Wright Flight Re-Enactment Plan On Schedule

by Dr. Richard Stimson

in Celebration Activities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Everyone will need to hope that the weather will be accommodating on December 17, 2003. In 1903, the weather was cold and windy with gusts up to 27 mph.

Ironically a beautiful day with little wind on December 17, 2003, could cause problems in getting the Flyer off the ground.

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

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