National Aviation Day: On his 75th birthday, Orville Wright humbly on auto-pilot

National Aviation Day, commemorated each Aug. 19 — Orville Wright’s birthday — was established by President Franklin Delano Roosevelt in 1939.

Today is the anniversary of Orville Wright’s 150th birthday, a good time to look back at what he told a local reporter on his 75th birthday.

Days before Orville Wright would celebrate his 75th birthday on August 19, 1946, Dayton Herald reporter Marj Heyduck interviewed him for a story commemorating the occasion.

“When you reach 75, birthdays aren’t so unusual anymore. That’s especially true when you celebrate two birthdays a year,” Wright said, referring to the first successful flight at Kitty Hawk, N.C., made in 1903 by Orville and his late brother, Wilbur.



Under the headline “Just Another Birthday For Him,” Heyduck chronicled her conversation with Wright, which touched on a number of subjects. Wright died in Dayton on Jan. 30, 1948, at age 76.

Some excerpts of the Herald story published Aug. 17, 1946:

  • "I'll just keep on working here," Mr. Wright said with a nod in the direction of his workshop. "But I'll not tell you what I'm working on."
  • “When I’m not working I read a lot. Mysteries? You mean those modern murder stories? Oh, no. They’re the least original of all stories. I can give you a formula for writing mystery stories – just read any one of them. Always the same plot structure. And, at the end, they drag in a solution by the tail. I’d rather read good stories by good writers – and we have very few of those left these days. My favorites? Well – I just can’t recall their names off hand. That’s a failing of mine – remembering names. I must take after my mother in that respect. You know, there’s a story they tell about my mother. She went shopping one day with her sister. My mother wanted purchases delivered to our home and the clerk asked for her name and address. And, do you know my mother couldn’t remember her own name right then! Her sister had to tell her.”
  • Now that active warfare has ceased, Mr. Wright said he hopes to re-visit his Canadian island for a little fishing and make another trip to Kitty Hawk, which he hasn't visited in seven or eight years.

  • As for his views on the future of his brain-child, the airplane, Mr. Wright refused to say. “Predictions are dangerous,” he emphasized. But he chuckled as he remarked, “Yes, that’s true, there IS one question nobody will ask me on my 75th birthday – a question which is often asked of other persons who reach 75 – and that is: “When are you going to take your first ride in an airplane?”
  • "My most recent flight was in the Constellation which I piloted over Dayton a few years ago."
  • Mr. Wright paused then and looked out the window of his plain austerely furnished office reception room. “Being 75 is no different from being 74 and Birthday No. 74 was like 73. Thousands of persons have 75th birthdays. Now, if you’ll come around when I’m 90 – no, let’s make that 100. If you’ll stop in to see me when I’m 100, I’ll really have something to say by then!”'

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