Wright Brothers – Celebration Activities

Articles relating to the celebration activities about the Centennial Anniversary.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A number of photographs of the activities are provided below:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tragically, Orville died on January 30, 1948.

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

Reference: Philadelphia Record, May 17, 1928.