Wright Brothers – Kitty Hawk 2003 Celebration Events

Articles relating to Kitty Hawk’s celebration activities & events.

Cheers for great events, speakers, exhibits and flyovers. Grade: A

Cheers to the Department of Transportation for the extraordinary shuttle system and traffic control. We never waited more than 5 minutes for a bus at either end. The drivers and staff at the arrival point were courteous and helpful. The point of departure for buses with different destinations was clearly marked and waiting lines clearly designated. Grade: A+

Jeers for Mother Nature for not providing sufficient wind on Dec. 17. Grade: F

Cheers for Wright Experience crew for valiant attempt to fly on Dec. 17. Grade: A+

Jeers for Reuters news headline on Dec. 17 that read, “Wright brothers reenactment flops in the mud.” Grade: F

Cheers for the courteous, self controlled crowd. Grade: A plus

Jeers for building an expensive outdoor stage that couldn’t keep the rain off President Bush during his speech. Grade: F

Jeers for spectator paths that became lakes with angle deep muck during the rain. Grade: F

Jeers for placing guest speakers in the corner of the EAA Building, exposing them to the loud crowd noise within the building. Also, no one was assigned to introduce the speakers. Quality of speakers: Grade: A+, Noise pollution: Grade: D

Cheers for the volunteers who maintained a cheerful manner throughout the centennial. Grade: A

Jeers for the undefined waiting lines in the food tents that were overwhelmed by the crowd. We brought our own food after one experience. Grade: D

Jeers for holding panel sessions within the Wright Brothers Visitor Center that has inadequate space and sound system. Many people could not see nor hear the proceedings. Grade: D

Cheers for the estimated $15 million of visitor expenditures and estimated $10 million in infrastructure improvements. Grade: A

Jeers for attendance less than expected. Organizers had expected 35,000 per day to attend the centennial. There was only one day that estimated attendance exceeded 30,000 and that was on Dec. 17th. The worse day was Dec. 12th when estimated attendance was only 5,000. Grade: C

Cheers for the positive impact on local businesses. Many were able to recoup losses resulting from Hurricane Isabel. However, not all businesses shared in the increased income. Final economic impact still to be determined. Grade: B

I witnessed the crash of the reproduction 1903 Flyer on Tuesday Nov. 25th at the Wright Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills. It was trying to make a training flight at the time.

It appeared to be making a good start. The engine started after a few attempts, it was a windy day helping to produce lift and the Flyer started down the single rail in good fashion.

As the Flyer attempted to rise from the starting rail, disaster struck. The front end rose too fast and too steep. It stalled and just as suddenly slammed into the soft sand. The whole sequence took only a second or two.

Fellow pilots Kevin Kochersberger, who had flown successfully the Tuesday before, and Chris Johnson ran from each side to check on pilot Terry Queijo. She was shaken and had a mouth full of sand but thankfully otherwise emerged unhurt.

The same could not be said for the Flyer. The wooden frame was broken in several places and the muslin wing covering was torn in spots. The wooden wing leading edge spar were broken, making the wing curve in unusual places. Several pieces of broken wood were collected from the ground by the staff.

The engine appeared to remain in place and was not damaged seriously.

The crash was far from discouraging. They are experiencing the events as the Wrights experienced them. Wilbur had experienced a similar incident on Dec. 14, 1903, three days before the famous first flight

As Orville tells the story: “After a 35 to 40-foot run, it lifted from the rail. But it was allowed to turn up too much. It climbed a few feet, stalled, and then settled to the ground near the foot of the hill, 105 feet below. My stopwatch showed that it had been in the air just 3 1/2 seconds. In landing, the left wing touched first. The machine swung around, dug skids into the sand and broke one of them. Several other parts were also broken, but the damage was not serious.”

Far from being discouraged, Orville said “on the whole, we were much pleased.”

The Wrights had the damage repaired in two days. It will take more than two days to repair the new version of the Flyer.

The crew of the Wright Experience have concluded that the cause of the crash was that the Flyer had was going too fast to take-off with control. Their conclusion is based on flight recorder readings of the machine’s pitch, roll, yaw and engine torque.

