Monday, July 08, 2002

Celebrating 100 years of flight

Dayton plans to fete Wright milestone

By Randy McNutt,
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        DAYTON, Ohio — In an office not far from the Wright Brothers' bicycle shop on the west side of town, a group of marketers plans what it hopes will be the biggest air show that Ohio has ever known.

        They hope that one year from now, “Inventing Flight: Dayton 2003” will encompass more than 50 events spread across Greater Dayton — from blimp shows to biplane landings.

        Inventing Flight, a celebration of the 100th anniversary of flight, is one of five signature events of the Ohio Bicentennial Commission.

    The first event will be the New Year's Eve Gala, hosted by Inventing Flight at the Air Force Museum. More than 300 aircraft are on display.

    Contact: Inventing Flight, 1152 W. Third St., Dayton, OH, 45407. Telephone: (937) 222-0065. Web site:

    United States Air Force Museum, 1100 Spaatz St., Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, OH, 45433-7102. Telephone: (937) 255-3286.

        “It was a no-brainer for us to help sponsor it,” said Lee Yoakum, a spokesman for the Ohio Bicentennial Commission.

        The event will start July 3 — possibly with a visit by President Bush, group leaders say — and end July 20 with closing ceremonies at Celebration Central on Deeds Point in downtown Dayton.

        Inventing Flight will feature air shows, interactive living history programs, educational programs, technology and communication demonstrations and an opportunity for people to meet aviation leaders.

        Of course, powered flight started with the Ohio brothers, Orville and Wilbur Wright. On Dec. 17, 1903, Orville piloted their new airplane for 12 seconds — and 120 feet — at Kitty Hawk, N.C.

        Dayton has been planning the centennial celebration of flight since 1989 because officials see it as an opportunity to show off their city to the world — or at least to the central part of the country.

        “This is a signature endeavor,” said Madeline J. Iseli, co-president of Inventing Flight. “We've estimated the cost at $23 million, but it will be more like $32 million for the entire community.”

        Private and public sponsors have donated most of the money. The group still needs $4.5 million.

        “We're confident we can raise it,” said William J. Roess, co-president. “This means much more than Dayton having a party. Our organizing group will go away in 2004, but it will leave a legacy to the area — a national park, two interpretative centers, a Wright “B” Flyer, the Centennial of Flight Plaza at Deeds Point and strengthened institutions.”

        In Southwest Ohio, most people know of the Wright Brothers' contributions to flying. Working in their bicycle shop in Dayton, they tinkered with motors and wings. They had to go to North Carolina to find the proper wind conditions in late 1903.

        Back in Dayton, they built one of the early wind tunnels and developed the concept of wing warping. They worked at Huffman Prairie Flying Field near Dayton, improving their airplanes and designing others capable of mid-air turning.

        Early on, the non-profit Inventing Flight organization started lobbying the federal government to create a national park to honor the Wrights and Dayton poet Paul Laurence Dunbar. The Dayton Aviation Heritage National Historic Park, featuring the Wright Cycle Co. at 22 S. Williams St. and the Dunbar House at 219 N. Summit St. (now Dunbar Street), was created in 1992.

        The park is bolstered by “partnership parks” — four other related sites owned by different groups but all promoted as one.

        “We see Inventing Flight as a marketing opportunity not only for Dayton but for Ohio,” Ms. Iseli said. “If you go out on the street and ask nine out of 10 people where the Wright Brothers were from, they'll answer North Carolina. We want to change that perception.”

        With former astronaut and Ohio senator John Glenn serving as the celebrity spokesman, Inventing Flight will get attention. Not that it needs it. The programs are enough to attract crowds.

        For example, a hot-air balloon celebration will bring together about 20 balloons in an invitation-only “race” from Dayton's U.S. Air Force Museum grounds to Kitty Hawk. “Their goal isn't speed, it's accuracy,” Ms. Iseli said.

        On July 11-13, 2003, Inventing Flight will present the International Blimp Meet at the Air Force Museum, in addition to Dayton's “Black Cultural Festival: Tuskegee Airmen.”

        “We hope to have as many as a half dozen blimps from all over the world,” she said. “That should be a real spectacle — a tremendous visual event.”

        In conjunction with Inventing Flight, the Air Force Museum and other groups will present events.

        The Dayton Air Show will be held July 17-20, 2003, followed by the National Aviation Hall of Fame Ceremonies July 18-19.

        The museum will open its new 190,000-square-foot Eugene Kettering Gallery. Its Cold War Gallery will examine political and technological changes and honor the people who served in the Air Force during the long struggle against communism.

        “We've been in the planning stages for the Wright centennial for several years,” said Chris McGee, a spokesman for the Air Force Museum. “I think 2003 will be a blowout year.”


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