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Wed, Oct 08, 2008

The Original 'Business' Aircraft? Wright Model B Makes Debut At NBAA

Wright Bros. Great-Grandniece On Hand At 'Silver Bird' Unveiling

The newest addition to Wright "B" Flyer Inc.'s fleet of historic lookalike aircraft made its public debut Tuesday at the National Business Aviation Association’s (NBAA's) 61st Annual Meeting & Convention in Orlando, FL.

Amanda Wright Lane -- great-grandniece of aviation pioneers Orville and Wilbur Wright, and trustee of Wright "B" Flyer, Inc. -- was on hand to talk about the new flyer dubbed the "Silver Bird," nicknamed for its metal skeleton. The roughly 7/8-scale aircraft will be on static display inside the Orange County Convention Center for the duration of this year's show.

"This was the plane that really introduced the country to aviation," Wright Lane said. "It not only circled the Statue of Liberty, but was flown at air shows across the country and gave people their first glimpse of what was possible with aviation."

In all, 33 volunteers -- ranging from ages 11 into their 90s -- helped to build the Silver Bird for over a year. "They want other generations to understand the love of flying, and they spend hours each day on the flyer to hopefully pass that thrill on to the next generation," Wright Lane said.

NBAA contributed to the shipping costs, and provided floor space for the Dayton, OH nonprofit to display the Silver Bird inside the convention center.

Wilbur and Orville Wright invented the airplane in their West Dayton bicycle shop at the turn of the 20th Century and formed the Wright Company in 1909 to produce military and civilian airplanes. The "B" model was the first one they produced in quantity, with more than 100 built from 1910 on.

The Silver Bird is a flyable airplane that can be shipped anywhere in the world for exhibitions. It is expected to make its first test flight in early 2009.

Having a replica of one of the first aircraft ever on the NBAA show floor -- an event known more of its multi-million dollar bizjets, than attempts to appeal to grassroots aviation -- isn't as incongruous as it may seem at first glance.

Wright Lane notes the plane won an early design competition for the US Army Signal Corps, to provide an aircraft suitable for pilot training and reconnaissance. That competition, among other requirements, called for the aircraft to fly at least 40 mph, and be able to "land safely."

The Model B was later flown at a series of exhibitions across the country, in part to attract buyers for the design. One only need look across the NBAA show floor to see that legacy remains alive and well.

FMI: www.nbaa.org, www.wright-b-flyer.org

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