Exactly 100 years after the Wright Brothers made history at Kitty Hawk, N.C., a group of 20 mechanical and aerospace engineering students from West Virginia University recently relived that immortal flight at the First Flight Centennial Celebration sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) this past Dec. 12-17.
A group called the”Wright Experience”was commissioned by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) to construct and fly an exact reproduction of the Wright 1903 Flyer aircraft at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2003, the centennial anniversary, at Kitty Hawk.
Assistant professor Wade Huebsch and professor John Kuhlman from the Department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering accompanied the WVU groupmostly undergraduate and a few graduate aerospace engineering and mechanical engineering majorsto North Carolina, where the new flyer attempted to take flight before tens-of-thousands on hand.
The original powered glider weighed in at just over 600 pounds including its 179-pound, 12 horsepower engine and had a wingspan of 40 feet and four inches. To ensure the authenticity of the 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction, Ford Motor Company provided technological expertise for the engine and many other groups helped with various other aspects of the development of the aircraft. Ford also provided major funding for the event.
“All of the students, Dr. Huebsch and I were all very excited to be able to witness this once-in-a-lifetime event. We are grateful to the EAA for helping us to be able to attend. Even though the winds and rain prevented a successful re-enactment flight on Dec. 17, we were quite proud to help the EAA to operate displays in their pavilion for the Monday through Wednesday the week of the re-enactment,”said Kuhlman.
The student group volunteered to help operate EAA s Wright Flyer flight simulators, loaded children into Wright Flyer pedal cars, described technical displays to the public and helped to provide crowd control for media events each day they were there.
The students who traveled to the Wright BrothersNational Memorial site are members of the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics (AIAA) and/or American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME). These two groups have been holding joint fundraisers during the fall semester to raise money to cover their travel expenses.
“After hearing about the re-enactment, I thought it would be an opportunity to witness history in the making,”said engineering student Peter Cooke.”Powered flight is a milestone in human achievement and to witness its re-creation would be a rewarding experience.”
The students who participated are Gerald Angle, Morgantown; Eric Bartlett, Bridgeport; Jonathan Breckenridge, Belle Vernon, Pa.; Peter Cooke, Charleston; Emily Currie, Mountaintop, Pa.; Emily Everly, Morgantown; Shannon Glaspell, Grafton; Jennifer Hazelton, New Cumberland, W. Va.; Andrea Holladay, Burton; Raven Honsaker, Martinsburg; ASME President Heather Johnson, Cumberland, Md.; Tom Knell, Holmdel, N.J.; Venkitaraman Krishnan, Yonkers, N.Y.; Eric Legg, Red House; Kenny Marn, Sistersville; Jonathan Osborne, Pt. Pleasant; Karen Peyatt, Bridgeport; Lucas Roselius, Charles Town; AIAA President Justin Smith, Parkersburg; and Nicole Vaccaro, Belle Vernon, Pa.