Orville and Wilbur Wright at the 2003 Edwards Air Show

EDWARDS AIR FORCE BASE CALIFORNIA---The weekend of 25-26 October was clear and warm. It was a perfect time to celebrate the Centennial of Manned Powered Flight and join with the over 250,000 folks who had turned out for the 2003 Edwards Air Show. In addition to a huge variety of modern and classic aircraft depicting the aerospace progress of the past 100 years was a unique aircraft, the Wright Flyer Replica.

             The American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics national tour of the Wright Flyer Replica aircraft and the Los Angeles team members who had constructed it were on hand to greet air show visitors.  With them were two interesting characters, dressed and appearing like the pioneer developers of the original Wright Flyer. These two characters, Wilbur, in reality Jeff Veselenak, AIAA's Antelope Valley Section Chairman, and his brother Orville, depicted by Dr. Hans Beutelman, who volunteered for the event, greeted the enthusiastic crowd all day long.


             While answering general and technical questions about the original Wright Flyer as well as the replica on display, the duo posed for hundreds of photographs with the flying machine. Orville and Wilber fielded frequently asked questions inquiring if the replica was the original Wright Flyer, had it flown, and how far it had gone.  They responded with information about the AIAA Los Angeles section's construction program, its use to determine technical flight data in NASA Ames wind tunnel tests and the original aircraft's first successful flight on the 17th of  December in 1903 that was approximately 120 feet on the sand dunes of Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.  The last flight of that fantastic day was approximately 850 feet in distance. Those who asked the question, "What was power of the engine?" were informed that it was a four-cylinder, 12 horsepower in-line motor, designed by the Wright's able mechanic and machinist, Charlie Taylor. "How do you fly it?" was answered by the response that it was done with great difficulty using a hand control that worked the front stabilizer for vertical movement, and by slinging the pilot's prone body and hips on sled that moved from side to side, controlling the rudder and wing warping, to bank and turn the aircraft like today's hang-gliders.

             One of the comments from the visitors was the delicacy of the aircraft.  Made mostly of cloth and wood and seemingly small compared to the modern aircraft that surrounded it, they like many people of the time were amazed that it was capable of controlled flight.

             It was an observant crowd and they asked 'Orville' how he could be two places at once, since his manikin was positioned at the controls of the Flyer.  With a smile 'Orville' answered with the quip, "What - do you think I'm crazy?  That's my flight test dummy!"


             Surrounding the Wright Flyer were examples of modern aerospace technology and a visit to the past.  That link to the past was an Air Force Research Laboratory joint project with NASA Dryden Flight Research Center at Edwards to revisit the Wright Brother's wing warping aircraft control technology using an F/A-18 aircraft. It must be true that if you wait long enough, everything cycles back into style.  Especially the Wright Stuff!

Copyright 2004, AIAA Wright Flyer Project, all rights reserved.

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