Dayton Celebration Events

Tom Crouch received the Dayton Walk of Fame Award in a ceremony hosted by Wright-Dunbar, Inc. on September 29, 2006.

Crouch is senior curator of aeronautics at the National Air and Space Museum of the Smithsonian Institution and author of numerous books on the Wright brothers. His “The Bishop Boys,” is considered the best book about the Wright brothers. Some other great books either authored or co-authored by Crouch include, “A Dream of Wings,” “Wings, A History of Aviation from Kites to the Space Age,” and “Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age.”

The award consists of a plaque that is embedded in the brick sidewalk along West Third Street where several dozen other plaques honor other Daytonians for their contributions both locally and nationally.

The immediate area includes the site of the last bicycle shop where the 1903 flyer was built (1127 West Third St.). Other printing and bicycle locations include a printing shop in the Hoover Block building at 1060 West Third, first printing shop at 1210 West Third, first bicycle shop site at 1005 West Third, and the second bicycle site at 1034 West Third.

Not far away is the Wright Cycle Co. on South Williams St., the Wright family home on Hawthorn St., and Orville’s Laboratory on North Broadway St.

The citation on the plaque states:

“Author, Historian, Museum Curator. His dedication to educating the nation about aviation history has helped to focus attention on the Wright brothers and Dayton. He authored several award winning books and developed national exhibits about aviation history as a senior curator at the Smithsonian Institution.”

Crouch earned a Ph.D. at Ohio State University.

During my visit to Dayton for their “Inventing Flight” celebration, I found presenters consistently attributing the Wrights’ disappointment with the performance of their 1900 and 1901 gliders to errors in the Lilienthal data upon which the brothers had based their glider designs. This is a common fallacy that is repeated in many books on the Wright Brothers.

The truth of the matter is that it was not a problem of Lilienthal errors, rather it was a misinterpretation of his data that was the problem. Here is the story.

A frustrated Wilbur exclaimed to Orville in August 1901, “Not in a thousand years will man ever fly.”

At the time they were on a train returning to Dayton after failing for the second year in a row to achieve the lift for their glider that their calculations predicted. Wilbur recorded in his diary, “Found lift of machine much less than Lilienthal’s tables would indicate, reaching only about 1/3 as much.”

After further thought, Wilbur was cheered by the conclusion that the data they were using might be in error. In a speech on September 18 to the Western Society of Engineers, Wilbur suggested that “the Lilienthal tables might themselves be somewhat in error.” He also questioned the accuracy of the Smeaton coefficient.

Both the Lilienthal data and the Smeaton coefficient are used in the formula for calculating lift.

Otto Lilienthal was a famous German glider experimenter who had published a table containing coefficients of lift in 1895. The coefficient of lift is a multiplying factor that takes into consideration the various angles a wing assumes with regard to the flow of air know as the “angle of attack.” The value of the lift coefficient also varies with the shape of the wing.

The Smeaton Coefficient was used in the calculation of lift at the time of the Wright Brothers. It is a constant number used as a “coefficient of air pressure.” It serves as a multiplying factor used to calculate B122the numerical value of lift in air, as compared to other mediums, such as water or oil.

John Smeaton, an engineer, determined the value of this coefficient was 0.005 in 1759, from his study of windmills. Engineers used this value for 150 years, although others questioned its value and thought it was too high, including the famous early aviation pioneer George Cayley in 1809.

Both Lilienthal, in Birdflight, and Octave Chanute, in Progress in Flying Machines, cited the 0.005 value in their books. This heavily influenced the Wrights in using the same value.

The Wrights would soon find that the 0.005 value was too high. The error was a major cause of their calculation of a lift value that was too high.

However, Smeaton’s coefficient value did not affect the values of Lilienthal’s coefficients of lift.

Note: The Smeaton coefficient is no longer used in modern aerodynamic problems. Problems are formulated differently. My son, who is a graduate aeronautical engineer, had never heard of Smeaton when I first asked him about it.

Smeaton wasn’t the only source of the discrepancy between actual lift and the Wrights’ calculated values. They incorrectly interpreted the Lilienthal tables by not understanding that the table only applied to the one wing shape that Lilienthal used in his study. The wings that the Wrights used in 1900 and 1901 had different aspect ratios as well as differences in the location of the maximum camber of the wing.

