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Aviation pioneers gather in Ohio

The Ohio hometown of the Wright brothers honored 22 aviation pioneers this weekend.
/ Source: The Associated Press

Aviation pioneers who set speed records, orbited the Earth and walked on the moon gathered Saturday to be saluted in the hometown of Wilbur and Orville Wright during the centennial of the first powered flight. Twenty-two of the 178 people who have been enshrined in the National Aviation Hall of Fame were being honored by the hall in a “homecoming” at the city’s convention center.

“WE’RE HERE because aviation and space is a romance,” said Eugene Cernan, the last man to walk on the moon during the final Apollo landing in 1972. “It’s exciting. It’s adventurous. It challenges us.”

Cernan said the greatest legacy of the Wright brothers, who made the first powered flight near Kitty Hawk, N.C., on Dec. 17, 1903, may be the inspiration to fly that has been passed from generation to generation.

Joe Engle, a former astronaut who commanded two space shuttle missions, said that without the brothers, “we wouldn’t have a job.”

Former test pilot Scott Crossfield, the first man to fly twice the speed of sound, also was to attend the ceremony.

Crossfield is training four pilots, one of whom will be selected to try to re-enact the first flight of the Wright brothers in a replica plane on Dec. 17 near Kitty Hawk.

InsertArt(1963478)“We’ve been a year at this, and we’re going right through the same problems the Wright brothers did. I think we found all the solutions they did,” Crossfield said. “A lot of experts say this (replica) is not a flyable airplane. I don’t think, I know — we’re going to fly.”

About 2,000 tickets at $150 apiece were sold for the hall of fame homecoming, twice the number normally sold for the annual enshrinement ceremony.

Former astronauts John Glenn, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin were to attend. Actor-pilot Harrison Ford, who piloted the Millenium Falcon in the movie “Star Wars” and Air Force One in the film of the same name, was to serve as master of ceremonies.

“The freedoms that have accrued to mankind, the adventure that has unfolded based on the capacity that powered flight has provided is a very significant event, not just for aviators, but for our civilization, for the planet,” Ford told the Dayton Daily News.

The aviation hall was founded in Dayton in 1962 and later established by Congress. The Wright brothers were the first two enshrinees.© 2003 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.