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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
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
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.
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
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
The Wright brothers kept up a polite, upbeat demeanor throughout the
festivities even though they would have rather been home working on their
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
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
"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
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
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.
Exposition featured various means of transportation including bicycles,
automobiles, and balloons Orville agreed to fly Aviation Day, Thursday
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
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
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
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
"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
"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
"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
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.
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
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
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
picture at left shows Wilson V. Eagleson, Stimson, Leonard "Hawk"
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.
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:
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
Amanda and Marianne shared many Wright family memories with an attentive audience.
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
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 --- ."
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.
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
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
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
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
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
First Flight Centennial Celebration
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
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)
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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."
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
Brothers' Centennial Celebration is Struggling
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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,
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.
Rex Peters, President of the First Flight Society, introduced
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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 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
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
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,
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
John Daniels, a member of the life saving crew, took the now
famous picture of the first flight that appears on the N.C.
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.