Dayton Celebration Events

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.”

The Year of 1910 was an active flying year for the Wright brothers. One of those who wanted to fly with them was the mayor of Dayton, Ohio. On Tuesday afternoon September 28, 1910 he got his wish.

The Dayton Daily News published an account of the mayor’s flight at Simm’s (Huffman Prairie) station with Orville the next day.

Here is the article with my comments in parenthesis: For more than a year Mayor Edward E. Burkhart has been hinting and scheming for an invitation to go flying with the world’s foremost aviators, the Wright brothers.

Tuesday afternoon the city’s chief executive realized his ambition. The mayor and a little party of friends, who were “on the inside” slipped away to the testing grounds at Simm’s station and soon His Honor, attired in conventional cloud costume, went skimming away with Orville Wright at the wheel.

“Don’t you want some cord?” inquired Wilbur Wright just before the mayor mounted the machine.

“What for?” replied the mayor.

“I thought you might want to tie your knees together,” said Mr. Wright.

(There were no seat belts in airplanes in those days. The mayor did wear a scarf that covered his head and ears. He said he was taking no chances of suffering frostbite in the upper air currents.)

But the intrepid executive was not to be bluffed by the chafing. He knows a bit about machinery in a smooth running engine under perfect control.

He had been sufficiently indifferent to ballooning to refuse numerous invitations for balloon rides while nursing a hope for an aeroplane trip.

Orville Wright grasped the levers and the mayor balanced himself for the ascension. The propeller was swung and they skimmed away.

The aeroplane veered to its course and steadied to keel under the guiding hand like a gallant ship, while a cheer went up from the mayor’s party and other spectators, who had happened to select Tuesday to visit the field.

The airship soared up and up as it circled and maneuvered about the field, until an altitude of 1,100 feet had been reached.

Scared? Certainly Not.

“Feel afraid,” said the mayor scornfully, when asked about the trip. “Well, I should say not. I was so impressed with the perfect control Mr. Wright had over his machine and so entranced with the glorious sensation of flying that it never occurred to me to think of the danger. The danger is probably less than that of any other sport anyway.

When we had reached a fairly comfortable height, Mr. Wright looked across at me a couple of times in a somewhat inscrutable manner. Finally it occurred to me that he was studying me to see how I was taking it all and so I told him to go as far as he liked.

Than he let her out and the roar of wind in our ears mingled with the crackling staccato of the exhaust. We had to shout to each other.

From the height Mr. Wright pointed out Osborn and Fairfield, and were so I thought they were directly beneath us. (Osborn and Fairfield later merged and became Fairborn.) Dayton could be seen, of course, and I could distinguish the Steele high B137school building from among the others. (Katharine Wright taught at Steele; my mother graduated from Steele.)

The mayor says he is not considering the purchase of an aeroplane so long as they cost $7,500, but he is a confirmed enthusiast, and some day he may have a new method of escaping the reporters.

Katharine, aka Betty Darst, held a picnic on the lawn of the Wright Memorial in Dayton on the occasion of the Centennial of Practical Flight, October 5, 2005.

According to Betty, who often plays the role of Katharine, the Wrights loved a picnic. While Hawthorn Hill was under construction, the family picnicked on the Captains Walk above the roof. Later they would picnic in the woods on the property.

The picnic on this day was from their recipes and consists of some of their favorites:

Chicken salad sandwiches

Ham salad sandwiches

Deviled eggs

Home made potato chips

Orange slices


Orville’s Caramels

Home made Lemonade

Carrie Kayler, the family housekeeper would make the sandwich spread. Will and Orv fixed homemade potato chips. Katharine would prepare the deviled eggs.

On this day the picnic was prepared by South Park United Methodist Church Women. Bishop Milton Wright was Bishop with the United Brethren Church that is now part of the United Methodist Church. My mother and father and I, as a child, were members of this church.

Oranges were a favorite with Orville. When the 1913 floodwaters engulfed their earlier home on Hawthorn Street, a bowl of oranges was in the center of the table as the family prepared to have breakfast. It still remained as the waters receded.

