Motor Company Supports Final Preparations for Historic Flight
- Ford Motor Company has helped
ensure the successful reproduction of the 1903 Wright Flyer by
analyzing historic materials, lending engineering advice and
specialized equipment and testing an authentic reproduction of
the engine the Wright brothers used to make their first flight
on Dec. 17, 1903.
- The tests involved the same
processes and equipment Ford Motor Company uses every day to
improve the quality and performance of its vehicles.
- Ford Motor Company's history is
inseparably linked to the history of flight.
DEARBORN, Mich. - Take one unstable
historic aircraft, add two modern-day pilots and toss in a day of
unpredictable coastal weather and what do you get? Plenty of hope
For a 21st century team preparing
to fly an authentic reproduction of the Wright brothers' 1903
Flyer exactly 100 years to the minute from their historic first
flight over the dunes near Kitty Hawk, N.C., it also takes lots of
testing, practice and faith.
Ford Motor Company has been there
along the way, analyzing materials from a 1903 Wright engine and
original 1903 Wright Flyer, lending engineering advice and
specialized equipment as well as testing an authentic reproduction
of the engine the Wrights used on Dec. 17, 1903 - all to ensure
the successful reproduction and flight of the historic airplane.
EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk
Presented by Ford Motor Company commissioned The Wright Experience
of Warrenton, Va., to build an authentic reproduction of the
Wrights' 1903 Flyer to re-enact the brothers' first powered,
controlled flight on Dec. 17, 2003 - 100 years from the historic
The 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction
serves as the centerpiece of EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk
presented by Ford Motor Company. A team of craftsmen and
volunteers has been researching every aspect of the 1903 airplane
for the past decade and more. With less than three months
remaining before the re-enactment of the Wright brothers' historic
first flight, preparations have intensified.
Ford Motor Company testing and
Extensive testing of materials, including an authentic
reproduction of the engine, at Ford Motor Company facilities has
helped ensure the success and integrity of the reproduction
airplane. At the same time, it has revealed fascinating details
about the Wrights' historic achievement.
A team of a dozen Ford Motor
Company engineers, technicians and supervisors worked with the
engine builders to test and analyze their authentic reproduction
of the Wrights' 1903 engine. Tests were performed at Ford's
sophisticated Dynamometer Laboratory in Dearborn - the first time
anyone saw the historic engine in full operation.
"Thanks to the help of the
team at Ford Motor Company, we're confident this engine will power
the reproduction flyer off the ground on the 100th
anniversary," said Steve Hay, who hand-built the engine with
his brother, Jim Hay. "We're getting data even the Wright
brothers never had!"
Ford Motor Company also tested and
analyzed materials from the Wrights' 1903 test engine and original
Flyer to determine their physical and chemical characteristics.
In addition, Ford IT, in
collaboration with its supplier partners Documentum, Oracle and
Hewlett-Packard, developed a searchable, computerized database
that enables The Wright Experience to retrieve historical
documents as it creates the 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction and
other Wright aircraft.
"These landmark tests further
strengthen the historic connection between Ford Motor Company and
the Wright brothers," said Jan Valentic, Ford Motor Company
vice president, Global Marketing. "And they involved the same
processes and equipment Ford Motor Company uses every day to
improve the quality and performance of its vehicles."
As one of the premier innovators of
his generation, Henry Ford helped put the nation on wings through
his efforts to develop aircraft to serve the public, then build
public confidence in their safety, reliability and necessity. Ford
laid the foundation for the world's modern system of commercial
aviation, including the world's first modern airport and concrete
runway and popularization of all-metal aircraft with the Ford
Tri-Motor. For his pioneering efforts, Ford was enshrined in the
National Aviation Hall of Fame in 1984 and recognized as an
aviation pioneer by the U.S. Centennial of Flight Commission in
December 2002. A full timeline of Henry Ford's contributions to
aviation and photographs are available at Ford's media site, http://media.ford.com.
Training the "Pilots of the
Training continues for the pilots who will attempt to re-create
history. Terry Queijo and Kevin Kochersberger along with their
backup crew are following in the footsteps of the Wrights by
training in a 1902 Wright glider reproduction. The training is
taking place along a grass landing strip in Warrenton, Va., that
sits alongside The Wright Experience.
The training is critical because
the 21st century pilots need to unlearn everything they have been
taught about flying modern aircraft to control the awkward and
primitive 1903 Wright flyer.
As part the Countdown to Kitty Hawk celebration on Dec. 17 near
the dunes of Kitty Hawk, one of the pilots will lie down across
the lower wing and attempt a feat that hasn't happened in 100
years. Training for this historic event is being led by legendary
aviation pioneer Scott Crossfield, the first man to fly at Mach 2
and Mach 3.
"This is the most critical
stage of the training that we have been involved with over the
past year," Crossfield said. "Our pilots are working
with an unpowered glider that has been modified so it has all the
characteristics of the powered 1903 flyer. It's essential that the
pilots fully comprehend just how unstable this aircraft will be
before we undertake powered flights."
Just as the Wrights did in 1903,
Queijo and Kochersberger will flip a coin to determine who will
fly first on the 100th anniversary.
Wind tunnel testing
In February 2003, wind tunnel testing of the Ford Motor
Company-sponsored 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction in the Langley
Full Scale Tunnel - built in 1930 with input from Orville Wright -
confirmed the plane can fly.
"For the first time since Dec.
17, 1903, a flying machine built exactly like the original was
able to generate sufficient thrust to overcome drag and sufficient
lift to overcome its weight," said Professor Robert Ash,
Wright test program manager for Old Dominion University in
Norfolk, Va., which operates the wind tunnel for NASA in Hampton,
Although it is widely known the
Wrights' plane was unstable, what was not fully appreciated until
the wind tunnel tests were completed was that if the 1903 Flyer
had been made positively stable, it would have not been
controllable with the control surfaces as they were built in 1903.
Perhaps the most intriguing
discovery was that the Wright Flyer was unstable in all three
axes. None of the Wright Flyer controls - canard, wing warping and
aft rudder - produced sufficient forces to control a stable flying
machine. The Wright brothers actually exploited the airplane's
instability in pitch, roll and yaw, thus enabling their marginal
control elements to maintain their flying machine. Though highly
nonlinear, the 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction is therefore capable
of powered and controlled flight.
Ford Motor Company's Ford Racing
division is a large supporter of the Langley wind tunnel, spending
hundreds of hours testing the aerodynamics of many of its NASCAR
Winston Cup and Busch cars along with Craftsman Truck vehicles.
"If Ford Racing hadn't been
testing so many of their vehicles in the Langley Full Scale
Tunnel, Old Dominion University would never have been able donate
the wind tunnel testing time," Ash said.
About EAA's Countdown to Kitty
Hawk Presented by Ford Motor Company
EAA's Countdown to Kitty Hawk is a centennial celebration of the
Wright brothers' first powered flight - an innovation that forever
changed our world. Led by EAA, presented by Ford Motor Company and
supported by Microsoft Flight Simulator, Eclipse Aviation and
Northrop Grumman Corp., this yearlong series of inspirational
events honors the innovation and determination it takes to make
world-changing dreams a reality.
Countdown to Kitty Hawk features an
interactive touring pavilion and the world's most-accurate 1903
Wright Flyer reproduction built by The Wright Experience. The
countdown will culminate with the re-enactment of the Wright
brothers' first flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 2003 -
exactly 100 years later. For more information, go to www.countdowntokittyhawk.org.