Chinese learn Wright assembly from local craftsmen

Nick Engler, director of the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co. in West Milton, recently returned from China, where he and his crew taught the creators of a planned Chinese museum on aviation history how to assemble a Wright Flyer replica. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF
Caption
Nick Engler, director of the Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co. in West Milton, recently returned from China, where he and his crew taught the creators of a planned Chinese museum on aviation history how to assemble a Wright Flyer replica. THOMAS GNAU/STAFF

A small town Miami Valley business is creating what could become the most viewed collection of Wright Brother replica aircraft in the world.

That collection won’t be anywhere near Dayton, though. It will be in China.

In late 2015, Dayton-based Wright Brothers USA — the world’s only licensor of the Wright Brothers trademark — announced the sale of a pair of complete sets of Wright replica aircraft to planned museums in China for nearly $1 million.

Disassembled pieces and components of the aircraft were first sent to China in late 2015/early 2016, and there they waited for a suitable home. Nick Engler, director of Wright Brothers Aeroplane Co. in West Milton, recently returned from Chengdu, Sichuan, where he and his crew showed his Chinese hosts how to painstakingly assemble the hand-crafted planes.

Once properly displayed, the replica aircraft are expected to be seen by millions of visitors each year in an area that already is a tourist destination.

The assembly of the planes by Ohio workers last month was a media event in China.

“I can tell you the reception (in China) was both amazing and extremely stressful,” Engler said.

“We had an amazing amount of work to do in two and one-half weeks,” he added. “It was a blur.”

“This was a national story for them,” said Doug Knopp, creative director and partner at Wright Brothers USA. “The Chinese revere the Wright Brothers.”

The museum set will include full-size and test-flown replicas of the 1905 and 1903 Wright flyers, an 1899 kite, glider-replicas from 1900-1902, flight simulators and a wind tunnel.

The handiwork of Engler and his team dates back to before the 2003 Centennial of Flight celebration in Dayton. Several pieces have toured the U.S., Canada, India and France. People can see an Engler-built flyer replica at the Dayton International Airport today.

The companies’ Chinese client is an entertainment and cultural conglomerate planning a sprawling complex of aviation-themed exhibits, dubbed the “AVIWORLD Theme Park.”

The Chengdu site is set to open in 2018. Wright Brothers USA brokered the deal.

“These are not just museums,” Knopp said. “They are entire communities built around aviation, mixed-use developments.”