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
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!