Orville had quite a sweet tooth. When someone came to visit, he might ask him or her if they would like some caramels and then happily prepare a fresh batch. These caramels are from Orville’s recipe.

Orville used a wooden potato masher to prepare the lemonade. It has been said that Orville made the best, most delicious, old-fashioned lemonade ever tasted.

At Kitty Hawk coffee was the usual drink. When too much coffee caused them to lay awake at night, they would think over solutions to their challenges.

Reference: Picnic Menu

First Practical Airplane, Part 2

Centennial of Flight

A momentous event in the history of the airplane occurred 100 years ago on October 5, 1905. It was the first flight of the first practical airplane piloted by Orville Wright over Huffman Prairie, a cow pasture in Dayton, Ohio

On that occasion Wilbur flew thirty circles over the field, landing only when fuel was exhausted. He had flown the 30 circles in more than 39 minutes, exceeding the sum of all 109 flights made in 1903 and 1904. His average speed was 38-mph over the 24 miles he flew. It was the 48th flight and second to last flight of 1905.

I had the pleasure to narrate the reenactment of the flight by a replica 1905 Flyer III for radio station WCRS of Akron, Ohio.

A fog covered Huffman Prairie as I arrived early in the morning. The sun was just making its appearance. It was a beautiful sight of the pristine prairie. It remains just as it was when Orville and Wilbur flew there.

In the picture Bob Holland and David Binkley of WCRS, are preparing for the flight along with me on the left.

After the fog had lifted around 9:15 a.m., Mark Dusenberry flew his replica twice in a low straight-line flight for about 1,200-ft in 25-seconds after being catapulted into the air and make a graceful soft landing after each flight.

He was preparing to make a third flight, the engine was running when the weight hung up in the derrick when it dropped a short distance, aborting the attempt.

I was told that two days earlier Dusenberry flew a circle at treetop height and was sternly told by authorities not to do that again on the 5th.

I estimate several hundred people were in attendance. It could have been much a much higher number but the publicity was low key. I was told that the Air Force didn’t want a big crowd.

Dr. Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of the National Air and Space Museum and native Daytonian, urged the crowd to enjoy the prairie in the same manner he does.

More of his comments:

“Come when the wind is here, when the wind is blowing through the trees.”

“Contemplate what events occurred here and what flight has meant to the world. That is the best way we can honor Orville and Wilbur Wright.”

“The really wonderful thing about Huffman Prairie is that it’s not just a little historic patch of earth. It’s surrounded by this enormous complex that’s dedicated to the advancement of the Technology to which Wilbur and Orville gave birth.”

“The Wright brothers more famous powered flights of 1903 in North Carolina were important, but only another step in their research. The real end of the process of invention occurred here in Dayton in 1905.”

He noted that at one time there were plans to build a monument to the Wrights in the middle of the Prairie. We are fortunate that they changed their minds and built the monument on a hill some distance away leaving the prairie unspoiled.

Note: Huffman Prairie is a pristine prairie that remains exactly as it was 100 years ago, because it is part of a flood plain created by the construction of Huffman Dam after the great flood of 1913 that inundated Dayton. Both Katharine and Orville had visited the prairie while they were school children on biology field trips.

Colonel Andrew K. Weaver, 88th Air Force Wing Commander a Wright Patterson Air Force Base (WPAFB) noted that the Wright brothers accomplishments continue to inspire.

“They had the ability to surmount the obstacles and to actually achieve results.”

“America’s leadership in Aviation began here with Orville and Wilbur and it continues here at WPAFB.”

Other speakers noted that the 105 Flyer III marked the beginning of a century of aviation progress, much of it developed on WPAFB which now surrounds the prairie.

Note: Orville was consulted in the selection of the location of WPAFB. The first Army airfield was established in 1917.

Among the attendees were members of the Wright family, Amanda Wright-Lane and Steven Wright, great-grand niece and nephew.

Two French delegations also attended. One was from Le Mans, where Wilbur’s first public flights made the Wright brothers famous, and Pau, where Wilbur set up the World’s first flying school.

