Alan Dron A century ago, Orville and Wilbur Wright were experimenting with a series of increasingly large kites and gliders. Now, in preparation for the centenary of their epoch-making flight at Kitty Hawk in 1903, a US organisation is going through the same process. The Wright Experience is dedicated to bringing the story of the Wright brothers' exploits to the widest possible audience. The company's climactic event will be the Aviation World's Fair, scheduled for 2003 and more details of which are due to be announced at the show. You might reasonably think that the events leading up to a technological breakthrough as significant as manned flight would be well documented. Rick Young, co-founder of The Wright Experience, will tell you otherwise. The Wright brothers were secretive about their progress toward a viable flying machine. Whether they actually destroyed most of their detailed drawings, or whether they have just gone missing down the years, is uncertain, but few exist today. "There are just very basic drawings. We're reverse engineering this from old photographs," says Young. "Not until they were in commercial production did drawings survive. I think they were concerned about protecting their secrets." Another possibility is that, as their aircraft evolved, the original drawings for each design may have differed significantly from the aircraft 'as built' and the brothers may have felt they would have been misleading. Nevertheless, a 1.5m (5ft) wingspan replica of the brothers' 1899 kite can be found in the US International chalet (C9) and an impressive 5.2m (17ft) wingspan replica of a 1900 glider is suspended from the ceiling of Hall 3, next to the US exhibitors' lounge. One fascinating aspect of the 1900 replica is the fabric draped across its wooden ribs. Remarkably, the cotton muslin material was woven around 1909 by Shorts Brothers in the UK and was intended for a later Wright design. It was bought, decades ago, by Air New Zealand employee Bruce Winder, who was himself interested in building a Wrights replica. On his death, it was passed by his widow to Young. By re-creating the Wrights' machines in the same order as the brothers did 100 years ago, "we're re-experiencing what they experienced", says Young. A replica of one of the brothers' powered aircraft, a 1910 Model B, is being prepared by Young¹s fellow company founder, Ken Hyde, and should be ready to fly early next year. The Wright Experience is making itself known at airshows around the world leading up to the Aviation World's through support from Kallman Worldwide, which specialises in the marketing and management of exhibition space. It is organising the Aviation World's Fair.

Source: Flight Daily News