Great Days In Aviation History

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One Magnificent Belly Flop...

At about 12:35 p.m., at Kill Devil Hills, N.C, yesterday, EAA’s Wright Experience replica Wright Flyer pilot Kevin Kochersberger and crew attempted a launch ... and failed to fly. In front of 35,000 visitors (still wet from a morning downpour) and millions of worldwide television viewers, the rather pricey project ended its historic journey into the past slightly damaged and in a puddle at the end of a 200-foot portable runway/rail. EAA President Tom Poberezny said that the wind dropped below the minimum 10 knots required for liftoff from the length of rail and high humidity reduced engine rpm and output by several horsepower. But apparently the team saw fit to try anyway. We'll hope your judgment in a tight spot under pressure is more realistic than hopeful -- the kinetic energy involved will likely be significantly higher. Near the end of the rail, the canard pitched for lift, raised the Flyer's nose, and the aircraft seemed to slow. With optimism's influence the Flyer appeared to lift off (barely) before touching down right wing first. Kochersberger was not injured, and the only damage was to a canard brace wire and a fitting, which were replaced quickly --, and perhaps to the reputation of the Wrights, as other first "real" flight claimants add this fuel to their fires. Click through for a 4.5 megabyte .mov video file (not recommended for slower internet connections).