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1903 Flyer replica damaged in crash

The pilot of the Wright Flyer replica was unhurt, and the plane should be just fine for next month’s re-enactment of the 1903 flight.
/ Source: The Associated Press

A replica of the 1903 Wright Flyer, being readied for next month’s ceremonies celebrating the centennial of flight, crashed during a practice takeoff but had relatively minor damage.

Pilot Terry Qeuijo, an American Airlines captain, was unhurt in Tuesday’s mishap, which was similar to a setback suffered by the Wright brothers 100 years ago, a few days before their successful flight.

Builder Ken Hyde told The News and Observer of Raleigh that he’s certain the plane will be fixed quickly and be ready for the centennial launch Dec. 17.

“What we experienced today is simply what the Wright brothers experienced during their first flight,” said Hyde, whose nonprofit organization Wright Experience built the airplane and is training its pilots. “This is not a major setback.”

Trouble in an instant
The wood and cloth replica was in the air less than one second Tuesday morning when its front rudder dove toward soft ground at the Wright Brothers National Memorial.

After making sure Queijo was all right, Hyde’s team members checked the plane, finding damage to the front rudder, breaks in the struts on the plane’s bottom wing and tears in its custom-made muslin. They also closely examined data generated by a flight recorder.

The team initially estimated it could take days to repair the plane, but Hyde said the damage was lighter than had been feared and repairs could take just a day.

“This could be a blessing in disguise,” Hyde said. “We’ll have a lot to learn from this for future flights.”

The team had already succeeded in briefly launching the replica last week.

The Wrights's problems
On Dec. 17, 1903, Wilbur and Orville Wright made four short flights with the world’s first powered airplane before an ocean gust lifted and badly damaged the plane. The Wrights packed up and headed home to Dayton, Ohio, where they had built the plane.

Three days earlier, Wilbur Wright had experienced a setback during what he hoped would be a “first whack” at flying.

The plane lurched up and then down “before I could correct the error” over secluded sand near Kitty Hawk village, Wright wrote home that day. But he was not discouraged.

“The machinery all worked in entirely satisfactory manner,” he concluded. “There is now no question of final success.”