Thierry Tissandier, son of French aviation pioneer Paul Tissandier, was with the delegation. The elder Tissandier was taught to fly by Wilbur,

Centennial celebrations in France are planned at Le Mans and Pau in 2008 and 2009 respectively.

Betty J. Darst, Dayton Dramatist and Historian, invited the French attendees to the celebration and organized a several day symposium around the centennial.

Design of Wright Flyers II, III

A momentous event in the history of the airplane occurred 100 years ago on October 5, 1905. It was the first flight of the first practical airplane piloted by Orville Wright over Huffman Prairie, a cow pasture in Dayton, Ohio

On that occasion Wilbur flew thirty circles over the field, landing only when fuel was exhausted. He had flown the 30 circles in more than 39 minutes, exceeding the sum of all 109 flights made in 1903 and 1904. His average speed was 38-mph over the 24 miles he flew. It was the 48th flight and second to last flight of 1905.

He demonstrated that the Flyer was capable of taking off, flying for an extended period of time under the control of the pilot, and landing safely.

It was the culmination of seven years of research, disappointment, brilliant engineering, risk of serious injury, disparagement and ultimate success.

The Wrights first great success was at Kitty Hawk in 1903 with the Flyer I. The craft, however, was not maneuverable or controllable. The following year they began work on a practical airplane at Huffman Prairie, a 100-acre pasture eight miles east of Dayton.

1904 Flyer II

April 15, 1904 the Wrights completed constructing a wooden shed at Huffman Prairie to house their new 1904 Flying machine (Flyer II). They located the building as far away as they could from Simms Station on the traction line from Dayton for their privacy. It was on the south side of the prairie adjacent to Hebble Creek. The creek was named after my great-great Grandfather Henry Hebble who had built a home nearby.

The machine looked very much in appearance like the 1903 Flyer. They reduced the wing camber from 1/20 to 1/25 and substituted white pine for spruce for the wing spars. Both of these changes were reversed back to the original configuration in the 1905 Flyer.

The biggest improvement they made was that they designed a new engine for Flyer II. It had slightly larger pistons and produced about 16-hp. The engine had improved lubrication and a fuel metering system. The same engine was used in the 1905 Flyer and by that time the engine was worn-in and producing 20-hp.

The 1903 propellers were reused initially but were damaged in a crash on August 10th and were replaced with propellers having great blade width.

For the 1904 Flyer as with the 1903 Flyer, the pilot lay in the prone position and the wing warping and rudder controls were interconnected.

Later they added some 70-pounds of iron bars to the forward frame that supports the canard to move the center of gravity (c.g.) forward to improve stability. It helped slow down pitch oscillations and decreased elevator sensitivity. It was still not a complete solution. The gross weight of the craft was 900 lbs.

Their first flight was attempted on May 23rd using a new 100-ft long launching rail. Several flights were attempted but rain and insufficient wind prevented takeoff. Nor was there much success over the next five months. Flying consisted of short hops of 100 to 200 feet ending with crashes and broken parts. Their record fourth flight of 852-ft at Kitty Hawk in 1903 was not exceeded until August 13.

Their next attempt was on May 26. Orville flew about 25-ft.

Their biggest problem was insufficient and unpredictable wind and less dense air at the 815-ft elevation in Dayton as compared to sea level at Kitty Hawk. It was frustrating. They would lay the track in one direction and then the wind would change direction and they would have to relay the track in another direction.

It is estimated that the less dense air caused a 13% reduction in lift. The first 39 flight attempts were made on a launching rail as long as 236-ft. In contrast the rail at Kitty Hawk was 60-ft long.

Wilbur wrote, “We found great difficulty in getting sufficient initial velocity to get real starts. While the new machine lifts at a speed of about 23-mph, it is only after the speed reaches 27 or 28-mph that the resistance falls below the thrust.”

They decided they needed a catapult launch system to consistently get off the ground. It consisted of a 20-ft tower and a weight that when dropped propelled the Flyer. The weight was incrementally increased over time to 1600-lbs. It was placed in operation on September 7. The ability to take-off improved markedly after that. For the first time they could fly the length of the field without difficulty and complete full turns.