This is an interesting result. I had presumed that the major problem on take-off would be not enough speed. Apparently, the known pitch instability of the Flyer as well as the other control inputs create problems for the pilot at higher take-off speeds.

The bigger problem facing the Wright Experience is time. Dec. 17 is not far away and they would like to have both pilots gain experience by flying four times before the big event. Good flying weather is one thing they can’t control and there is the possibility of further crashes that would take time for repairs. How many more practice flights to attempt is in the hands of 82-year old Scott Crossfield (first man to fly Mach 2) who volunteers to instruct the pilots.

Hyde said the they have a spare of everything, including the engine in case of further mishaps.

(Good news follow-up) The Flyer after repairs was back in the air on Wednesday Dec. 4th. This 3rd flight lasted 12 seconds and went 115 feet. The pilot was Kevin Kochersberger, who successfully flew the first flight of the series on Nov. 20th.

Here are the autographs of the flight crew:

Kevin Kochersberger

Terry Queijo

Scott Crossfield

Here are some pictures taken of the crash on Nov. 25th:

First picture shows the flyer in readiness to start down the rail.

Second picture shows the flyer after it hit the ground.

Third Picture shows the pilot, Terry Queijo, at her right is Scott Crossfield, and to his right is Kevin Kochersberger.

The remaining pictures are views of the Flyer.

The reproduction 1903 Wright Flyer lifted off the ground about 1 p.m. on November 20, 2003. It marked the first time in 100 years that a Wright Flyer was successfully flown and landed without damage using an authentic engine.

Paul Hyde’s group, the Wright Experience, had been waiting for good flying weather for two weeks at the Wright Memorial to attempt a flight in anticipation of performing on December 17th for the Wright Brothers Centennial.

Kevin Kochersberger, 42, one of the two pilots selected to fly the machine, flew 97 feet into a 15-18 mile headwind out of the Northeast. It was a straight-line flight five feet off the ground, ending in a soft landing with no damage. The total flight consumed 5 seconds.

Orville’s first flight traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds. He had a headwind of 27-mph.

Ken Hide, Pilot Kochersberger, Terry Queijo who is the other pilot, and the entire crew were jubilant at their success. Some were even in tears. A number of naysayers had predicted their Flyer would never fly.

The two pilots hope to each test-fly the Flyer four times prior to Dec. 17th. Kochersberrger wore a white helmet and a safety harness as a precaution.

They had originally planned to do their test flying in a secret location near Hatteras, but hurricane Isabel put an end to that. As an alternate they are using the Wright Brothers Memorial park. They hope that they will be able to do most of their flying in the morning before the park opens.

For this grand occasion there were a number of visitors in the park who were allowed to watch from a distance. They were not allowed to take any pictures of the machine in flight.

Hyde was reported to have said that “the Flyer did pretty much what we expected. Its performance matched Wilbur’s notes. We couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

Hyde’s Flyer is the only machine of many that are flying in honor of the Centennial that closely conforms to the Wright’s original design. Now that they know that it can fly, the next big hurdle will be the weather on the 17th. Everyone should pray for a wind of at least 15-mph on that day.

The FAA has issued a “Special Airworthiness Certificate for the reproduction 1903 Flyer that will attempt to reenact the Wright Brothers first flight at the Wright Memorial National Park on December 17, 2003. A FAA aviation inspector has reviewed the Flyer and determined that it is prepared to fly.

The certification doesn’t say that it will fly. It certifies that after visiting the Ken Hyde’s shop and watching it being built that the machine has met structural and safety specifications. The FAA says they are interested in two things: the safety of the pilot and the people on the ground.

Ken Hyde is the president of the Wright Experience, the organization that built the Flyer for the EAA. The Wright Experience over the past decade has kept strict adherence to preserving the legacy and design of the Wrights making it the worlds most accurate 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction.

The only concession to a better product was a modern glue to cement the pieces of the propeller together.

The Airworthiness Certificate issued under FAA Order 8130.31 of April 30, 1903 requires 21 limitations that EAA and its pilots must adhere to when operating the Flyer. These criteria include the following.

The Airworthiness Certificate including the 21 limitations must be visible to the pilot and located on the aircraft during flight. I don’t know where they will attach it on the Flyer. Perhaps it will be pasted on the front elevator.

