Wright Brothers – Kitty Hawk 2003 Celebration Events

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

Friday, August 19, 2005 was National Aviation Day and Orville Wright’s birthday was celebrated at the Wright Brothers’ National Memorial.

Orville was born in Dayton, Ohio, on August 19, 1871. His birthday was honored by presidential proclamation in 1939 by designating the date as Annual Aviation Day.

The daylong celebration was kicked-off at 10 a.m., in the First Flight Pavilion auditorium by Tom Crouch, Senior Curator of Aeronautics at the Smithsonian Institution. Crouch noted that if Orville were alive today he would be 134 years old. Another member of the family, Katharine, was born on the same day, three years later. The Wright’s younger sister was born on August 19, 1874.

Patrick Reed, acting Superintendent, Outer Banks Group next welcomed the visitors followed by Sherry Rollason, Mayor of Kill Devil Hills.

Rollason, shown here with her grandson, Benjamin and myself, noted that Kill Devil Hills (where the Wright Memorial sits) didn’t exist when the Wright brothers flew here. The city wasn’t incorporated until 1953. The brothers journeyed 4 miles south from the village of Kitty Hawk to the Kill Devil Hills site because there were sand dunes to fly off from and no trees. Also a life saving station was located at Kill Devil Hills whose crew willingly helped the brothers carry the gliders up the sand dunes.

Bill Harris, mayor of Kitty Hawk and the president of the First Flight Society, was the next to great the visitors. Harris is a direct descendent of Elijah Baum, a young boy who first met Wilbur when Wilbur stepped ashore in Kitty Hawk bay and was guided by Elijah to William Tate’s house.

At this point Col. “Red” Smith, past president of the First Flight Society and board member introduced the feature speaker, Col. James M. Holmes, Commander of the 4th Fighter Wing, Seymour Johnson air Force Base, Goldsboro, NC. The base is the home to the F-15E Strike Eagle. He gave brief history of the 4th Fight Wing including Iraq. His talk brought a loud applause from the audience.

Col. Holmes and Tom Crouch then proceeded to cut Orville’s birthday cake. Also in the picture on the left are Park Rangers Fentice Davis and Geneva James.

Following the cake cutting, four F-15s flew in formation flew overhead.

Next, Ken Hyde, President and Founder of the Wright Experience, was introduced by Janette Yoerg, great grand niece of the Wright brothers on the Reuchlin Wright side of the family. Picture shows Ken and myself talking.

Hyde discussed the Wright machines of 1904, 1905 and the return of the Wrights to Kitty Hawk in 1908. Interesting film footage of the Wright machine in flight was shown.

Tom Crouch proceeded to the Flight Room Auditorium (where a reproduction of the Wright Flyer is exhibited) and spoke to another crowd of visitors. Here is a sampling of some of his comments:

Wilbur became interested in the problem of flight when he realized that he was 30 years old and his talents hadn’t been tested yet. At the time he was working in their bicycle shop.

What set Wilbur apart from the others was that he could think in the three dimensions of flight — pitch, yaw, and roll. Others had worked on lift and propulsion. That left roll as the key problem to solve to obtain controlled flight.

They selected Kitty Hawk as their test ground because it was the first rural location on the list of windy sites provided by the weather bureau. A letter from William Tate guaranteeing friendly people helped confirm their decision.

The 1902 replica glider that resides in the Flight Room auditorium behind the Flyer was built under the supervision of Orville at Wright-Patterson Field in Dayton, Ohio

The testing of the 1900 glider at Kitty Hawk was a demonstration of the modern engineering process and that the Wrights were engineers of genius.

Orville and Charles Taylor stopped working on the engine after if produced 12.5 hp because that is all that the calculations showed was needed.

The propellers were wrapped with cloth on a bias to provide additional strength. They were painted silver to make the cloth less noticeable

Additional pictures follow:

Terry Beacham, surfman #2, Kill Devil Hills Life-Saving Station, direct descendent of William Thomas Beacham, serving when Wright brothers were at Kill Devil Hills.

Joe Hardman and members of the First Flight Society man information table.

Darrell Collins, historian, Wright Brothers National Memorial, talking with me.

