Anniversary of Flight, Part 2

This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember with Explorations from VOA Special English. A celebration will be held December seventeenth near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. It will honor the one-hundredth anniversary of the first flight of a powered aircraft by Wilbur and Orville Wright. Today we continue our report about the Wright Brothers' famous flight.

The airplane is one of the most important inventions in human history. It started a revolution in technology. It greatly increased the speed of travel. It changed the way business is done. It increased the speed of communications. It changed the way wars are fought. And it changed the way people think about the world.

The science of flight made it possible for humans to leave the Earth and travel to the moon. Now scientists are planning for a future group of astronauts to visit the planet Mars. This goal of travel to another planet began with two brothers -- Wilbur and Orville Wright -- and the first powered airplane they built and flew.

Our story begins on October fifth, nineteen-hundred near Kitty Hawk, North Carolina. Wilbur Wright flew a kind of airplane without an engine called a glider for the first time. It was not a very successful flight. Wilbur flew for about ten seconds and traveled a distance of a little less than one meter. But it was a beginning.

Throughout history, many other people had tried to invent a flying machine. None was successful. The Wright Brothers began by studying the information from those who had failed. They carefully planned, built and then tried to fly bigger and better glider aircraft. They returned to Kitty Hawk the next year, nineteen-oh-one. They made thirty-nine flights that year. Wilbur made the longest. It measured one-hundred-eighteen meters. This was a great improvement.

In nineteen-oh-two the Wright Brothers returned to Kitty Hawk with a new glider. Their first flight, on September twentieth, was almost sixty-one meters. Their best flight that year was almost one-hundred-ninety meters. They made almost one-thousand flights with gliders that year. A close look at the Wright Brothers' records shows they made progress each year. They slowly learned how to control their gliders. And with each flight, they learned a little more about how to use the controls to fly an aircraft. They returned home to Dayton, Ohio to experiment, build, test and improve their flying machine.

Wilbur and Orville Wright returned to Kitty Hawk a year later, on September twenty-eighth, nineteen-oh-three. This time they brought a new aircraft they had built called the Flyer. It had improved controls. It had better wings. And this aircraft had a small engine and two propellers with blades that turned quickly.

During the month of October they made about twenty flights with a glider to test the new controls. In November the winds near Kitty Hawk were too strong to fly the plane.

On December twelfth, they decided to test the new Flyer with the engine. However, the day ended with no flight. They tried again on December fourteenth. That flight ended again in failure and with damage to the machine. They quickly repaired it.

The morning of December seventeenth did not seem like a good day to fly. The weather did not want to cooperate. However, the Wright Brothers decided to test the new Flyer.

At ten-thirty that morning, the brothers placed the Flyer in position on a flat piece of ground. They started the engine. Wilbur and Orville shook hands. Orville climbed on the Flyer and took hold of the controls. At ten-thirty-five, he released a wire that prevented the Flyer from moving. Slowly, it began to move -- then faster and faster. Slowly, Orville moved the controls that made the Flyer lift into the air. The flight lasted only twelve seconds and went only about thirty-seven meters before it landed safely.

The brothers made four flights that day. Each was longer than the last. The fourth flight flown by Wilbur was the longest. It lasted fifty-nine seconds and traveled almost two-hundred-sixty meters. Ten years later Orville Wright spoke with a magazine reporter about those four flights.

He said the flights were the first time in the history of the world that a machine carrying a man had raised itself by its own power into the air in full flight. He said the Flyer had sailed forward without losing speed and landed at a point as high as that from which it had started.

Orville and Wilbur Wright had showed the world how to fly.

A photograph of the Wright Brothers' nineteen-oh-three Flyer shows a very simple machine. A strong man could easily break many of the wooden parts with only his hands. The wings are made of thin pieces of wood covered with cloth. They are held together and strengthened with wire. It seems like it should be easy to make a copy of the Wright Flyer.

However, the Wright Brothers' aircraft is not simple. It is an extremely difficult machine. It was built using the most advanced methods and technology of nineteen-oh-three.

In nineteen-ninety-eight, the United States Congress approved the Centennial of Flight Commemoration Act. This was done to honor the one-hundredth anniversary of the Wright Brothers' flight. Part of the law called on a new committee to ask organizations and individuals across the country to take part in celebrations of the Wright Brothers' flight. One of the organizations that chose to take part in the anniversary was the Experimental Aircraft Owners Association of Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The association chose to honor the Wright Brothers by building an exact copy of the nineteen-oh-three Flyer. Their goal is to fly it at ten-thirty-five on the morning of December seventeenth, two-thousand-three. This is exactly one-hundred years after the Wright Brothers first flew their aircraft.

The Experimental Aircraft Owners Association asked a small company called The Wright Experience to build a copy of the Flyer. The company is in Warrenton, Virginia. Workers at the company soon learned that it would not be easy. The Wright Brothers left few written records about how they built the Flyer. Many of the tools used to make the aircraft no longer exist. Much of the material used in the construction of the Flyer is no longer made.

Ken Hyde is head of the company that was asked to build the copy of the Wright Brothers' plane. Mr. Hyde said the members of the team had to forget everything they knew about aircraft and flying. He said that to successfully build the copy they had to attack all of the problems of early flight the same way the Wright Brothers did.

Mr. Hyde said the team had to learn how to make each part of the plane the way the Wright Brothers did. Slowly the team built the aircraft. Experts say the Wright Experience company produced the most exact copy of the nineteen-oh-three Flyer that is possible to build.

As The Wright Experience company was building the copy of the famous plane, pilots were being trained to fly it. When a pilot plans to fly an aircraft for the first time, he or she reads the aircraft's flight book. This book tells how the controls work. It tells how to safely take off, fly and land the aircraft.

But the pilots who plan to fly the copy of the Wright Flyer have no aircraft flight book to read. No one has experience flying such an aircraft. It is also a very difficult aircraft to fly safely.

Scott Crossfield is a retired test pilot with many thousands of hours testing and flying aircraft. In nineteen-fifty-three, he became the first person to fly two times faster than the speed of sound. Mr. Crossfield was chosen to help train four experienced pilots to learn how to safely fly the copy of the Wright Brothers' plane.

Scott Crossfield says the plane is ready and the pilots will be ready to fly it on December seventeenth at ten-thirty-five in the morning at Kitty Hawk, North Carolina.

This program was written by Paul Thompson and produced by Mario Ritter. This is Faith Lapidus. And this is Steve Ember. Join us again next week for Explorations from VOA Special English. We will tell where the famous Wright Brothers Flyer is today. And we will tell about a huge new museum that will open soon to honor many famous aircraft in the history of flight.

Voice of America Special English

Source: EXPLORATIONS – Anniversary of Flight, Part 2
TEXT = http://www.voanews.com/specialenglish/archive/2003-12/a-2003-12-09-1-1.cfm?renderforprint=1