Unnamed donor gives $50K to build Wright Flyer replica

The Wright “B” Flyer, a recognizable flying piece of Dayton’s history seen by thousands above the Vectren Dayton Air Show, could be replaced with a new look-alike replica.

An unnamed contributor has donated $50,000 to build a new model of the old replica of the Wright “B” Flyer, also known as the “Brown Bird” or “Iron Bird,” that first took to the air in 1982.

The plane, flown passed the State of Liberty in New York, and the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, Calif., has over the years soared over events throughout the Miami Valley.

“For us to bring the organization into the next 30 years, we needed to really update the platform,” said Jay Jabour, president and acting chairman of Wright “B” Flyer Inc., the non-profit, volunteer organization that flies the plane out of the Dayton-Wright Brothers Airport in Miami Township. “We’ve been flying this airplane for a long time.”

The new plane, an historic look-alike of the Wright brothers 1911 biplane, may cost more than $115,000, or the amount paid for the former Wright “B” Flyer replica “Silver Bird,” he said.

A yet-to-be chosen experimental aircraft builder could start assembly in about a year, Jabour said.

“The Brown Bird was built the same way, but it was built at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base by a bunch of enthusiasts out there,”said Jabour, a former Air Force brigadier general and retired aerospace executive.

The volunteer group wants to be able to find and replace parts more easily on the new replica. It also wants a plane that can be loaded in a shipping container to reach distant events, he said. Today, it takes a crew a week to disassemble the plane and load in on a tractor trailer for shipping.

The aging replica meets modern airworthiness standards, and was assembled with modern parts and materials, such as metal spars instead of wood, according to the organization. “We try to make it look like the 1911 airplane,” Jabour said. “It’s really built with modern construction techniques and shapes.”

Though it’s a replica of an early Wright brothers’ design built more than a century ago, the look-alike has its own history. The late Neil Armstrong, first man to walk on the moon, was among the aviation notables who flew aboard the “Brown Bird” biplane.

During a test flight in July 2011, the Wright “B” Flyer “Silver Bird” crashed in a test flight during an emergency landing in a field three miles from Springfield-Beckley Municipal Airport, killing pilots Don Gum, 73, of Beavercreek and Mitchell Cary, 64, of Yellow Springs. Both men were experienced pilots.

In January 2013, a National Transportation Safety Board investigation determined a faulty weld on a propeller shaft led to the loss of the left engine on the newly built replica moments before the crash, archives show. Despite the loss of one of two engines, the NTSB report said the pilots “should have been able to maintain control of the airplane during the forced landing attempt,” the Associated Press reported.