My wife and I were walking on the beach of Kill Devil Hills, NC last Dec. 17th while enjoying watching an ultralight airplane fly overhead around the Wright Memorial. Little did we know that we would meet the pilot several hours later at a reception celebrating the 101st anniversary of the first flight held at a local hotel sponsored by the First Flight Society.

He turned out to be more than your average ultralight pilot; he had just flown his ultralight all the way to Kill Devil Hills from Venezuela. His name is Omar Contreras and he had flown from Margarita Island, Venezuela, to Kill Devil Hills, stopping along the way in Trinidad, Puerto Rico, Santo Domingo, the Bahamas and Florida.

He said his purpose is to spread goodwill by creating and strengthening partnerships among cities along the way. When he leaves Kill Devil Hills he is heading for New York and then flying across the country to Los Angeles. From Los Angeles he will head south to Mexico and Central America, and then head west to Colombia before returning home. His journey will have covered 11,500 miles.

This isn’t the first time he has made such a journey. Last spring he completed a 13,000-mile adventure through South America visiting over 100 cities in four months.

His ultralight is a Clipper 912S made in France. The plane is capable of 75 mph with an altitude ceiling of 18,000 feet.

His trip is sponsored by variety of businesses and other organizations, including Kitty Hawk Kites on the Outer Banks.

In talking with Omar you could sense the spirit of the Orville and Wilbur. I think they too would have enjoyed Omar’s adventure.

Check out his website. It is in Spanish and English. www.volandoelnorte.com

While attending the Wright Brothers Centennial I met the three guys that must have come the farthest to attend the festivities.

I met them at the Kill Devil Hills post office one morning where I had gone to buy some centennial stamps. I was a little early and there were three other people that were standing in line ahead of me. We got to talking and I found out that they were pilots and had flown all the way from Australia. That began an interesting several hour conversation with Boyd Monro, Fabio Bertin and aircraft owner, John Petit. (Notice the Wright Memorial in the background of the picture).

Their trip home to Australia would take them through JFK-New York, Iceland, Greenland, Scotland, Heathrow-London, Ankara-Turkey, Tehran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Singapore and Bali-Indonesia.

Woloomanata is located in Victoria and once served as a base for Spitfires, the famous British fighter of World War II. It is not a town or city that can be found on a map.

I was impressed that they were flying this distance in a two-engine Piper Navajo. The plane has been modified with 350-hp turbo-charged engines and four blade propellers. They also carry a satellite phone.

All three of the men are veteran pilots and take turns flying the plane.

They said that they had a great time visiting the site where the Wrights flew and were fascinated with the markers noting how far each of the four original flights traveled.

There is a wonderful new sculpture at the Wright Brothers National Memorial Park in Kill Devil Hills. It is a life-size sculpture that depicts the Wright Flyer just as it is lifting into the air on its first successful attempt. Orville is lying on the lower wing controlling the plane. Wilbur is running with his arm outstretched as the plane moves beyond his reach. John Daniels is some 84 feet back just squeezing the bulb that activates the shutter of the camera on a tripod.

The men are made of bronze and the Flyer is made of stainless steel. The entire sculpture is made in realistic detail. The camera looks as if it could actually take a picture and the engine on the flyer looks like it could actually run.

The sculptor is Stephen Smith (left in picture) from Marshville, N.C. The 10,000-pound Flyer is located just below the Wright Monument on the south side and was installed just in time for the centennial celebration

One of the great things about the sculpture is that it is interactive. Kids can climb on the flyer and examine it in detail. You can look the figures in the eye as if they were alive.

The $250,000 sculpture was paid for by the N.C. Department of Cultural Resources, using public arts programming funding. The four remaining witnesses to the first flight will be added one at a time each year. Adam Etheridge, one of the members of the life saving crew, is scheduled to be the next addition.

As the person responsible for the reproduction engine that powered the reproduction 1903 flyer that flew at the Wright Brothers National Memorial during the Centennial Celebration, Greg Cone of the Wright Experience pampered the engine.

Greg didn’t build the engine. Jim and Steve Hay, the owners and operators of the Hay Manufacturing Co. in Minnesota did that. Their company’s primary business is making trumpet parts, steel stampings and tool work.

