SEATTLE, April 19, 2005 —The Museum of Flight announced today the arrival of its
reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer — the world’s first successful powered airplane. Endorsed by the Wright Family for its authenticity, the Flyer arrived from the Wright Experience in Warrenton, Va., to be assembled and placed on display in the Bill and Moya Lear Gallery. Ken Hyde, president of the Wright Experience, and Bill Hadden, who led the reproduction build team, began the assembly process immediately and anticipate having the Flyer fully ready for public display by day’s end.
The Flyer will be displayed on the floor in the Lear Gallery for several months before
being lifted to its permanent exhibit location, suspended from the ceiling of the Museum Lobby. Displayed with the aircraft will be video footage of its sister ship in flight in 2003 in conjunction with the official Centennial of Flight celebration in North Carolina, as well other interpretive material. The Flyer was purchased for $1 million with resources from a donor-advised fund at the Museum. The Discovery of Flight Foundation also contributed to the purchase in support its mission to perpetuate the legacy of the Wright brothers.
“It’s hard to imagine a greater thrill than watching an authentic Wright Flyer being
assembled in our gallery,” commented Museum president and CEO Ralph A. Bufano. “This acquisition, supported so generously by our anonymous local donor and the Discovery of Flight Foundation, is an extremely important one for The Museum of Flight. Coming little more than a year after our acquisition of the only Concorde on the West Coast, the Flyer provides a wonderful second ‘bookend’ for our aircraft collection. And, in joining other unique and important
Wright-related holdings in our collection, the Flyer cements The Museum of Flight’s position as the leading center for preserving and perpetuating the Wright legacy in the western United States.”
Janette Yoerg, great-grandniece of the Wright brothers, said, “Many people have heard the story of the first flight but only a handful were there to witness it. Just as the famous first flight picture captures that historic moment in time, so does this exact reproduction, and we are delighted to have it represented at The Museum of Flight. Anything less than historically accurate is only a sculpture and would not be true to the story of the Wrights. We are honored by The Wright Experience’s dedication to preserving history with such true precision. It’s the way Uncle Orv and Uncle Will did everything, and the way they would want to be remembered.”
After its successful first flights in 1903, the original Flyer was destroyed by a gust of
wind. Many changes were made as the Flyer was rebuilt several times over its long life. The Museum of Flight’s Flyer required years of research and painstaking craftsmanship to reproduce the airplane as it existed when the Wrights flew it in 1903. It is a flyable aircraft, airworthy in every respect. Its engine is operational and meets the specifications of the original Wright design and performance; its covering is an exact reproduction of the original “Pride of the West”
brand muslin used by the Wright brothers.
The Museum’s Flyer is one of three built by The Wright Experience for the Centennial of Flight in 2003. One of its sister ships was flown at Wright Brothers National Memorial, Kill Devil Hills, N.C., in 2003, and fully tested at the NASA Langely Full-Scale Wind Tunnel operated by Old Dominion University in Hampton, Va. Its performance in the wind tunnel and in flight test agrees with the performance recorded by the Wright brothers and validates the authenticity of the reproduction. The first Wright Experience Flyer is on display at the Henry Ford Museum in
Dearborn, Mich. The second Flyer is on permanent display at the Wright Brothers National Memorial, a gift to the nation by the late aviation pioneer Harry Combs.
“We are very excited that the Flyer has arrived at its new home in Seattle,” said Wright Experience president Ken Hyde. “Our flights in 2003 proved that the Wright brothers’ flights in 1903 were the result of science and engineering, not the work of two lucky bicycle mechanics. We look forward to the many visitors who will be able to inspect this Flyer in detail, and see the flights for themselves. It was not easy to fly — Orville and Wilbur were not only brilliant inventors, they were outstanding pilots.”
The video footage accompanying the Flyer depicts flights made in a reproduction 1902 Glider and the reproduction1903 Flyer. The glider flights were made in preparation for the 1903 Flyer flights, following the same training program as the Wright brothers 100 years earlier. Flying through gusts on the dunes of North Carolina in the glider and on the field in Kill Devil Hills, only yards from the site of the first flight, the footage of the unstable aircraft in flight clearly demonstrates how much control and skill is required of the pilot to handle sudden gusts, turns, climbing and diving.
“Seeing the Flyer up close and in flight makes all the difference in understanding the
Wright brothers’ achievement,” said Paul Glenshaw, executive director of the Discovery of Flight Foundation. “The genius of the Wrights is clear: not only is each component elegantly and efficiently designed, the Flyer really flies. Having this authentic, flyable Flyer available to the public in the context of Museum of Flight’s outstanding collection will help us bring the Wrights the recognition they so richly deserve. Our goal is to inspire others to dream.”
ABOUT THE MUSEUM OF FLIGHT
The independent, non-profit Museum of Flight is one of the largest air and space museums in the world. The Museum’s collection includes more than 145 historically significant air- and spacecraft, as well as the Red Barn® — the original manufacturing facility of The Boeing Co. The Museum’s aeronautical library and archival holdings are the largest on the West Coast. More than 100,000 children are served annually by the Museum’s on-site and outreach educational programs — the most extensive museum based youth aviation and space education program in the country.
ABOUT THE WRIGHT EXPERIENCE
The Wright Experience celebrates the achievements of Wilbur and Orville Wright by
researching, reconstructing, testing, analyzing and documenting authentic full-scale
reproductions of the Wright Brothers' developmental aircraft.
ABOUT THE DISCOVERY OF FLIGHT FOUNDATION
The Discovery of Flight Foundation is a 501(c)3 nonprofit organization which seeks to rediscover the Wright bothers' experimentation, discovery and methodology, provide for the reconstruction of original Wright brothers aircraft and create a living classroom for people of all ages.
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