A Bold Move
In 1925, Orville decided to use the Flyer as leverage to shame the Smithsonian into correcting its stance. He announced that he would loan it to the Science Museum in London. Surely, Orville believed, the American people would not stand to have the world's first airplane, built in America, by Americans, exiled to a foreign land. Orville had drawn his line in the sand.
The Flyer in Exile
After being entirely re-covered with new Pride of the West muslin in late 1926 and early 1927, the Flyer was set up in Orville's laboratory by March. It remained there until January 1928, when it was disassembled for crating and shipping to the Science Museum in London, where it arrived in February 1928. Orville lamented publicly, "I regret more than anyone else that this course is necessary."
The Wright Flyer on public display in the Science Museum.
A Test of Wills
In the face of Orville's action, the Smithsonian continued to dodge the issue. They offered only an unsatisfactory compromise on the language of its label accompanying the Langley airplane on public display, and did so, in the words of new Smithsonian Secretary Charles Abbot, "not in confession of error, but in a gesture of good will for the honor of America." The comment only served to stiffen Orville's resolve to gain satisfaction. Even Charles Lindbergh offered to help mediate the dispute.
Lindbergh (right) with Orville. He tried unsuccessfully to intervene between Orville and the Smithsonian.