Flying Wright

You can find the new Wright Brothers at the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport, a dozen miles south of Dayton in Miami Twp., from 9:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. every Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday. No, Wilbur and Orville have not come back to life, but they have found some very deserving replacements.

Volunteers at the Wright “B” Flyer museum-hangar know all things Wright, and spend their time educating the area on its rich aviation heritage. Although some may think these volunteers have passed their prime, many members are into their 90s and still going strong.

Wright “B” Flyer Inc., a nonprofit organization, has two airplanes modeled after the Wright Brothers’ Model “B,” the Brown Bird and the Yellow Bird. The Brown Bird is actively used, and after donating the $100 membership fee, members can take a short flight down the runway in it.

From November to May, the Brown Bird undergoes its annual maintenance. The plane is completely taken apart and inspected, then put back together in time for the flying season. The Yellow Bird, on the other hand, is for static display at the historic Huffman Prairie on Wright-Patterson Air Force Base. The Wright Brothers test flew their original designs on Huffman Prairie back in the early 1900s.

After spending more than three years building a third aircraft from the ground up, the Silver Bird, a tragic test flight in the summer of 2011 resulted in a crash that destroyed the plane and killed two volunteer pilots. Volunteer John Callander says they have no plans of rebuilding the plane due to the toll it would take on their elderly crew.

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“It was part of your family, literally, and when you lose that it’s a very sad occasion,” Callander says.

Many of the members have been with Wright “B” Flyer for more than 10 years and have become a tight-knit group. However, they are constantly trying to reach out and find younger members. As of now, high school senior Tim McDaniel is their youngest volunteer.

Wright “B” Flyer’s ultimate goal is to show people Dayton’s significant history not just through books and pictures, but through a tangible object that people can see, touch and even fly just like the Wright Brothers themselves.

Tara Spacy is a third-year photojournalism student at the University of Cincinnati and on the staff of the department’s New Media Bureau.

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