The aspect ratio is a measure of the relationship between the length of the wing to the cord (width). The aspect ratio affects the value of the lift coefficient. Lower values of aspect ratio give lower values of the lift coefficient and visa versa within limits.

The aspect ratio for the Wright 1900 glider was 3.5 and the 1901 glider was 3.3. These values were considerably lower than the aspect ratio of 6.8 for the Lilienthal test wing. In other words, the Lilienthal wing was longer and narrower compared to the Wrights’ wing. The lift coefficient from Lilienthal’s tables used by the Wrights should have been reduced by 19% to account for their use of a lower aspect ratio.

Their other problem of interpreting the Lilienthal table had to do with the location of the point of maximum camber (high point on the curved wing).

The Wrights located their maximum camber close to the leading edge of the wing. The Lilienthal test wing was a circular shaped wing with the maximum point located at the middle of the cord. Here again the value coefficient of lift read from the table should have been reduced to account for the difference in location of the maximum camber.

The cumulative impact of the above errors on the calculation of lift amounted to the 1/3 reduction in lift that Wilbur noted for the Kitty Hawk 1900 and 1901 glider flights.

After their disappointing glider performance during the first two visits to Kitty Hawk, the Wrights decided to take a different approach to the problem of calculating lift. Rather than further examining the existing data provided by others, they decided to compile their own.

They built an instrumented wind tunnel and developed their own aerodynamic data by systematically testing some 200 airfoils of widely different shapes and configurations, going well beyond the Lilienthal table.

Shapes included squares, rectangles, and ellipses in configurations such as biplanes and triplanes. They included camber ratios ranging from 1/6 to 1/20 and maximum camber locations ranging from near the leading edge to the 1/2-chord position.

They found that the correct value of the Smeaton coefficient should be 0.003 and developed their own table of lift coefficients (and drag coefficients).

Their airfoil #12 was found to be the most aerodynamically efficient. Its camber was 1/20 and the aspect ratio was 6. This foil was used as a guide in designing their successful 1902 glider and ultimately the successful 1903 Flyer.

The 1902 glider had an aspect ratio of 6.7, about twice that of their previous gliders, and used camber ratios much shallower than Lilienthal test wing.

With his new knowledge and understanding, Wilbur wrote to Chanute in October 1901, “It would appear that Lilienthal is very much nearer the truth than we have heretofore been disposed to think.”

Here is a graph comparing Lilienthal and Wright lift-coefficient data. The Wright data is for their no. 31 wing model. It has the same wing planform shape (see picture at top of graph) and camber ratio (1/12) as Lilienthal’s. The airfoil shape is different. The Wright No. 31 has a parabolic shape and the maximum camber is closer to the front edge.

Although the two model wings are not identical, they are close enough to demonstrate that the Lilienthal data was close to what the Wrights determined using their wind tunnel.

If one compares the data around a 3% angle of attack, which is about what the Wrights were focusing on, the data is almost identical.

It turned out to be fortunate that the Wrights had problems with the determination of lift. It led them into doing research that propelled their knowledge far beyond anyone before them and established the Wright Brothers as the leading aeronautical engineers of their day.

Reference: A History of Aerodynamics by John D. Anderson, Jr.

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 on 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 as printed in the Dayton Daily News:

Orville Wright sailed over his home city Thursday in one of the most spectacular flights that has ever been made in aircraft.

A dense crowd had been fringing the river banks, the bridges and the roofs of high buildings for hours before it was rewarded with a glimpse of the bird man. When at last screaming factory whistles heralded the approach of the machine, the crowd along the river bank stirred and shook itself out like a mammoth pennant waving a tribute and greeting to the aviator.

People pointed and eyes were strained until everybody saw the tiny speck in the sky and watched it slowly grow into a semblance of shape. The aeroplane was so high that everybody in the city could see it equally well and it is safe to venture that not a person in the city failed to see it.

It was a glorious sight. There was a Dayton boy soaring for joy high above the little threads silvering in the sunlight.

Beneath him the earth, like a tapestry, brimmed up in a circle of misty purple distances.

There was something very significant and appropriate about the course of the flight along the Mad and Miami rivers.

