn't everyone's first choice in N.C. Some of the North Carolina panel members pushed hard to depict the Cape Hatteras Lighthouse as a better choice to represent the state's image.

Wilbur Slighted

Ohio, whose commemorative quarter is due for release next April, submitted a design that also featured the Wright Flyer with the inscription, "Birthplace of Aviation." The dual depiction of the Wright Flyer on both the states' coins was part of the running debate over each state's claim on the Wright Brothers. 

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, a group that reviews designs of all commemorative coins, disapproved Ohio's initial proposal and returned it recommending instead a picture of the state bird, a cardinal, perched on buckeye leaves.

Needless to say the people in Ohio were under-whelmed with that result. Ohio's Governor Bob Taft submitted a counter proposal. The new design featured the Wright Flyer flying in the opposite direction of that depicted on the N.C. Quarter and an astronaut superimposed over an outline of Ohio. The generic astronaut is in recognition of two Ohio natives, Neil Armstrong, the first man on the moon, and John Glenn, the first American to orbit the earth. The recommended inscription was "Birthplace of Aviation."

The mint approved the design with one word change. They added the word "Pioneers," to the inscription. The new inscription reads "Birthplace of Aviation Pioneers." This design is expected to be approved by U.S. Treasury Secretary Paul O'Neill, who is the final approval authority.

Not everyone in Ohio is happy with this result because Wilbur Wright was born in Millville, Indiana, not Ohio. Unfortunately, Wilbur's role in inventing the airplane will be ignored.

So, neither state is completely happy, but both got much of what they wanted.

Historical Perspective

The first flight was the culmination of several years of research and experimentation. The research was primarily conducted in Dayton and the experimentation and the first flight took place at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

The Wrights' research began four years before their first appearance at Kitty Hawk. Wilbur conceived and successfully tested the concept of wing warping to turn an airplane. He tested the concept by flying a specially rigged biplane kite with a five-foot wingspan in Dayton one year before the initial trip to the outer banks in 1900. The seventeen-foot glider they flew at Kitty Hawk in 1900 confirmed that wing warping worked.

The research to determine the proper camber of the wings to maximize lift was conducted in Dayton during 1901 in a wind tunnel of their design using 200 miniature airfoils of different shapes. Their design choice was confirmed in glider flights during their 1902 trip to Kitty Hawk.

Their one significant design change to the glider while at Kitty Hawk occurred during their 1902 trip. They changed the fixed double tail to a turnable single tail. This was the final piece in the puzzle to effect a smooth turning mechanism for the glider to enable flying under control. Having proved they could fly under control, the next task was to develop a means of propulsion.

The gas engine and the propeller were designed, manufactured and tested in Dayton. The components of the "Flyer" were constructed in Dayton for later assembly at Kitty Hawk. The assembled Flyer was successfully flown at Kitty Hawk on their second try.

Kitty Hawk provided more than wind. The villagers and the life saving crew on Kitty Hawk at the time were critical to the Wrights' success. The brothers admired their independent spirit and hard work, which was like their own. The Kitty Hawkers were not only friendly to the brothers, they provided help in hauling the glider up and down the dunes along with other activities. The brothers would fly a flag when they were ready to fly, and help would arrive. 

John Daniels, a member of the life saving crew, took the now famous picture of the first flight that appears on the N.C. commemorative coin. 

Bill Tate's wife allowed the Wrights to use her sewing machine to sew the sateen wing covering. Bill was instrumental in convincing the Wrights to come to Kitty Hawk. 

Except for occasional storms and swarms of mosquitoes, the brothers enjoyed their "vacation" stay on the island.


 
 

 
 

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