Sunday, June 29, 2003

Statue of Liberty flight is a success

Catching up

By John Johnston
The Cincinnati Enquirer


Haze and the threat of rain were cause for worry. Then there was the terror alert, which had been raised to orange - the second-highest level - only days before.

None of it stopped John H. Warlick from making a longstanding dream come true. On Sunday, May 25, he piloted a 1911 Wright "B" Flyer look-alike around the Statue of Liberty. Twice.

"I figured the first (loop) was to wake everybody up, and the second one they could take some pictures," says Warlick, who turned 78 this month. In the seat beside him was Bill Sloan, an 81-year-old retired Air Force colonel. Both men live in Beavercreek.

They were, in fact, flying on the wings of history. In 1909, Wilbur Wright made a similar flight around the statue.

Tempo wrote about Warlick, a cigar-chomping former Navy pilot, on May 23. He is president and chief pilot of non-profit Wright B Flyer Inc., which operates out of Dayton Wright Brothers Airport in southern Montgomery County. He's among hundreds of volunteers who helped built the Wright "B" look-alike, which was completed in 1982.

Wilbur and Orville Wright's original Wright "B" Flyer was the first mass-produced airplane. The machine Warlick flies is a look-alike, not a replica, because it was built of modern materials, which makes it stronger and safer to fly.

Still, Warlick wouldn't have flown the open-air plane in a downpour. "We were able to sneak the flight in just before it started raining," he says.

Later, Warlick learned a sizable crowd had been waving and applauding near the statue. But while airborne, he didn't have time to gawk. "I was busy watching where I was going," he says, noting he shared the skies with a couple of helicopters and airplanes.

The Wright "B" Flyer look-alike, he says, performed "great. No problems whatsoever."

Wilbur would have been proud.


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