Not so many years ago intrepid pioneer settlers followed those same streams and built the city’s first house on the river bank near the confluence of the two streams. The house is still standing snuggled down among massive structures that the sons of those pioneers have wrought.

That little cabin has had its modicum of surprises since the first tenant passed its portals. It has seen the forests go that had once obscured the skyline. Then its view was more permanently obscured by steep buildings and bridges.

And now on Thursday it witnessed the announcement of another inroad of progress, the very air above it had been conquered and it will soon have to peep at the stars through a fitting maze of aircrafts.

This latest era was ushered in more suspiciously than any of the others.

The forests went almost stealthily and the city sprang up in the night. The street cars began their clanging without any warning, but when this mysterious little speck appears in the sky, it is heralded by a medley of all the factory whistles, the street cars stop and the people use the buildings for stepping stones and steeples for theater seats from which to witness this new scene in the masque of the ages.

That little old log cabin has certainly seen some history made.

When the aeroplane was over the city the faint crackling staccato of its unmuffled motor like distant musketry, could be heard by some, and the aviator could be seen moving in the machine.

Cheers went up from the crowd all along the course, but it is doubtful if any sound reached Mr. Wright but the screaming factory and railway whistles. The factories had stilled their wheels and traffic had stopped to exhaust the power in tribute to their new helpmate.

It was a pretty little touch of sentiment and an inspiring one that sent the aviator circling over his boyhood home. There the dream was cradled and nourished through years of varying vicissitudes until the goal was at last achieved and it was cradled in the clouds.

The aviators are dear to all Dayton, but imagine the emotions of the little family to which the aviator sailed and circled a majestic curtsey from the sky. No wonder Orville Wright soared on a rising altitude upon his return trip.

He said Friday morning that he reached an altitude of 3500 feet by the time he reached the city limits on the outward bound flight.

He visited those exalted spaces that are reverently avoided even by the birds, where he is alone with the silence and sunlight and almost on intimate terms with the stars.

The aeroplane was followed into the city by a stream of hundreds of automobiles. The aviator passed most of them not far from the testing grounds on his return to Simms Station, also known as Huffman Prairie. The average speed of the best automobiles was 25 miles per hour, with the roads such as they are in the vicinity of the station. The aeroplane made the entire trip of 22 miles in a trifle less than 25 minutes.

The eyes of the admiring multitude were able to follow the machine upon its return trip almost till it was over the testing grounds. The machine had diminished to a flyspeck in the hazy distance before a smudge of factory smoke finally blotted it out.

The wind for the trip could hardly have been more than favorable for the flight. Mr. Wright estimated his speed at 50 miles an hour going westwardly and 30 miles an hour on the return trip. The average speed was thus 40 miles per hour.

The course as outlined by Mr. Wright was over the Miami River from the confluence of the Mad and Miami Rivers to the Third Street bridge, thence over Third Street to Williams Street, the area of their original home and bicycle shops, and from there to the Wright Home in Oakwood, over which he circled for the return.

At the start of the trip the altitude was 300 feet. This was increased to 2500 feet over and on the outward journey of 3500 feet was reached, after the machine had passed over the Exposition grounds and reached the city limits.

Mr. Wright describes Dayton as being more beautiful from the clouds than it is at a close view.

Not only interurban electrics and steam cars, but also many automobiles with pennants of cities in other states bore evidence that thousands of people visited Dayton on aviation day.

When they came so far and waited so patiently for the flight it is needless to say that the spirit caught them in the magnificent result and the captive balloon, “Hoosier,” which soared immediately after the aeroplane had disappeared, did a land office business.

Owing to the generosity and public spiritedness of Mr. Wright, aviation day was a success. Superlatives are exhausted in telling just how successful it really was. Though it is somewhat inappropriate to measure such an ethereal and splendid thing as an airship flight in dollars, the general public should realize that Mr. Wright donated Dayton an exhibition that would cost any other city a good many thousands of dollars.

There is also an element of risk about a 22-mile flight even in a perfected Wright machine.

The Exposition officials and the community as a whole are not unmindful of the Wright company’s munificence.

Though the thousands of people who swarmed to the testing grounds at Simms Station to witness the start of the flight probably did not get as thrilling an exhibition as those in the city, they were rewarded by a number of flights by Walter Brookins and a new pupil, while Mr. Wright was circling the city.