They also build antique engines. They built their first 1903 Wright engine in 1976. This engine was first run at the EAA convention in 1977 and has been run during every EAA Convention since then.

The Wright Experience had Hays build three engines for the reproduction 1903 Flyers.

Greg said that when the engines arrived at The Wright Experience he disassembled them for inspection and carefully put them back together. He said that if he was the one responsible for them, he had to make sure they met with his satisfaction.

At the Wright Memorial I watched Greg and the others start the engine in the Flyer several times. Greg would bend over the engine carefully adjusting it while two assistants spun the propellers to start the engine. It usually took a number of tries before the engine would start. It would cough a few times before kicking-in.

Sometimes it wouldn’t start at all. Such was the case after the successful flight of Nov. 20. They tried a number of times to get it started but they had to gave up for the day.

On another occasion the engine started but ran roughly because all four cylinders were not firing properly. The usual problem was that the points and/or combustion chambers became contaminated from the 50-octane gas, which was the same octane gas that the Wrights used. When this occurred the points and the inside of the combustion chambers had to be thoroughly cleaned.

Perhaps the best performance given by the engine was on the flight of Dec. 3rd. As the Flyer began to lift off the launching rail, it was hit by a crosswind and began to roll to the right. The right wing plowed sand while Kevin Kochersberger struggled to make a correction. This placed an extra heavy load on the engine. The engine groaned but kept going and Kevin was able to fly 115 feet.

I asked Greg if he primed the engine before starting it. He said that was a judgment call. Sometimes he did, but he had to be careful because there was a danger of fire if it was primed too much.

The engine was relatively simple. Fuel flows by gravity from a can into a reservoir in the top of the crankcase, where it vaporizes and mixes with the air flowing into the cylinders. Instead of spark plugs, it has igniters that close like switches when a cam turns, then spark as they separate.

Some people think that the Wrights heated the cold engine before starting it. I can find no evidence that this was the case. There is no carburetor. The fuel is fed into a shallow chamber in the manifold situated next to the cylinders where it heats up, quickly vaporizing the air-gas mixture.

The cooling system for the engine consists of gravity feed from the radiator that is marginally effective. The Wrights sometimes ran the engine “red-hot.”

A dry battery that is not a part of the plane is used to start the engine. Once started, a magneto on the plane takes over and provides continuous electricity at 10-volts.

The original engine was designed by the Wrights to produce 8-hp, but did better than expected and was able to produce 12-hp.

Greg said they were able to produce 18-hp on the dynamometer with the reproduction engine, and on a test flight, they produced 20-hp @ 1100-rpm. (The Wrights liked to run the engine at 1150-rpm on their 1903 machine.) Greg said the engine got stronger with each run. Their longest run was 9 minutes.

Here are some pictures:

The first picture is of Greg with the engine in the background.

The second picture is of Greg starting the engine.

The third picture is of the remains of the original 1903 engine block showing the 3 cylinders that remain. The engine broke when a sudden guest of wind at Kitty Hawk overturned the stationary airplane. The missing cylinder, however, was not caused at Kitty Hawk, but was deliberately broken off sometime later and used for casting new parts.

The buckeye Iron and Brass Works in Dayton provided the 1903 aluminum casting made from Alcoa aluminum. An aluminum casting was innovative for that time because aluminum was not yet used for gas engines.

The fourth picture is an outline drawing of the 1903 engine that appears in Charles E. Taylor by H.R. DuFour. The Wrights did not make any engineering drawings of the engine. They provided sketches to Charlie Taylor, their mechanic, who then made the engine from them. He had an operating engine on Feb 12, 1903 in only 6 weeks.

Unfortunately, the next day the engine body and frame were broken when the bearings seized due to inadequate lubrication. A new aluminum casting was received at the Wrights’ shop in May and the rebuilt engine was tested in May.

This was not the first gas engine designed and built by the Wrights. They had earlier built a one- cylinder engine to power the machine tools in their bicycle shop. It used the natural gas used in the gaslights.

The fifth picture is a picture of a restored 1903 engine.