Hanging Around With The Wrights

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Although the big anniversary associated with the Wright brothers has passed, a potentially more significant milestone in the development of practical aircraft comes up in 2009. Thatís when the Wrights sold a wary U.S. military its first aircraft. The original Wright Military Flyer is hanging from the ceiling of the National Air and Space Museum. Significant though it might be, however, thatís not the airplane Ken Hyde and his crew from The Wright Experience want to replicate. The 1909 plane was an evolution of a 1908 aircraft that crashed during a demonstration flight for the Army and has the same engine. Itís an important link to the 1908 aircraft and one that Hyde wants to get right. After erecting scaffolding and lighting inside the museum, Hydeís engine expert Greg Cone was allowed to measure the parts inside the engine after its cover was removed by museum staff. It was the first time the cover had been removed since the Signal Corps transferred the aircraft to the Smithsonian in 1911. Cone is working with a Baltimore foundry to re-create the original engine casting and he found some significant differences in the engine at the museum and later models The Wright Experience has at its shop. It also has a different ignition system. "The engine on the Wright Military Flyer is probably the earliest existing example of a Wright vertical four-cylinder engine, available nowhere else," said Peter Jakab, the museumís Aeronautics Division chairman. "Opening it up and sharing its secrets with The Wright Experience will no doubt help make their Wright Military Flyer reproduction as accurate as possible.Ē Thereís no word on when the 1908 replica might be finished.