On September 20th Wilbur successfully flew the first complete turn. The flight was witnessed by Amos I. Root, who described it in the January 1, 1905 issue of Gleaning in Bee Culture. Root was the editor and publisher of the magazine.

Root offered to give his article to Scientific American. They refused the offer because they didn’t believe his story.

Their last flight in 1904 was on December 9. While they had had some success, they were still frequently flying out of control. They had trouble with pitch stability and their circles were ungainly and awkward. On tight turns the machine had a tendency to keep on turning. They tried moving the c.g. by moving the pilot position, engine, water tank and ballast but they were still looking for a solution as the season ended.

Between May 26 and December 9, 1904 they made 105 flight attempts with an accumulated total flying time of 49 minutes.

1905 Flyer III

The 1905 Flyer was radically different in design than the 1903 machine. Initially the motor, propellers and drive system were reused from the 1904 machine. The engine’s lubrication system and fuel pumps were improved. The horsepower increased to almost twice the engine of the 1903 Flyer.

The camber was reset at 1/20 again. The anhedral (droop) of the wings used in the 1903/1904 Flyers was removed. The overall machine was longer and a little taller.

A pair of semicircular vanes, called blinkers, was placed between the twin elevator surfaces to prevent sideslips. The propellers had tabs, called little jokers, on the trailing edge to halt deformation. The shape was known as the “bent end” propeller.

The canard elevator was moved forward and its surface area nearly doubled. The vertical rudder was moved to the rear and greatly enlarged.

The interconnection between the wing warping and rudder controls used in 1903/1904 Flyers was separated so that the pilot could control them separately.

The first flight of the new machine was made on June 23. They found that they still were having trouble with pitch and circling. Only eight flights were made during the first several weeks. Each ended in an accident and damage.

On July 14, Orville lost control of the Flyer due to extreme pitch undulations and crashed. He was fortunate to escape injury but the machine suffered significant damage. During the rebuilding major design changes were made.

They enlarged the elevator surface area from 52.74 square feet to 83 square feet and moved the elevator from 7.32 to 11.7 ft in front of the leading edge of the wing. The length of the machine ended up 7 feet longer than the 1903 Flyer

After the modification on August 24, they found a significant improvement in the performance of the machine. Now both Orville and Wilbur could get the flying time to learn how to fly their machine.

On flight No. 39 for 1905, Orville brushed a thorny locust tree with a wingtip leaving some thorns in the fabric. The tree was located in the center of the Huffman Prairie. Orville misjudged his distance and the wingtip brushed the upper branches. The hit forced the Flyer into a tight circle. Orville, reacting to the turn, pushed the nose down. To his surprise, the machine reacted by stopping the turns and leveling out.

The Wrights figured out what the problem was with the tight turns. When entering a turn, the lift much be increased to compensate for centrifugal force that adds to the weight carried by the wings. In turning flight the lift instead of increasing, decreases because in turning, the lift on inside wing decreases as it slows down. The effect is that the inside wing can stall and cause the machine to spin into the turn. The solution is to increase speed by placing the Flyer into a shallow dive and therefore prevent the inside wing from stalling.

In order to stay within the confines of the field their flight paths consisted of oval turns. They didn’t want to stray outside the barbwire fence because of the difficulty of dragging the machine back.

The Wrights, by accident, now knew how to solve the tight circle problem they had experienced in 1904. The solution to recover from a tight circle was to put the Flyer into a shallow dive to increase airspeed to prevent the inside wing from stalling.

Two other changes also led to a complete solution. One was the elimination of the anhedral wing, which had been used since 1903. The other was to decouple wing warping from the rudder to allow independent roll and yaw control by the pilot.

After his No. 48 flight on October 5, Wilbur pronounced the Wright Flyer III capable of rising in the air for an extended period under complete control of the operator, and landing safely. It was the world’s first practical airplane.

One more flight was made on October 16. It was the last flight for 1905. One round of the field was made ending with a landing near their hanger.

Wilbur wrote in December 1905, “Our 1905 improvements have given such results as to justify the assertion that flying has been transferred from the realm of scientific problems to that of useful arts.”