100 Years Of Flight

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The Centennial Celebration ... It's Coming...

With spring of the year 2003 finally upon us, all the events in the works to commemorate the Wright brothers' achievement are gearing up to full power. In Virginia, Ken Hyde and his staff at The Wright Experience are learning how to handle their reproduction of the notoriously unstable 1903 Flyer, so they can fly it at the Wright Brothers National Memorial in December. Soon, though, they will be hitting the road to take the Flyer on tour, as the star player in EAA's Countdown To Kitty Hawk event. The road tour started this month at Sun 'n Fun, in Lakeland, Fla., and continues with appearances at July's Inventing Flight Celebration in Dayton, Ohio; EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, July 19-August 4; (more) Seattle's Museum of Flight, August 23-September 2; NBAA's Annual Meeting & Convention, October 7-9, in Orlando, Fla.; and finally to North Carolina, where the Flyer is scheduled to re-enact the Wright brothers' flight at 10:35 a.m., December 17. The Countdown to Kitty Hawk tour travels with a 24,000-square-foot pavilion featuring exhibits about technology, history, and the 100 greatest aviation innovations of the first 100 years. At Sun 'n Fun, a popular draw was a flight simulator with a big screen and controls replicating those used by the Wrights -- a wooden stick for pitch and a hip cradle for roll control -- though "control" may be too strong a term.

...All Year Long...

But the Countdown to Kitty Hawk is only one event among many. Coming up May 16-26, in Fayetteville, N.C., the Festival of Flight features a weekend arts festival, air shows with military and aerobatic aircraft, and a seven-day exposition with aviation displays and interactive exhibits, all of which will culminate with a Memorial Day celebration. Dayton, Ohio, home of the Wright brothers, is hosting a long list of events under the banner "Inventing Flight," starting this month and continuing throughout the year. Dayton's Gala Opening Ceremony, billed as "a once-in-a-lifetime spectacle of Olympic proportions," kicks off July 3, at Celebration Central on Deeds Point. (more) Dayton's events continue through July 20 and include a balloon race, a blimp meet, exhibits and entertainment focusing on the history of the Wright brothers in Dayton, visits from Tall Ships, and a folk festival. Harrison Ford will host a celebration at the National Aviation Hall of Fame on July 19. In September, the National Air Tour will convene 25 vintage aircraft in a tour of two dozen cities, re-creating the Golden Age of Aviation. In October, the National Air and Space Museum, in Washington, D.C., opens a major new exhibit about the Wright brothers. The centerpiece of the new gallery will be the original 1903 Wright Flyer, displayed at eye level for the first time since it was acquired by the Smithsonian in 1948.

...Don't Miss It

It all culminates in December, starting with the grand opening of the spectacular new annex of the Smithsonian's National Air and Space Museum, at Dulles Airport, on December 15. The main aviation hall at the new Udvar-Hazy Center is 10 stories high and the length of three football fields, big enough to hold 200 aircraft. The main construction is already completed, and the first artifact -- a Piper J-3 Cub -- moved into the space last month. Then on to North Carolina, where the Wright Brothers National Memorial, at Kill Devil Hills, will host the culmination of Countdown to Kitty Hawk on December 17, when the Wright Flyer reproduction will be launched. The day will also include a fly-by of historically significant aircraft. (more) Besides all of these events, museums and airports around the country are hosting special exhibits, air shows, celebrations, and educational programs. If you can't make it to Dayton, or Oshkosh, or North Carolina, there is sure to be an opportunity somewhere nearby for all pilots who wish to, to participate in the celebration of 100 years of flight.