The Flyer may only operate within the designated areas. Wilbur would have gone much further than the 842 feet he did fly on his fourth flight if he hadn’t experienced a downdraft and hit the sand. Until then he thought he might make it to the village of Kitty Hawk four miles away. This year any possibility of that happening has been ruled out.

The aircraft may not be operated over densely populated areas or in congested airways. They will have to stay within park boundaries and fly a straight flight path.

No person may operate this aircraft for carrying persons or property for compensation or hire. There is no room for passengers. No mementos are allowed for later sale on ebay.

Aerobatic maneuvers are not allowed. I don’t think anyone would want to try aerobatic maneuvers on purpose, but there may be some that take place unintentionally. Wilbur, on December 14th, flew up in a sharp angle, stalled, and came down quickly to earth. The four flights on the 17th were all of the undulating type—making for a wild ride.

The bigger problem is whether the Flyer will fly at all on December 17th. Unless flight conditions are almost perfect, it won’t fly. Wilbur said they needed at least 15 mph to fly their gliders. The headwind in 1903 was 27 mph along with cold weather.

Another problem that didn’t exist in 1903 is crosswinds. Trees and buildings now are in the path of the wind blowing from the northeast causing crosswinds. This can make controlling the Flyer more difficult than when the Wrights flew.

Fred Culick, professor of aerodynamics at the California Institute of Technology says that three weeks of wind-tunnel tests of their Wright Flyer replica “clearly showed how unstable it was and how it can’t be flown safely.”

In the meantime, Terry Queijo and Kelvin Kochersberger are busy learning how to fly Hyde’s Flyer under the tutorage of veteran test pilot Scott Crossfield.

Thousands, my self included, will be at the Wright Memorial on the 17th keeping our fingers crossed hoping that the Flyer does gets off the ground.

Orville’s birthday was celebrated at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills on August 29th. I was one of the celebrants.

The all day program featured a number of exhibits and speakers. The two that I found most interesting was Tom Crouch, senior curator, Smithsonian National air and Space Museum, and Ken Hyde, president of the Wright Experience.

Crouch is the author of the “Bishop’s Boys” and co-author of a new book, “The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age.”

His presentation summarized the critical events leading to the invention of the airplane by the Wright Brothers. His remarks were illustrated with slides of original photography taken by the Wrights.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the slides was diminished by the inability of the park service to find a way to turn out the lights over the screen. I could barely make out the pictures sitting in the front row. I doubt the people in the back of the room could see them at all.

Also, there was one other event in the same room that generated talking noise during the question and answer period that made it difficult for people to hear. This caused the people in the rear to begin to leave thereby generating more noise. The event took place in the recently constructed temporary pavilion.

Ken Hyde gave a status report on preparations for the planned flight of his reproduction Wright Flyer on December 17th. Four pilots, including Hyde, are now undergoing flight training for the big event. They are learning to fly just as the Wright Brothers did by using gliders. (Picture left to right: Stimson, Ken Hyde, Joe Hardman -park volunteer)

It will be a tough challenge. Wind tunnel tests at Langley confirm that the machine is highly unstable in pitch and has marginal lateral stability.

Hyde’s organization, Wright Experience, has conducted extensive research to assure historical accuracy in the building of their reproduction of the original Wright Flyer. The effort is detailed in a Discovery Channel documentary tentatively scheduled for showing next month.

One of Hyde’s biggest challenges was obtaining the turn-of-the-century muslin fabric used on the wings. It was known as “Pride of the West.” The fabric is no longer available and had to be especially made for the project. They found some textile companies in North and South Carolina who could manufacture the thread and weave the cloth.

Hyde introduced one his associates, Paul Glenshaw, who had searched for old movies of the Wright’s machine in flight. He showed several clips of these including one from a Max Sennett movie.

What I found amazing from viewing these old movies was the great control wing warping gave the Wright machines in flight.

One of the unscheduled highlights of the day was the appearance of Orville. It actually was John Hogan, an intermediate school student from Holy Cross School in Montgomery County, Maryland. He was dressed like Orville, including the moustache.

His parents brought him to the park because he is doing a project for the school on the Wright Brothers and he wanted to be where it “all started.”