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Wright Bros. First Flight Celebrates Hundredth Anniversary - 2003-05-13


Trying to go 120-feet in 12-seconds. That's how far the Wright Brothers traveled during their first flight in 1903. As much as aviation has progressed, you might think that recreating that flight for the hundredth anniversary wouldn't be so hard. But nobody has ever figured out precisely how the Wrights did it. Brian Purchia has more on the Wright Brothers and a group of people trying to recreate that first flight.

It is hard to imagine how difficult it is to get this far…

NATURAL SOUND
"He's off the ground!"

...Towing a handmade glider behind a station wagon... in a field near Warrenton, Virginia.

NATURAL SOUND
"Woah, look at that surface, solid as a rock!"

Almost a hundred years ago... The Wright brothers were also teaching themselves to fly... just like Ken Hyde is today...he has made it his mission... to retrace their steps.

KEN HYDE
"It is literally much harder to re-engineer something, and find out exactly how they did it, in many ways rather than invent it."

Mr. Hyde is a retired airline pilot... Who's been chasing the Wrights’ for ten years...He has copied the original plane…with the same tools and materials the Wright brothers used.

KEN HYDE
"This propeller was so efficient that they were able to carry - with only 12 horsepower, they were able to fly."

Many parts have had to be reconstructed from photographs and letters - since the Wrights, left few other records.

But Mr. Hyde says his group's plane is authentic. They've even copied the original fabric for the wings – which was originally meant for undergarments.

All this hard work should culminate at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, on December 17th, the hundredth anniversary of the first flight. If luck is with them, they will fly at the very same hour the Wrights did.

But that may not be easy. Their test flights have shown, while the Wrights' plane was a work of genius, it was terribly unstable in the air. Scott Crossfield is a test pilot.

(NATURAL SOUND DURING BAD GLIDER RUN
“Slow down!”

SCOTT CROSSFIELD
"This is as difficult an airplane to fly as I've ever flown."

Mr. Hyde's group has made a computer simulator of the glider.

NATURAL SOUND
“I’m sliding my hips to steer, and it hurts.”

NATURAL SOUND
“It’s nosing down and there’s nothing I can do about it. I just crashed.”

But for the sake of accuracy Mr. Hyde says he will have to take his chances.

"It is hard to fly, but once you get used to it, and you get used to the fact that it is a very unstable airplane, it's becoming much more easy."

Which is why, whenever the weather cooperates Ken Hyde and his fellow dreamers are up in the air chasing history.

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