Mr. Wright circled the field a number of times also at an altitude of 300 feet before setting out on his straight-away course for the city. The machine in which he sailed to Dayton was started about ten minutes till five o’clock.

Owing to the advertising which the exposition received through Mr. Wright’s spectacular flight, management has received urgent and numerous requests to continue the festival another week. The streets were jammed Thursday night and hundreds were turned away from the Memorial building where the hippodrome show is being held. The committee has decided that aviation features shall distinguish the final day, when the exposition will wind up in a big revel, and arrangements for a number of other interesting events.

It was a special historic moment. As 1,000 people looked on, a 1911 Wright Model B Flyer flew over as a small choir singing God Bless America. Astronauts John Glenn and Neil Armstrong spoke on the 34th anniversary of Armstrong’s Apollo 11 moonwalk; only 66 years had elapsed since the Wright Brothers flew at Kitty Hawk when Armstrong walked on the moon. Members of the Wright family lay wreaths on the graves of the famous brothers who invented the airplane. Reverend Edward Puff pronounced it a “sacred moment and this is hallowed ground.”

The last day of Dayton’s flight celebration couldn’t have ended on a more memorable moment. The gravesite had been spruced up since the last time I was there two years ago. A mulched bed of myrtle had been added around the burial stones. A cobblestone walkway was laid all around. Behind the main headstone with the words “Wright” inscribed on it. Three flagpoles had been added and American and Ohio flags, and a Wright pennant, fluttered in the breeze.

As 40 members of the Wright family listened, Glenn spoke, “Their bodily remains are buried here. But their spirit lives on in every young person who is inspired to dream, to do, and to move the world ahead. Their example is timeless.”

Then Armstrong added, “We gather on this glorious Sunday morning to remember the birth of aviation, but also to honor two good and honorable men.”

Armstrong added, “For 21/2 weeks, Dayton has been celebrating 100 years of flight, and has talked about the amazing achievements that have occurred in those 100 years. We’ve lauded the dedication, creativity and achievements of Orville and Wilbur Wright, but this morning we remember them not for those achievements, but as the kind of men they were: Men of honesty, and men of integrity in all they did. That is something for us to honor and emulate.”

G. Edwin Zeiders of the United Theological Seminary was the next speaker. Milton Wright had been instrumental in founding of the United Theological predecessor seminary, the Bonebrake Seminary of the United Brethren in Christ church more than 130 years ago.

Zeiders noted that “Wilbur, Orville, Neil and John are numbered in the multitudes of people who have risked everything for the greater good. We are exceedingly grateful for the sacrifices they made.”

Then it was time to lay the wreaths as a bagpiper played Amazing Grace. Marion Wright placed a wreath on Susan’s grave (mother). Stephen Wright decorated Milton’s grave (father); Amanda Wright Lane, Katharine’s grave (sister); Glenn, Wilbur’s and Armstrong, Orville’s.

Lt.General Richard Reynolds, commander of WPAFB, read the famous pilot’s poem, High Flight.

The historic Woodland Cemetery is located adjacent to the University of Dayton, whose nickname is the Flyers. Woodlawn is one of the nation’s oldest garden cemeteries. The Wright gravesite is located on a hill near the eastern edge of the large cemetery. Wilbur died in 1912 and Orville in 1948. They are buried on Lot 2533 in Section 101.

A large family stone marks the spot where the Wright family is buried. Smaller stones mark where each of the parents, Susan and Milton, sister Katharine and brothers Wilbur and Orville are buried. The simple graves were purchased when Susan died in 1889.

When Wilbur died at home his death made international headlines. Some 25,000 people filed past his casket at the First Presbyterian Church in Dayton as the city came to a standstill. The burial services at Woodlawn were private. Milton, his father, selected the Reverend E. Maurice Wilson, to officiate.

When Orville died at Miami Valley Hospital in 1948, flags flew at half-staff nationwide. As his casket was lowered, four jet fighters flew over and dipped their wings.

I attended the viewing at the Boyer Funeral Home at 609 W. Riverview Ave. near the Dayton Art Institute. All schools were closed for the day. I drove by the building again while attending the “Inventing Flight” celebration and saw no indication of activity at the building.

