A CENTURY LATER
AMERICA STILL SOARS
An aviation pioneer and former astronaut explains why.
Join The Celebration Of The History Of Flight
Here are a few events where you and your family can celebrate the first 100 years of flight: Inventing Flight The Centennial Celebration in Dayton, Ohio
(www.inventingflight.org). The Wright Brothers’ hometown will celebrate with festivities that include an air show featuring demonstrations by the U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and U.S. Navy Blue Angels; appearances by John Glenn, Chuck Yeager, Neil Armstrong and others; and a tribute to the Tuskegee Airmen. July 3 rd to 20th, 2003.
The Wright Brothers & the Invention of the Aerial Age, Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. (www.nasm.si.edu) and click on (“Exhibitions”). This new exhibition will feature artifacts such as the Wright Brothers’ original airplane (shown at eye level for the first time), a bicycle built by the brothers and interactive computer displays, including a flight simulation of Wright aircraft. Opens Oct. 11 for a two-year run.First Flight Centennial Celebration in Kill Devil Hills, N.C. (www.firstflightcentennial.org).
The highlight of this six-day event will be a reenactment of the Wright Brothers’ historic flight in a reproduction 1903 airplane. Dec. 12 through 17.th, 2003, by Sen. John Glenn
This year, 2003, marks the centennial anniversary of powered human flight. We asked Sen. John Glenn—the secretary general of the Inventing Flight celebrations, which begin this week in Dayton, Ohio, the home of the Wright Brothers—to share his perspective about the importance and legacy of their historic achievement.
FROM THE DAWN OF TIME, there had been men of a curious nature who aspired to fly. Leonardo da Vinci had studied the way birds go up and down, ahead and over. And more than 2000 years ago. the Chinese had used kites to learn about lift and drag. Despite many valiant attempts. no one had succeeded at powered
As a young boy growing up in Ohio, I learned about the Wright Brothers almost from my first day of school. They were remarkably tenacious, methodical men. And I admired how they learned everything they could from previous researchers and experimenters. then set out to correct or fill knowledge gaps.
Even after their historic flight at Kitty Hawk, the Wright Brothers continued to refine their designs to solve problems such as lateral control—the ability to bank and change direction. They made more than a hundred (100) flights to test their hypotheses. Finally, in 1904 and 1905, the brothers developed truly maneuverable flight (turns, circles and figure eights) at Huffman Prairie, the site today of the U. S. Army Air Forces’s Wright-Patterson Air Force Base near Dayton. Ohio.
It took several years for aviation to take off. While the Wright Brothers historic
achievement inspired experiments in other parts of the world. manned flight was
largely a curiosity in America. Relatively few had actually witnessed it. At first. the
brothers could not find customers for their aircraft. Then, in 1907—four years after
the first flight at Kitty Hawk the Army Signal Corps requested proposals for “a
heavier-than-air flying machine7 They wanted a machine that could travel at least
40 miles per hour. carry two passengers and be easy to operate. It was probably no
accident that the specifications reflected exactly what the Wright Brothers already
had been doing at Huffman Prairie . A few years later, the brothers formed the Wright Company and entered the airplane production business.
Since that first flight a century ago. advances in aviation technology have been
remarkably swift . Orville’s air speed at Kitty Hawk was 31 miles per hour. Just 44
short years later, Chuck Yeager flew faster than the speed of sound in the
rocket-powered Bell X- I at the Muroc Army Air Base in California.
Five years ago, I had the opportunity to join the crew of the STS-95 Discovery space shuttle. Before the launch Wick Wright the Wright Brother’s nephew, presented me with a piece of wing fabric that had flown at Kitty Hawk nine decades earlier. With NASA approval. I carried it proudly with me on the spaceflight. Later this year. the fabric will be presented to the National Air and Space Museum, where it will be displayed with the original “Wright Flyer.”
That stained bit of cloth symbolizes the curiosity that is at the heart of all progress. Someone has to think about how to do things differently, or believe there just may be “a better way.” But progress comes when one not only thinks about it hut also acts on that wonder. And that’s exactly what these ambitious bicycle makers did. changing the world for all time.
The spirit of exploration and innovation—so central to the Wright Brothers and to our nation’s greatness from our founding days—continues to inspire to-dav’s aviation pioneers to build flying machines that can travel higher. faster and more safely. Already there have been significant advances in designing a reusable rocket ship capab1e of carrying three passengers on a suborbital flight. Some experts predict that such a voyage could be accomplished within the next decade.
For links to other events celebrating the centennial of flight, visit on the web: www.parade.com
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