Wright Brothers – Kitty Hawk 2003 Celebration Events

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

The reproduction 1903 Wright Flyer lifted off the ground about 1 p.m. on November 20, 2003. It marked the first time in 100 years that a Wright Flyer was successfully flown and landed without damage using an authentic engine.

Paul Hyde’s group, the Wright Experience, had been waiting for good flying weather for two weeks at the Wright Memorial to attempt a flight in anticipation of performing on December 17th for the Wright Brothers Centennial.

Kevin Kochersberger, 42, one of the two pilots selected to fly the machine, flew 97 feet into a 15-18 mile headwind out of the Northeast. It was a straight-line flight five feet off the ground, ending in a soft landing with no damage. The total flight consumed 5 seconds.

Orville’s first flight traveled 120 feet in 12 seconds. He had a headwind of 27-mph.

Ken Hide, Pilot Kochersberger, Terry Queijo who is the other pilot, and the entire crew were jubilant at their success. Some were even in tears. A number of naysayers had predicted their Flyer would never fly.

The two pilots hope to each test-fly the Flyer four times prior to Dec. 17th. Kochersberrger wore a white helmet and a safety harness as a precaution.

They had originally planned to do their test flying in a secret location near Hatteras, but hurricane Isabel put an end to that. As an alternate they are using the Wright Brothers Memorial park. They hope that they will be able to do most of their flying in the morning before the park opens.

For this grand occasion there were a number of visitors in the park who were allowed to watch from a distance. They were not allowed to take any pictures of the machine in flight.

Hyde was reported to have said that “the Flyer did pretty much what we expected. Its performance matched Wilbur’s notes. We couldn’t ask for anything more than that.”

Hyde’s Flyer is the only machine of many that are flying in honor of the Centennial that closely conforms to the Wright’s original design. Now that they know that it can fly, the next big hurdle will be the weather on the 17th. Everyone should pray for a wind of at least 15-mph on that day.

The FAA has issued a “Special Airworthiness Certificate for the reproduction 1903 Flyer that will attempt to reenact the Wright Brothers first flight at the Wright Memorial National Park on December 17, 2003. A FAA aviation inspector has reviewed the Flyer and determined that it is prepared to fly.

The certification doesn’t say that it will fly. It certifies that after visiting the Ken Hyde’s shop and watching it being built that the machine has met structural and safety specifications. The FAA says they are interested in two things: the safety of the pilot and the people on the ground.

Ken Hyde is the president of the Wright Experience, the organization that built the Flyer for the EAA. The Wright Experience over the past decade has kept strict adherence to preserving the legacy and design of the Wrights making it the worlds most accurate 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction.

The only concession to a better product was a modern glue to cement the pieces of the propeller together.

The Airworthiness Certificate issued under FAA Order 8130.31 of April 30, 1903 requires 21 limitations that EAA and its pilots must adhere to when operating the Flyer. These criteria include the following.

The Airworthiness Certificate including the 21 limitations must be visible to the pilot and located on the aircraft during flight. I don’t know where they will attach it on the Flyer. Perhaps it will be pasted on the front elevator.

The Flyer may only operate within the designated areas. Wilbur would have gone much further than the 842 feet he did fly on his fourth flight if he hadn’t experienced a downdraft and hit the sand. Until then he thought he might make it to the village of Kitty Hawk four miles away. This year any possibility of that happening has been ruled out.

The aircraft may not be operated over densely populated areas or in congested airways. They will have to stay within park boundaries and fly a straight flight path.

No person may operate this aircraft for carrying persons or property for compensation or hire. There is no room for passengers. No mementos are allowed for later sale on ebay.

Aerobatic maneuvers are not allowed. I don’t think anyone would want to try aerobatic maneuvers on purpose, but there may be some that take place unintentionally. Wilbur, on December 14th, flew up in a sharp angle, stalled, and came down quickly to earth. The four flights on the 17th were all of the undulating type—making for a wild ride.

The bigger problem is whether the Flyer will fly at all on December 17th. Unless flight conditions are almost perfect, it won’t fly. Wilbur said they needed at least 15 mph to fly their gliders. The headwind in 1903 was 27 mph along with cold weather.

Another problem that didn’t exist in 1903 is crosswinds. Trees and buildings now are in the path of the wind blowing from the northeast causing crosswinds. This can make controlling the Flyer more difficult than when the Wrights flew.

Fred Culick, professor of aerodynamics at the California Institute of Technology says that three weeks of wind-tunnel tests of their Wright Flyer replica “clearly showed how unstable it was and how it can’t be flown safely.”

In the meantime, Terry Queijo and Kelvin Kochersberger are busy learning how to fly Hyde’s Flyer under the tutorage of veteran test pilot Scott Crossfield.

Thousands, my self included, will be at the Wright Memorial on the 17th keeping our fingers crossed hoping that the Flyer does gets off the ground.

Orville’s birthday was celebrated at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in Kill Devil Hills on August 29th. I was one of the celebrants.

The all day program featured a number of exhibits and speakers. The two that I found most interesting was Tom Crouch, senior curator, Smithsonian National air and Space Museum, and Ken Hyde, president of the Wright Experience.

Crouch is the author of the “Bishop’s Boys” and co-author of a new book, “The Wright Brothers and the Invention of the Aerial Age.”

His presentation summarized the critical events leading to the invention of the airplane by the Wright Brothers. His remarks were illustrated with slides of original photography taken by the Wrights.

Unfortunately, the effectiveness of the slides was diminished by the inability of the park service to find a way to turn out the lights over the screen. I could barely make out the pictures sitting in the front row. I doubt the people in the back of the room could see them at all.

