Successful First Flight!
March 10-12, 2003
The Utah State University Wright Flyer literally "took-off" this week after a year of hard work. Its maiden voyage into the skies occurred at the historic Wendover Airport on the Salt Flats of Utah's west desert to the cheers and camera flashes of media and Utah State personnel.
A group of Utah State students and faculty, representing various areas in the College of Engineering, built the 1905 replica of the Wright brothers' plane to honor the 100th anniversary of powered flight.
And fly it did, staying airborne for some 23 seconds and traveling a distance more than 800 feet.
On hand to witness the event were The History Channel; KSL, KTVX, and KUTV television news crews; and reporters from the Salt Lake Tribune, Deseret News, the Herald Journal, the Tooele Transcript and the Wendover News.
Dave Widauf and Charles Larsen, two industrial technology and education professors from Utah State, thought it would be both an interesting challenge and a fun endeavor to build a replica of the Wright brothers' aircraft.
"We thought, why not celebrate the 100-year anniversary of powered flight by building a modern replica of the Wright Flyer and involve our students," said Widauf.
Ph.D student Nick Alley, Ogden, who headed up the design team of 10 mechanical engineering seniors, was all smiles. He said the thousands of design hours put into this project have paid off as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. In the process of applying knowledge in a unique way, he said, he has also come to better understand and appreciate the genius and tenacity of his heroes, the Wright brothers.
Gaylen Jensen, a junior in Aviation Maintenance from Highland, Utah, echoed those words. He was joined by fellow students James Call, Logan; Scott Wilson, Idaho; and Jill Stout, Tooele. Instead of the beaches of California, they chose the desert of Wendover to spend their entire spring break to see their work take flight.
Jensen's passion for aviation and knowledge about the Wright brothers made him a font of information ranging from the function of rudders, wings and lift to the distance of the Wright brothers' first flight equaling the wing span of a 747.
Jensen said this opportunity has not only allowed him to participate in re-creating the genius of the Wright brothers, but to also share in their creativity by taking what they started to a new, higher level.
The Utah State Wright Flyer group plans to hold a celebration in April in Logan to show off the capabilities of the aircraft. The group then plans to tour the state of Utah to educate the public about the replica and the art of flying.
The grande finale of all the tours will be in July in Dayton, Ohio, where the group will be the first to fly at Huffman Prairie Flying Field since the Wright Brothers flew there 100 years ago. Former Senator Jake Garn, who was on hand in Wendover, will be co-flying the aircraft in Ohio with pilot and Utah State alum Wayne Larson.
Utah State University College of Engineering students teamed with the Space Dynamics Laboratory and the U.S. Air Force to build the plane. The full-scale flyer is a futuristic replica of the original Wright brothers' aircraft. Utah State students designed and built the flyer using space-age materials as the Wright Brothers may have done if they were designing their plane today.
The latest Kevlar and graphite materials, used in space shuttles and next-generation rockets and military aircrafts, replaced the muslin and spruce used in the original flyer. The advanced composites and other state-of-the-art materials are disguised to look like the materials used by the Wrights, so the plane looks like a duplicate of the original.
Construction of the full-scale replica is completed thanks to significant contributions of composite materials from Hexcel Corporation, Metal Matrix Composites and Patterned Fiber Composites, Inc., all Utah-based companies. Other in-kind donors include BMW, Rohacell Inc., Harley Davidson, Catto Props and Horizon Hobbies.
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