The Wright Flyer

This article appeared in NCR World, September-October 1970  issue

 

THE WRIGHT FLYER

 

     The 1905 Wright Flyer on display in Carillon Park, holds a distinctive place in aviation history.

     This is the airplane in which the Wright brothers themselves always said they really learned to fly.

     Some aviation authorities consider it to be an even more valuable relic than the Wright’s first powered aircraft.

     The Wrights made their historic first flight at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on Dec. 17, 1903.  Upon their return to Dayton, they immediately began work on a second plane.  They felt sure it would fly much farther than the original plane—the Kitty Hawk, which now is in the Smithsonian Institution.

 

Similar To Kitty Hawk

 

     Work on the 1905 Wright Flyer began in January, 1904.

     It is similar to the Kitty Hawk, but a number of changes were made to make it stronger.  And, it was equipped with an entirely new engine.

     In 1904 the Wrights made more than 100 flights on Huffman Prairie east of Dayton on the present site of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base.

     It was during these flights that the Dayton brothers, Orville and Wilbur, learned how to fly.  Among their accomplishments was flying in a complete circle on September 20, 1904, and then two flights of three

miles each.

     In May of 1905 the Wrights made additional changes to make the plane stronger and safer.  In a report to the Aero Club of America, dated March 12, 1906, they said:

     “The 1905 Flyer had a total weight of about 925 pounds, including the operator, and was of such substantial construction as to be able to make landings at high speed without being strained or broken.  From the beginning the prime object was to devise a machine of practical utility, rather than a useless and extravagant toy.”

 

Carried Two Men

 

     Later the plane was taken to Kitty Hawk and on May 14, 1908, before a group of newspaper reporters, made a history-making flight carrying two men.

     The 1905 Wright flyer eventually was preserved for posterity through the efforts of former NCR Chairman Col. E. A. Deeds, who founded and developed the park and the nearby Deeds Carillon.  (Both the park and Carillon are within sight of NCR’s world headquarters in Dayton.)

     The late Carl Beust, former head of the NCR Patent Department, who worked closely with Col. Deeds and others in acquiring many of the park’s historic exhibits, said of the 1905 Flyer:

     “Orville Wright worked very closely with us on this project.  Originally, we started out to create a replica of the first plane that flew at Kitty Hawk.

     “The Wright brothers made no drawings of this plane—so we were having them drawn.  We were getting some of the dimensions from England where the plane was on display at that time.

     “Then Orville told Col. Deeds that he felt the 1905 plane could be reassembled as most of the original parts were in existence.

 

Parts Were Scattered

 

     “That’s what we decided to do.

     “Some of the parts from this plane had been stored in an old barn or garage in Kitty Hawk.  The wings and main body parts were stored in a museum and library in Pittsfield, Mass.

     “Orville said that a group of boys who hung around the area when he and Wilbur were making the flights apparently had broken into the barn and taken some of the parts of the 1905 plane to keep as souvenirs.  Well, I found that tracing these boys was an interesting project.

     “One had become a banker, another a minister.  They were scattered all over the U. S.

     “I found the banker’s wife in Elizabeth, N. J., and she said the minister lived there also.  The minister admitted that he was one of the boys who took souvenirs and that as a way of making it up he would help round up the parts of the plane from all the boys.  He did.

     “Later Orville sent each a note of thanks with a piece of wood and canvas from the first plane that flew at Kitty Hawk.

 

Assembled At NCR

 

     “The 1905 plane then was reassembled at NCR in a small wooden building called ‘the annex’.  It was attached to the building that is now Domestic Marketing’s headquarters.  This ‘annex’ also was used during World War II for top secret defense contract work.

     “A truck and crew from NCR went to Pittsfield, Mass., to get the plane’s body parts and wings.  A carpenter called me and asked if they could cut off the wings in sections to make it easier to haul.

     “I said, ‘You do and I’ll break your neck’.  The wings were not cut, although one wing was damaged and had to be replaced.  Original sketches and other items of interest we turned up are in Wright Hall at Carillon Park too.”

     At least 60 per cent of the parts in the reconstructed 1905 plane are original.  These include the engine, the chain guides, control levers and pilot’s cradle, the propellers, the greater part of the wing structure as well as front rudder struts.  Construction of the plane, in addition to Orville Wright, was supervised by Harvey D. Geyer, an early employee of the Wrights.