Also, there was one other event in the same room that generated talking noise during the question and answer period that made it difficult for people to hear. This caused the people in the rear to begin to leave thereby generating more noise. The event took place in the recently constructed temporary pavilion.

Ken Hyde gave a status report on preparations for the planned flight of his reproduction Wright Flyer on December 17th. Four pilots, including Hyde, are now undergoing flight training for the big event. They are learning to fly just as the Wright Brothers did by using gliders. (Picture left to right: Stimson, Ken Hyde, Joe Hardman -park volunteer)

It will be a tough challenge. Wind tunnel tests at Langley confirm that the machine is highly unstable in pitch and has marginal lateral stability.

Hyde’s organization, Wright Experience, has conducted extensive research to assure historical accuracy in the building of their reproduction of the original Wright Flyer. The effort is detailed in a Discovery Channel documentary tentatively scheduled for showing next month.

One of Hyde’s biggest challenges was obtaining the turn-of-the-century muslin fabric used on the wings. It was known as “Pride of the West.” The fabric is no longer available and had to be especially made for the project. They found some textile companies in North and South Carolina who could manufacture the thread and weave the cloth.

Hyde introduced one his associates, Paul Glenshaw, who had searched for old movies of the Wright’s machine in flight. He showed several clips of these including one from a Max Sennett movie.

What I found amazing from viewing these old movies was the great control wing warping gave the Wright machines in flight.

One of the unscheduled highlights of the day was the appearance of Orville. It actually was John Hogan, an intermediate school student from Holy Cross School in Montgomery County, Maryland. He was dressed like Orville, including the moustache.

His parents brought him to the park because he is doing a project for the school on the Wright Brothers and he wanted to be where it “all started.”

Welcome to the 104th anniversary celebration of the worlds first powered flight. A hundred four years ago they used to say that the sky is the limit. Now we are reaching for the stars. As we begin the next century of pilot flight, reaching for the stars will be the greatest challenge for generations to come.

The world has changed from the flight of 1903. Flight has become second nature for hundreds of millions of people. It is almost impossible for us to imagine the world of the Wright brothers. The fundamental principles discovered and developed by the Wright brothers laid the foundation for the first generation of flight and travel from Kitty Hawk to the moon in the lifetime of a human being.

As we watch the milestones slip by, one might say we have a heritage, a legacy of greatness. In a letter to Octave Chanute dated May 13, 1900, Wilbur wrote, “for some years I was afflicted with the belief that fight is possible to man. My disease has increased in severity and I feel that it will soon cost me an increased amount of money, if not my life.”

On the cold windy morning of Dec 17, 1903, the dream came true. Wilbur and Orville Wright made the worlds first successful powered flight in a heavier than air machine.

The Wright brothers began their experiments in Dayton, Ohio, in 1899 with a 5-foot kite they controlled from the ground. They were testing a system of control they called wing-warping.

They would soon realize that the weather conditions in Dayton were not suitable for extensive glider experiments. That year they wrote the National Weather Bureau in Washington, D.C. requesting a list of locations in America where the winds were constant. Kitty Hawk, NC was on that list.

The letter to the Kitty Hawk weather station reached the hands of the local postmaster, William Tate. Tate was the man who brought the Wright brothers to Kitty Hawk.

He wrote a letter right back. In the letter he described that there were no trees or grass, just deep soft sand. There were four giant sand dunes know as Kill Devil Hills. The only way you could get to Kitty Hawk was by sailboat. Not too many people lived here.

So Kitty Hawk offered privacy, secrecy, and isolation. And they would find at Kitty Hawk something they would find no where else — “southern hospitality.”

The hospitality played a very important role behind the Wright brothers’ success. In our flight room auditorium in the main museum over there we have on display a symbol of that outer banks hospitality.

Ladies, it is an 1899 sewing machine. It was ordered from the Sears catalog for $2. Addie Tate, William Tate’s wife, let Wilbur Wright use her sewing machine to sew the cloth covering the wings for the first glider in September 1900. It was not covered with cheap material; it was covered with imported French sateen. The local ladies who live on the outer banks at that time had never seen such high quality cloth in their lives. They stressed concern openly to the Wright brothers why they were they wasting such high quality cloth on a flying machine?

When the brothers were finished with their gliding experiments that year they gave that cloth to Addie Tate and on that same sewing machine she made two dresses for her two girls, Irene (age 3) and Pauline (age 4).

The next year, 1901, when the Wright brothers returned to Kitty Hawk the little girls were running around in their dresses.

I’ve worked here for a long time, but about twenty years ago I did an oral taped issue interview with one of the Tate daughters. I will never forget her. Pauline was 93 years old and her mind was as sharp as a tack. She described those dresses to me completely because her mother also taught her and her sister to sew on the same sewing machine.

I finally asked, “do you still have the dress?” She said, “no honey we wore them out.” The best dresses they ever had in their lives.

This year marks the 75th anniversary of the dedication of the Wright Memorial atop of big Kill Devil Hill. It’s a monument dedicated to a commemorative event so significant that it has transcended the boundaries of our universe and will continue to inspire the next generations to achieve the impossible for the duration of life on this earth.

It marks the only spot on this earth that these two fellows would ever find what they were looking for. After all who would ever believe that two high school educated bicycle mechanics from Dayton, Ohio would ever invent the airplane. Yet, it is carved in granite atop of big Kill Devil Hill. The inscription on that monument reads:

“In Commemoration of the Conquest of the Air by the Brothers Wilbur and Orville Wright – Conceived by Genius – Achieved by Dauntless Resolution and Unconquerable Faith.”

The monument is a testament to every nature of the human spirit and what the Wright brothers did here that changed the world forever.

Reference: Darrell Collins is the historian for the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

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.