EXHIBITION PRESS KIT
THE 1903 WRIGHT FLYER - A TIME LINE
Spring- Summer 1903
In Dayton, Ohio, Wilbur and Orville
Wright build their first powered airplane, essentially a larger
and sturdier version of their 1902 glider with the addition of
a propulsion system: a 12-horsepower engine linked by chain-and-sprocket
transmission system to two propellers to generate thrust. The
airplane is never fully assembled in Dayton.
March 23, 1903
Wright brothers apply for their
first patent for a flying machine (patent issued March 22, 1906).
Sept. 23, 1903
The Wright brothers and the Flyer
leave Dayton for Kitty Hawk, N.C., arriving Sept. 25.
Sept. 28, 1903
Wrights begin construction of hangar
to house Flyer. Structure completed Oct. 5.
Oct. 9 -December 1903
Wrights assemble Flyer but experience
difficulties with propeller shafts. Orville Wright makes trip
to Dayton to build new shafts, leaving Kitty Hawk on Nov. 30 and
returning Dec. 11.
Dec. 14, 1903
At Kitty Hawk, Wilbur Wright wins
a coin flip between the brothers and takes pilot’s position
in first attempt to fly Flyer. Trial lasts 3.5 seconds, Flyer
stalls and is slightly damaged.
Dec. 17, 1903
At Kitty Hawk, Flyer makes four
Flight # 1—10:35 a.m.;12 seconds/120
feet; Orville Wright pilot
Flight # 2—11:00 a.m.; 12 seconds/175 feet; Wilbur Wright
Flight # 3—11:40 a.m.; 15 seconds/200 feet; Orville Wright
Flight # 4—12:00 p.m.; 59 seconds/852 feet; Wilbur Wright
After lunch break, while Wrights
prepare for fifth flight, wind gust overturns Flyer breaking nearly
all wing ribs; one spar and several struts snapped; engine crankcase
fractured; propeller transmission chain guides badly bent.
Dec. 18-19, 1903
At Kitty Hawk, Flyer dismantled
and shipped to Dayton. Still in crates, Flyer stored in shed behind
Wright bicycle shop.
Dec. 21, 1903
Wrights leave Kitty Hawk, arriving
back in Dayton on Dec. 23.
Jan. 13-20, 1906
Flyer’s crankshaft and flywheel
displayed in New York at Aero Club of America exhibition, held
in conjunction with Sixth Annual Automobile Show of the Automobile
Club of America. Both pieces were never returned and have never
May 30, 1912
Wilbur Wright dies at age 45 after
being diagnosed with typhoid fever.
March 25-April 1913
For several weeks, Flyer sits in
its crates beneath almost a dozen feet of water and mud after
Miami River overflows its banks and floods Dayton.
Flyer, in crates, moved to nearby
barn when storage shed is torn down.
Orville Wright and assistants uncrate
and reassemble Flyer for first time since Kitty Hawk. Rudder and
forward elevators almost entirely rebuilt. Main spars of upper
and lower wing center sections replaced. Several other parts repaired,
including wing ribs and chain guides. Wing center section fabric
replaced with new Pride of the West muslin; outer wing panels
retain 1903 covering. Engine rebuilt using parts from similar
1904 engine and 1903 components. New propellers replace damaged
Flyer moved to new brick building
in Dayton built by Orville Wright for laboratory.
June 11-14, 1916
Flyer exhibited at Massachusetts
Institute of Technology.
Feb. 8-15, 1917
Flyer exhibited at Pan-American
Aeronautic exhibition, New York City.
June 17-18, 1918
Flyer exhibited at Midsummer National
Meeting of the Society of Automotive Engineers, Dayton.
March 1-15, 1919
Flyer exhibited at Aeronautical
Exposition, New York City.
Flyer assembled at South Field near
Dayton for purposes of obtaining testimony for patent suit involving
Wright Martin Aircraft Company. No engine or propellers were mounted
on the airplane.
Oct. 2-4, 1924
Flyer exhibited at International
Air Races at Wilbur Wright Field near Dayton.
December 1926-early 1927
Because of a dispute in which the
Smithsonian Institution failed to properly credit the Wright brothers
as the true inventors of the airplane, Orville Wright prepares
to send the Flyer to England for display at the Science Museum
in London “as a means of self-protection in overcoming propaganda
in disparagement of us broadcast by the Smithsonian at Government
expense.” He begins covering Flyer with new cloth.
Jan. 31, 1928
Flyer is shipped to England, arriving
March 20, 1928
Flyer installed at Science Museum
March 23, 1928
Public display of the Flyer begins
at Science Museum.
Sept. 28, 1938
As the threat of war spreads across
Europe, the Science Museum removes the Flyer from display. It
is disassembled and placed in its crates for storage in the museum’s
basement. Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain’s “peace
in our times” declaration prompts the museum to reassemble
the Flyer and resume its display Oct. 27.
Two weeks after Germany invades
France, Flyer is disassembled and stored in the museum’s
April 8, 1942
Flyer is moved for protection to
a storage chamber maintained by the Royal Army beneath a quarry
near Corsham, England, about 100 miles west of London.
Feb. 17, 1943
Flyer moved to new storage area
with improved climate control at Corsham 2(b) near Copenacre.
Dec. 8, 1943
Satisfied that the Smithsonian Institution
finally acknowledges the Wright brothers as the first to fly,
Orville informs that Science Museum that he plans to return the
Flyer to America “when transportation is less hazardous
than at the present.”
July 14, 1945
Flyer reassembled at Science Museum
after returning from underground storage.
Jan. 30, 1948
Orville Wright dies at age 76 after
suffering heart attack.
Oct. 18, 1948
Flyer removed from exhibit at Science
Museum for return to United States.
Nov. 19, 1948
Flyer, aboard U.S.S. Palau arrives
from Halifax, Nova Scotia, at New York Naval Shipyard Annex, in
Bayonne, N.J. Flyer placed on Navy truck for drive to Washington.
Nov. 22, 1948
Flyer arrives at Smithsonian in
Dec. 17, 1948
Flyer is formally presented to the
Smithsonian Institution by Milton Wright, a nephew of Wilbur and
Orville, on the 45th anniversary of the first powered flight.
Flyer hangs in the Arts and Industries Building of the U.S. National
Flyer is removed from Arts and Industries
Building; undergoes general cleaning and minor repairs to fabric
only before being moved into new National Air and Space Museum
building on the National Mall in Washington.
Flyer moved to new National Air
and Space Museum building.
December 1984-June 1985
Flyer given first major treatment
since it was prepared for loan to the Science Museum. Airplane
is completely disassembled, the parts thoroughly cleaned and preserved,
and all new fabric covering applied. A careful search was made
to locate new fabric that matched the original as closely as possible.
When the fabric was replaced in 1927, it was sewn on in a slightly
different way than originally done by the brothers in 1903. When
stitching the new fabric in 1985, a large section of original
flown 1903 wing covering was available and used as a pattern,
Nov. 1, 2000
Flyer is brought down from central
hanging position in museum’s Milestones of Flight Gallery
and hung the next day in west end Gallery 104 as repair work is
made to museum’s window walls and sky lights.
June 21, 2001
Flyer is rehung in Milestones of
Flight Gallery in time for museum’s 25th anniversary celebrations
on July 1.
Sept. 24, 2003
Flyer lowered from central hanging
position in museum’s Milestones of Flight gallery and moved
to Gallery 209 for “The Wright Brothers & The Invention
of the Aerial Age” exhibition. It is the first time the
Flyer is displayed at eye level in its history at the Smithsonian.
Brothers Exhibition Press Kit