At the time of Orville’s viewing there were hundreds of people there. It was one of the largest funerals ever handled by Boyer’s.

Orville had been dressed in a regular suit and looked distinguished with his snow-white hair and mustache.

Reverend Charles Lyon Seasholes conducted the funeral service at Dayton’s First Baptist Church in downtown Dayton. Orville had chosen Reverend Seasholes because he had been a friend. Orville was not a regular church attendee even though his father had been a bishop in the United Brethren Church.

The grave of the great black poet and friend of the Wright Brothers, Paul Lawrence Dunbar, is located a stone’s throw away from the Wright’s gravesite. My wife’s parent’s gravesite, as well as several of her family members, is located just down the hill.

Dayton, Ohio is continuing the momentum generated during the buildup for the Wright Brother’s centennial to promote Dayton as the birthplace of aviation. Dayton’s Aviation Heritage Foundation is developing a grand plan to showcase the Dayton region nationally and internationally.

Two major events have occurred that may add materially to the Wright brothers heritage now represented by nine historically regional sites.

One was the transfer of ownership of Hawthorn Hill, the Wrights’ home in Oakwood, to the Wright Family Foundation in 2006. The other is the bankruptcy of the Delphi Corporation that owns the Wright Co. two airplane factory buildings. The buildings may soon become available for inclusion in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

The Wright home is a real gem and will be a wonderful addition to the park. The NCR Corp. purchased the home after Orville’s death in 1948 and has kept it in prime condition. Orville and the executives of NCR including John Patterson, founder, Edward Deeds and Charles Kettering were good friends.

The home has never been open to the general public. The home is located in a neighborhood of upscale beautiful homes in Oakwood. The neighborhood has never wanted the traffic, parking problems and noise that an open house would entail.

My wife and I have been in the home several times during Oakwood High School reunions as graduates and other occasions.

Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of Orville and Wilbur, and her brother Stephen Wright, trustees of the Wright Family Foundation are involved in discussions that could result in the transfer of the home to federal ownership as part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park.

Lane and Stephen Wright, an Oakwood resident, have also been in discussions with the City of Oakwood and residents to develop a means to preserve the ambiance of the neighborhood and still open the house to the public. One procedure would be to require small groups of visitors to buy round trip tickets at the Carillon Historic Park and take a shuttle to Hawthorne Hill and return. This procedure will start this spring as a trial.

The other historical jewel is the two Wright Airplane buildings located on Delphi property a number of blocks west of the bicycle shop in West Dayton. The buildings were built in 1909/1910 and are still in active use by Delphi Corp. As such they have not been open to the public. I was not even permitted to take a picture of the buildings from outside the fence line.

Delphi, an automotive parts maker, is now in bankruptcy. It lost $5.5 billion in 2006. The two Wright buildings occupy about 10% of the 67-acre Delphi property.

It is hoped that Delphi will make the Wright buildings available for inclusion in the Aviation Park as part of the bankruptcy settlement.

Draft legislation is being proposed for consideration by Congress to include both the Wright home and the factory building in the Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical Park. The Dayton-based Aviation Heritage Foundation was created by Congress in 2004 to promote nine regional sites as a National Aviation Heritage Area.

These sites are independently operated and are a diverse mix including the National Aviation Park, the National Museum of the U.S. air Force, the Neil Armstrong Air and Space Museum in Wapakoneta, Ohio and the Wright B Flyer Museum at The Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miamisburg.

The National Park Service owns part of the Dayton Aviation Heritage Park and cooperated with partners that own other portions.

The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historical park is also planning to nominate a collection of Wright brothers sites to the U.S. Department of Interior for consideration as a Nationally significant historic site. The site nominated include: Huffman Prairie, a Wright brother’s bike shop now in the national park; Hawthorn Hill, and the Wright Flyer B now displayed at Carillon Historical Park.

The timing may be just right. The President’s 2008 budget includes a big boost in funding for national parks, $2.4 next year. On top of that President Bush wants the federal government to match philanthropic donations each year, up to $100 million.

Note: In an other matter, the February 2, 2007 issue of the News & Observer reported that some folks in North Carolina want to change the “First in Flight” design on state license plates to another “smart and attractive design that would help remind everyone what a special place this is.”