Descendants of Wright brothers and Henry Ford to unveil historic plane at Henry Ford museum
Today marks history for automotive and aviation enthusiasts alike. The world’s only authentic reproduction of the Wright brothers 1903 Flyer will be installed at Henry Ford Museum in Dearborn, Michigan – marking how mass air and land travel truly come together in the story of one man, Henry Ford.
The plane, which re-created history in December 2003 at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina, for the 100th anniversary of manned powered flight, is being donated by Ford Motor Company to be permanently displayed in the museums “Heroes of the Sky” flight exhibit.
The museum is the natural home for the historic flyer – paying tribute to the friendship between Henry Ford and the Wrights and fulfilling Ford’s longtime dream to display the Wrights’ historic aircraft. Ford, forever the visionary, built an entire community around historic artifacts – including Thomas Edison’s phonograph and Ford’s first car, the 1896 Quadricycle – to inspire the spirit of innovation in future generations. That community is known today as The Henry Ford, which includes, in part, the museum and Greenfield Village.
Ford clearly saw the Wrights 1903 Flyer as an important addition to the institution: “We are still hoping that one day the plane with which you originated this great new course of history will come home to the United States,” Henry Ford wrote in a letter to Orville Wright in 1943. “I think you know how warmly and reverently we would welcome it to a shrine at Dearborn. It is my thought that you should send it to Dearborn. The plane should be separately housed in a building of its own just east of the Wright home in Greenfield Village …”
Henry Ford descendant Edsel B. Ford II to help unveil flyer “My great-grandfather would have loved to see this day, which fulfills his longtime dream,” said Edsel B. Ford II, great-grandson of Henry Ford and a member of Fords Board of Directors. “I’m here for him, to mark innovations and shared spirit of determination championed by my great-grandfather and the Wrights 100 years ago.”
Edsel Ford took ownership of the flyer for Ford Motor Company from the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) at Kitty Hawk just prior to the plane’s attempt to re-create the Wrights’ first flight on the 100th anniversary. He will turn over ownership to Steve Hamp, president of The Henry Ford.
Wright brothers descendant to host a tour of historic Wright home, cycle shop The flyer will join other invaluable historical pieces at The Henry Ford, such as the Wright’s bicycle shop and childhood home, which Henry Ford acquired for Greenfield Village.
After unveiling the flyer in the Heroes of the Sky exhibit, the group will proceed to Greenfield Village. There Amanda Wright Lane, great-grandniece of Orville and Wilbur Wright, will host a tour of the home where the Wrights lived with their sister, Katherine, and Wright Cycle Co. shop, where the brothers invented the first airplane. The buildings were moved from their original sites in Dayton, Ohio, to Greenfield Village in 1937 under the watchful eye of Orville Wright and auto pioneer Henry Ford.
“Henry Ford and my great-granduncle Orv were friends and kindred spirit’s in their determination and passion for innovation,” Wright Lane said. “Our family is very pleased to have the 100th-anniversary flyer together with the Wright home and cycle shop in a place where future generations can learn about this country’s innovation pioneer and scientific contributions that have changed our world.”
Henry Ford put the world on wheels – and wings As one of the premier innovators of his generation, Henry Ford not only put the nation on wheels but helped put the world on wings through his efforts to develop aircraft to serve the public. He then built public confidence in airplane’s safety, reliability, and necessity and laid the foundation for the world’s modern system of commercial aviation.
Henry Ford noted 1903s significance for transportation innovation in a telegram to the Wrights: “The year nineteen hundred and three has special significance for both of us. It heralded man’s conquest of the air and made the name of Wilbur and Orville Wright immortal. It also marked what we feel was a step forward inland transportation, the founding of the Ford Motor Company. …”
Ford is credited with building the first modern airport and concrete runway, advancing radio beacon navigation and popularizing all-metal aircraft with the Ford Tri-Motor. In the 1920s, Henry Ford applied his automotive assembly line production method to aircraft – making Ford Motor Company the world’s largest manufacturer of aircraft at the time. For his pioneering efforts, Henry 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 Ford’s contributions to aviation and photographs are available at Ford’s media site.
“The stories of the Wrights’ first flight and how Henry Ford brought to land and air travel to the masses are universally inspirational because they’re about dreams giving way to passions and achievements changing the course of history,” said Jan Valentic, Ford Motor Company vice president, Global Marketing.
Precise, methodic and careful craftsmanship of EAAs 1903 Wright Flyer reproduction has resulted in a plane that is more accurate than the 1903 Wright Flyer on display (damaged and repaired) at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum. The flyer was built by the Wright Experience led by Ken Hyde, whose fine technical and historic research allowed his team to reproduce the 1903 Flyer down to the thread count on the muslin covering the wings.
“We are honored to receive this wonderful piece of history into the collection of The Henry Ford,” Hamp said. “Our founder, Henry Ford, was intrigued by flight throughout his life. Not only did he put the world on wheels, but he also produced a leading passenger plane, the Ford Tri-Motor. He even experimented with a personal plane called the Flivver. The 100th-anniversary flyer is the perfect complement to the Wright home and cycle shop.
About the Heroes of the Sky exhibit The 100th anniversary Wright Flyer will take center stage in the Heroes of the Sky exhibit. Visitors will hear the wind and surf of the Atlantic Ocean transporting them back in time to December 17, 1903. They will gaze upon the authentic reproduction of the first Wright Flyer, complete with Orville and Wilbur mannequins. This part of the experience, at the center of the exhibit, is a quiet, almost serene area, where visitors recapture the feeling of awe that accompanied the first powered flight. Visitors will be able to see how the flyer actually would have looked the day Orville first coaxed it into the air.
The museums 75th anniversary Wright Flyer, which held the spot for the authentic 1903 reproduction flyer since the Heroes of the Sky exhibit opened in September 2003, is being relocated to the lobby of the IMAX Theatre at The Henry Ford, where more than 750,000 people each year will be able to gaze up at the flyer as it hovers near the ceiling.