Cleaning the 1903 Wright Flyer Replica

If you have been following us on Facebook or Twitter, you’ve probably heard that the 1903 Wright Flyer replica that hangs in the Dunbar Library atrium was lowered for cleaning this week.

Just before landing, 6/9

Just before landing, 6/9

The plane, a full-scale replica of the original, has hung in Dunbar Library since September 2001. It was created over the course of 2 years by a team of volunteers led by engineer and machinist Howard DuFour. After almost 13 years of “flying” 16 feet above the library’s second floor, the plane was in need of a good dusting and a little TLC.

And TLC it received.

With the help of the the WSU Office of Facilities Planning and Development and the carpentry shop (which created a platform for the plane rest on during cleaning), the plane was lowered carefully on the morning of Monday, June 9th (watch our Facebook video of the plane being lowered).

Safely landed, 6/9

Safely landed, 6/9

Mary Oliver, director of collections at Dayton History and Public History adjunct faculty member, provided expert instructions on properly cleaning the plane using our special new vacuum cleaner, which has variable speed control (which enables us to treat certain items–such as the plane–more delicately).

Mary Oliver instructing a volunteer, 6/9

Mary Oliver instructing a volunteer, 6/9

Over the next four days, volunteers—many of whom were past, present, and future Public History students, as well as volunteers who helped build the plane originally—spent hours vacuuming about 1000 square feet of muslin, as well as dusting, wiping down, and (in some cases) waxing the various other parts of the plane. There was even a minor sewing repair to be done! (Click on the photos below to enlarge them. To see even more photos, visit our Facebook photo album of biplane cleaning photos.)

The plane “took flight” again on the morning of Friday, June 13. Luckily, we had no “Friday the 13th” bad luck! After about 20 minutes of hoisting and adjusting, the Wright Flyer replica was back home:

Raising the clean biplane, 6/13

Raising the clean biplane, 6/13

Biplane back in the air, 6/13/2014

Biplane back in the air, 6/13

After the raising of the plane, we had a small reception to thank everyone who helped with the successful completion of this project. In addition to cake and snacks, we showed a slideshow of photos from throughout the week, and displayed another model Wright Flyer built by Howard DuFour:

Howard DuFour and Wright Flyer model, 6/13

Howard DuFour and Wright Flyer model, 6/13

Howard couldn’t be with us for this project; he passed away in 2009 at the age of 94. But we think he was with us in spirit this week—-holding his breath like the rest of us until the plane was safely down—and then back up again!

You can learn more about the creation of the 1903 Wright Flyer replica through a video and booklet (the green booklet pictured above) available on CORE Scholar: Howard DuFour (MS-286) materials. You can also learn more in this article from the Wright State News Room about the Wright Flyer cleaning project.

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