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Sun, Nov 23, 2003

EAA's 1903 Wright Flyer Reproduction Achieves Proof of Concept Test Flight

Flight Near 'Hallowed Ground'

The EAA says its 1903 Wright flyer reproduction was successful in a brief proof of concept test flight near the Wright Brothers National Memorial in North Carolina where Orville and Wilbur Wright first flew. The encampment, which involves extensive preparation and rigorous training, will ensure the greatest probability of success for the highly anticipated re-enactment at 10:35 a.m. Dec. 17, 2003. It also has been vital in validating the innovative genius of the Wrights.

Dr. Kevin Kochersberger of Honeoye Falls (NY) was at the controls of the 605-pound 1903 flyer reproduction. It flew at 1:30 p.m. (EST) Friday toward the north for more than 100 feet. Winds were from the north at 15-18 mph. Kochersberger is an associate professor of mechanical engineering at the Rochester Institute of Technology and a pilot with more than 1,400 hours.

Kochersberger's flight was the reproduction's first attempt. As an added safety precaution, he wore a helmet and safety harness. Kochersberger is one of two pilots named to fly the re-enactment on Dec. 17. Terry Queijo, an American Airlines pilot from Trappe (MD) is the other pilot.

"I can't describe how incredible it felt today when the flyer lifted off the track," said Kochersberger, who used 117 feet of the 120 foot-track to lift the flyer above the soil and sand-mixed field. "Now I know with great confidence that Dec. 17 will be a very special moment."

About 100 spectators, including a group of school children, watched the test flight. Ken Hyde, the founder of The Wright Experience, which built the authentic reproduction for EAA in his Warrenton (VA) shop, also was there to witness the emotional flight. About a dozen Wright Experience craftsmen served as the ground crew for the test flight.

"Today, the glider training really paid off. The plane performed exactly as we expected," Hyde said.

The pilots, under the direction of legendary test pilot Scott Crossfield, have been training with a 1902 Wright glider reproduction at Jockey's Ridge, a series of massive sand dunes south of Wright Brothers National Memorial. The Wrights trained in much the same way a century ago. The group has been working on the Outer Banks of North Carolina since early November.

Ironically, Crossfield achieved a similar aviation milestone 50 years ago Friday, when he became the first man to fly at twice the speed of sound as he piloted the Skyrocket to a speed of 1,291 mph (Mach 2.005).

EAA's flyer, the centerpiece of its Countdown to Kitty Hawk program, will attempt to fly in 26 days at 10:35 a.m. on Dec. 17, 2003. The ceremonial flight will be the culmination of the First Flight Centennial Celebration from Dec. 12-17 at the national park.

FMI: www.countdowntokittyhawk.org


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